Kitchen Garden

Another Growing Season

Broccoli Harvest
Broccoli Harvest

The broccoli seeds I planted three days ago—a full tray of 96 cells—have begun to sprout.

This year we hope to harvest enough broccoli from our home garden to freeze some for next winter. It is a numbers game: starting a large number of seeds and devoting more work and space in the garden to tending them. We’ll see how it goes. With the newly sprouted life, I am hopeful. The down side is we never use chemicals, so there is risk of a poor crop even before we get started. That has never been a deterrence.

The Coralville Lake was mostly open water last night on my way home from the warehouse. The eagles have gone. A wild turkey was browsing near the roadway. That pretty much sums up modern life: we are left with the turkeys.

In the 1930s there was a sense that something substantial had been lost since the land was settled and converted to farms. The name of our township, “Big Grove,” refers to an ancient forest that stretched from the Cedar River to the Iowa River.

“Before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the land which is now Iowa was heavily wooded,” wrote Golda Leighton Jenkinson in her 1969 A History of Lake Macbride State Park. “As the time passed, it gradually became depleted until all that was left consisted of second and third growth, and even this was rapidly disappearing because of the owners’ need for cash, excessive pasturing and other forms of destruction.”

We take the current farm landscape and new growth trees for granted but it wasn’t always so. Today, local farmers are still removing buffers, installing tile, and keeping farmland empty of animals except for occasional post-harvest browsing. Most farming is about seed genetics and inputs these days, combined with managing a profit on thin, subsidized margins.

Our garden plot used to be part of the Kasparek farm. When we arrived, the topsoil was mostly gone and rumor was the best of it had been sold. Over 20 years, I’ve built back the soil so our garden is full of worms and other life. It was a long time coming with irregular progress.

Still there is hope. The sprouting seeds create a yearning to plant more, and it won’t be long until we are past the last frost and ready for the growing season.

Today’s sprouted seeds are a sign that hope is not lost. There will be another growing season—at least for another year.