Fruits of the Potager

by Patricia Damery

Meditation at First Light
Planting Potatoes

Planting potatoes:
eyes underground,
faint sprouts white on
six inches of compost,
straw on top, then more compost.
Water. Then the prayer of wait.

Fruits of the Potager

Jimalee has the potage garden planting-and-harvesting schedule pinned to her refrigerator door, the schedule that tells you what months you can plant radishes and spinach, and what months corn and tomatoes, and when you can expect a harvest. I have the same schedule mounted by my kitchen door. The article from the Chronicle caught my eye: it seemed so doable. It was not talking about truck gardening, something my husband Donald and I naively almost got into one summer when we planted 12 hills of zucchini and 12 tomatoes plants. We planted that many because tomatoes came in 6-packs, and they were small when we got them. We also figured we might as well plant all the zucchini seeds rather than let them go to waste.

We were thrilled when the first zucchini formed, and we ate it as if it were the rarest of vegetables, well aware that every molecule in it came from the air and soil right there in that laboratory of a garden. We savored its stored energy of the sun. I bought saltines and eggs and we were thrilled again to have fried blossoms, as my mother had always served when the pumpkins were blooming ….and then, after two weeks, we were eating zucchini every meal. In another couple weeks two-foot wonders lay like fat armadillos up and down the length of the garden.

In a potage garden, you plant a small plot outside the kitchen door so you have just enough to keep you going on vegetables year round. In the winter, of course, that means a lot of greens and in the summer, yellows and reds, but they are all fresh and organic.

I told Donald about this idea. “ Only one hill of zucchini,” he said, “maybe two. We’ll just not use the rest of the seeds.”

Ah, the fate of most seeds, to not be sprouted! The resistance to that fate is the driving force of our world— and our would-be truck garden We didn’t want to waste seeds. So the garden was at least three times what we needed.

The idea of a potage garden transported me in time to one spring evening several years ago. Those years our writing coterie was meeting in each other’s homes. That particular evening we were meeting at Jimalee’s. I parked at the street and walked the entry path from the street through her potager, newly worked with sections full of sage and rosemary, mint and thyme. Posts painted with blue skies, white clouds, and butterflies marked the end of two rows, crafted by Jimalee’s husband Eric. The winding brick path led the way to the house. Large purple irises, lazy from a late spring rain, leaned across the path. The orchards beyond were filled with phlox and mustard and flowering apple trees. In my memory, birds sang evening vespers. I imagined Jimalee with her basket, picking arugula and spinach, tomatoes and green beans, choosing her menu for that evening. I imagined her in her large straw hat working the soil, making a collage of vegetables in the earth surrounding her kitchen door. I saw Eric carving wooden posts with faces and serpents, objects the garden received so gracefully. These are the scenes their children fed upon growing up. I wonder: when their grown children now see a brick path lined with thyme, or a wild overgrown field of wild flowers, or hear the evening call of a mourning dove or the sweet song of a meadow lark, do they remember?

Farming Soul, a courageous offering that will help to reconnect us to our deeper selves, the often untouched realities of soul, and at the same time ground us in our physical relationship to self and Mother Earth.

In addition to Farming Soul, Patricia Damery is the author of Snakes. She is an analyst member of the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco and practices in Napa, CA. She grew up in the rural Midwest and witnessed the demise of the family farm through the aggressive practices of agribusiness. With her husband Donald, she has farmed biodynamically for ten years. Her chapter, “Shamanic States in Our Lives and in Analytic Practice” appeared in The Sacred Heritage: The Influence of Shamanism on Analytical Psychology, edited by Donald Sandner and Steven Wong, and her articles and poetry in the San Francisco Library Journal, Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, Psychological Perspectives, and Biodynamics: Working for Social Change Through Agriculture.