A Lesson in Onions & Worth
In the last week or so I’ve harvested enough onions and garlic to use in our meals for months and months. The red onion harvest alone should keep us in red onions for nine months. I look at these harvests as a big screw-you to the horrendous systems we have created on this planet. Growing my own food has been a constant rebellion for me against Earth-damaging capitalism. It also is a double fisted flip-off to the patriarchy, which continues to try to keep women from an autonomous existence or doing the things that bring us joy. Yes, friends, growing your own food is a big fuck you to the establishment.
However, I’m also finding that some of the ways I have felt pressured to establish the worth of these efforts I’m ready to give the middle finger to as well. Over the years I have been growing food (more than 20), I’ve kept track in one way or another of our harvest totals. I say “our” harvest, but it’s mostly just this lone crone doing the #PermieWitch work around #VillaWestwyk. This spring, I found I was resisting the kinds of metrics found in pages of spreadsheets: how much lettuce did I just harvest? How many eggs has our flock produced for us? And what’s the break down between chickens, ducks, and geese? How much meat have I bartered for homemade sourdough bread? Blah, Blah, Blah!
I know there’s abundance here. Who else do I need to prove it to? My spouse? Not even. I’m fortunate that my Writing Witch, Permie Witch, Green Witch, and the like are all fully supported by my partner. His father grew up on a farm. He knows how hard it is to grow food. Do I need to prove it to my community? This crone does not care if they think the 80 pounds of potatoes I grew last year (this year’s totals TBD) is a waste of my time. But being able to understand just how much I have produced is important. Of course I had to put my little rabble rousing ways on that, too. Let’s take a look at my Star System. No, we’re not talking astrology; however, my Taurus midheaven and North Node are all about Earth Healing.
For about a decade now I’ve referred to meals I’ve made containing ingredients from our gardens and pastures by a star count. Homegrown onions on the plate? One star. Freshly harvested potatoes on the plate? Another star. Greens from our hot house on the plate? You guessed it, another star.
When this season it just gave me ZERO joy to worry about measuring, marking, and doing all that data work, I went back to the end result and the satisfaction that it brings. When I know or can share that there is at least one thing, if not many things on the plate for our meals that was grown or raised right here in this little 2-acre parcel – that, my friends, is just pure and utter delight and satisfaction. Consuming the stars on my plate – again one for each thing that is homegrown/made and ½ a star for those I bartered or procured from farming neighbors – is some of the regular joy and balance in my life. And again, as I’m fat and happy, I’m flipping off the establishment.
If you follow me on instagram, I regularly post photos of my meals and how many stars there are on our plates. Those metrics make me happy and smile. It tangibly shows the percentage of food I’m growing/raising is making an impact as opposed to data on a spreadsheet. For instance, breakfast this morning contained our eggs, zucchini, green beans, and chard. Four stars. Yum.
Oftentimes, I verbally make note how much these items may have cost at our local market while eating this farm-to-table meal with my meal guests (in this COVID-19 World, that’s mostly The Viking). But then my Viking asked me how much the entire Onion harvest would cost us at the local farmer’s market. It took me a minute to do the arithmetic and I did have to do some measuring and whatnot, but the results were surprising. I conservatively estimated that my red onion harvest will shave approximately $130 off our grocery bill over the next six to nine months. Again, that’s conservative. If Whole Foods was selling it, it would probably be closer to $230. Ha! Plus I don’t have to worry about recalls because of listeria or any of that nonsense, which is worth even more money. I grow my veggies organically. They are fertilized with compost and seaweed tea. Pests are dealt with naturally (our slug and snail population has gone down so much, thank you ducks), in part due to our permaculture approach. That’s $130 in our savings and that’s not counting the sweet onions and garlic I harvested, too.
I’ll take it.
That simple question from my Aquarian hubby – who is so good at looking at situations from a different perspective – totally changed my perception about the work I’ve been doing. I started thinking about how so much of this late-stage capitalism is just fucking up our planet. How it devalues such cottage revenue as a vegetable garden or small-holding livestock. In short, there isn’t a societal value placed on the work that I do to feed my family and friends. It’s looked at as a hobby. Whatever dude. Sweat your butt off in the summer trying to ensure a tomato harvest, or move your animals to higher ground during a flood event, or even just have a planter of strawberries on your patio, and talk to me about how it’s not valuable.
However there is value. Part of that value is in the sustainability that we practice and are working hard to increase. And you can’t really put a price tag on that. Healing the Earth is priceless. Saving the planet one row of onions at a time is pretty fucking cool, though.
This realization of value I recognized quickly fell within the Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback tenet of Permaculture (#SelfRegulate #AcceptFeedback). The lesson here came from myself first in that simple spreadsheet calculations were not bringing me joy. Is there food on our plate that we produced? Win. The other feedback came from The Viking. He saw the value in another way, not just the #ObtainAYield, another of the 12 tenets of Permaculture we’re applying to our lifestyle here at Villa Westwyk. That segues into the Design From Patterns To Details tenet. Onions grow well here. They are low labor and work as pest control (#IntegrateDontSegregate) around my Brassicas. Surround your broccoli with onions. The pests will be way less. Also, when you cut an onion you grew yourself, the tears are worth it. 😉
A lot of the capitalist world may look at my daily life as less than, but I understand the Magic that is being created by focusing on healing the Earth (and meanwhile myself and my family – #EatYourselfWell) and working with her is more valuable than metrics and a paycheck. But, honestly, I am creating value and abundance, even if the patriarchy and capitalism can’t see it. I see it. Therefore, I’ll continue to rebel in my own way.
How about you? Are you growing food? Even herbs? Where can you increase your own food security? Please let me know in the comments below.
I would like to acknowledge that Villa Westwyk resides on the ancestral homelands of the Coast Salish Peoples, who have lived in the Salish Sea basin, throughout the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades watershed, from time immemorial. I hold the deepest respect and gratitude for our Indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.