a mash-up of time & nature
I sometimes tell people that I inherited a strange legacy from my grandparents: one set were farmers, the other set while city-dwellers, were avid gardeners. As a result I am usually quite proud to call myself a tiller of soil, a planter of seeds, and a purveyor of moisture to all the little bits of green-ness that set up residence in my back yard each growing season.
Each spring we clean, dig, plant, and spend a minor fortune on supplies. Each summer we hoe, turn, tend, weed, and fertilize. Each fall we pluck, pick, pull, and otherwise harvest a small but tasty collection of fresh vegetables. And while I will be the first to claim that a fresh garden tomato, a sweet young carrot, or a crisp green pea eaten straight from the foliage in my own yard tastes better than anything one could ever buy in a store, I’ll also be the first to admit that sometimes I do wonder if it’s all worth it.
Money. Effort. Heartbreak (at the rare, but not impossible, hail storms.) Resources. Yard space. Tool maintenance. And, of course, all my time that goes along with it in the form of sweat equity.
Is it actually all worth it? What is the opportunity cost of owning a garden, after all?
One summer, feeling generally pessimistic in the late parts of July, a time of year too early for any worthwhile crop output, yet nestled into the season peak for weeds and coupled with the driest time of the year, I calculated the cost of a single vegetable.
That was a bad idea.
After all things considered, factoring in the opportunity cost of my land, and my time, and the resources I was putting into the general maintenance of these thankless plants, it was very clear that my garden could never compete on a price-per-pound face-off with the produce section of even the most high end organic, la-di-dah grocery market. My vegetables were apparently and insanely expensive.
Sure, they were delicious vegetables, but at what price? If I encountered one of my home grown beet-roots in a supermarket, I’d scoff at the price and keep walking. So, again, is it worth it?
These kinds of personal questions have a way of setting up camp in the dark corners of one’s brain and lurking there, arguing in fits of seemingly rational evidence against what is sometimes a clearly emotional argument. The argument, of course as it was wont to do even just in my own head, landed in the zone of those intangible benefits.
I stood there on a warm July evening, bare feet nestled into the cool grass while a firm green garden hose ejected water in a generous spray across the full leaves of the varied vegetables. Water dripped down the bean stalks. Droplets glistened from the plump green lettuce. All the while, I standing there enjoying the brief, nurturing moment in time, a kind of peace and tranquility, and a connection to something that was most definitely not a computer screen, washed over my mind.
And in that fraction of a moment, as short as it was, it occurred to me that like so many leisure activities, there is only one real value to consider: the gentle nuzzling of the world upon your soul. That is worth as much as you need it to be worth… which for me, is definitely the price of a few seeds and a shovel.