Monday, November 5, 2012

On Being The Ant

Remember Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ant…?

Once there lived an ant and a grasshopper in a grassy meadow.

All day long the ant would work hard, collecting grains of wheat from the farmer's field far away. She would hurry to the field every morning, as soon as it was light enough to see by, and toil back with a heavy grain of wheat balanced on her head. She would put the grain of wheat carefully away in her larder, and then hurry back to the field for another one. All day long she would work, without stop or rest, scurrying back and forth from the field, collecting the grains of wheat and storing them carefully in her larder.

The grasshopper would look at her and laugh. 'Why do you work so hard, dear ant?' he would say. 'Come, rest awhile, listen to my song. Summer is here, the days are long and bright. Why waste the sunshine in labour and toil?'

 The ant would ignore him, and head bent, would just hurry to the field a little faster. This would make the grasshopper laugh even louder. 'What a silly little ant you are!' he would call after her. 'Come, come and dance with me! Forget about work! Enjoy the summer! Live a little!' And the grasshopper would hop away across the meadow, singing and dancing merrily.

Summer faded into autumn, and autumn turned into winter. The sun was hardly seen, and the days were short and grey, the nights long and dark. It became freezing cold, and snow began to fall.

The grasshopper didn't feel like singing any more. He was cold and hungry. He had nowhere to shelter from the snow, and nothing to eat. The meadow and the farmer's field were covered in snow, and there was no food to be had. 'Oh what shall I do? Where shall I go?' wailed the grasshopper. Suddenly he remembered the ant. 'Ah - I shall go to the ant and ask her for food and shelter!' declared the grasshopper, perking up. So off he went to the ant's house and knocked at her door. 'Hello ant!' he cried cheerfully. 'Here I am, to sing for you, as I warm myself by your fire, while you get me some food from that larder of yours!'

The ant looked at the grasshopper and said, 'All summer long I worked hard while you made fun of me, and sang and danced. You should have thought of winter then! Find somewhere else to sing, grasshopper! There is no warmth or food for you here!' And the ant shut the door in the grasshopper's face.

It is wise to worry about tomorrow today.

Yeah – I always thought that the ant was a little bit sanctimonious – I would like to think that instead of shutting the door in the grasshopper’s face, she would  offer some food, but still – the moral of the story cannot be argued – prepare for tomorrow today.

I’ve spent the last couple of months playing at being the ant - harvesting, doing yard work and, most recently, getting the yard and garden beds ready for winter.  Today I gathered leaves that have come down and piled them over top of some of my garden space.  Next weekend I’ll do more of the same, only this time pile it up into the compost bin to let it gently rot down through the winter until, in spring, I can use it in my vegetable beds.

Garlic is planted & has set up shoots – I have mulched more leaves on top of that bed to keep them healthy and feed them come spring.

Canning is complete – I ended up with more than sixty jars of applesauce, pears and peaches and enough fresh apples and rhubarb to make up six crisps. I also made up plum jam (which is more like plum syrup) and rhubarb ginger jam. 

The last of my apples went to my brother’s home a couple of weeks ago where we ground and pressed apples to make juice - I came home with apple mash which was dug into the garden bed and a couple of gallons of the juice (both of which are gone now) it was delicious!

Putting the garden and yard to bed for the winter makes me think of the ant – getting ready for next year’s planned crops, gardens and enjoyment.  I will have a proper vegetable patch this year – fenced off and planted with things like beans, snow peas tomatoes, squash, courgettes, lettuces and carrots. When I was over on Jersey, my neighbour had an utterly brilliant way of growing courgettes and squash – she would buy a bag of soil, cut a hole or two in it, and plant her plants directly into the soil. These bags sat on her patio. At the end of the growing season, that bag of soil was used to fill and seed lawn or to augment garden beds. I figure I will do as she did and plant squash and courgettes in those and then cover the rest of my garden space with other items…

This coming year’s garden will be smaller – eventually I want to have a larger section of my yard – all the way back to my compost bin actually - fenced off for vegetables.  Being able to plant, grow, harvest, preserve and then, through the winter, eat the foods I have grown myself is my eventual goal.

For tonight, though, I will have a dinner of roast chicken and trimmings (stuffed with bread I made myself) and a yummy desert of baked apple and rhubarb crisp. If a grasshopper shows up at my door seeking food and shelter I won’t be slamming the door…

With love across the waters,