As I’ve Gleaned…

The Village Feast

In time out of mind, every meal was cause for celebration. People who returned to their hut, cave or cliff dwelling with food were hailed as conquering heroes, and rightly so. Our early history was a tough time to be alive, or rather, to stay that way. Food and water was a brief respite from what must have been a nearly constant anxiety over what might happen next. So time was taken for gratitude.

Cut to the 21st Century… It’s a lot easier for us now, but we’ve traded something away for the relative security we enjoy. “Enjoy” isn’t even the right word for it anymore. We cram breakfast sandwiches into our faces on the way to work, eat frozen dinners in front of the t.v. and mindlessly cruise the refrigerator at midnight. Food isn’t a celebration, it’s a chore, or a temporary cure for an equally temporary boredom.

Part of what returns to us when we gather and plan for our food is a sense of pride, certainly, but it’s also a return to heartfelt gratitude and excitement over our finds. I don’t know about you, but I spend the trip home from a glean imagining all the cool stuff I’m going to do with my share of it, and how my little family will celebrate with me and make yummy noises. It’s a bit of a holiday, and I bet you have similar experiences when you return home with your treasures.

The food we gather is only half the story. The rituals that surround this thing we do allow us to experience a bit of the Village Feast, the Harvest Celebration. It’s the first and best way we humans came together and formed a community. Breaking bread with each other creates and strengthens the bonds of a community, and we get to experience that in small doses as we divide our shares, trade recipes and complain about our aching backs. It’s one of the most human experiences I can think of.

When I was very young, maybe 6 or 7, one of my favorite teachers told me a story about the difference between Heaven and Hell. He said that the places were exactly the same; an infinite table spread with all the finest, most delicious food you could ever imagine, food that would never spoil or lose its flavor. It was a divine bounty in the clouds, where you could, if you wished, eat chocolate forever. The most unusual part of both banquets, though, were the spoons attached to everyone’s hands. While these spoons were lovely, ornate and covered in gold, they were quite long; too long, in fact, for anyone to actually be able to serve any of the food before them, or to bring a bite to their lips. My teacher told me sadly that it would break my heart to see those poor people in Hell, eternally starving before a bountiful harvest.

As I was meant to, I asked my teacher why, if everything was exactly the same in Hell as in Heaven, I should be interested in going either place. He smiled and leaned closer to me, as people do when sharing a wonderful secret.

“Because in Heaven,” he said, “The people are feeding each other.”

I think of that story whenever we glean and share what we make with friends and neighbors. I’m not a religious person, but I really believe in the deeper meaning of that story. We create something when we share in the village harvest.


We’re creating Heaven.


As I’ve Gleaned…

Learning What We Used To Know

So, I’m new to the notion of gleaning, and to living a life where I can make a choice about where my food comes from. Bigger cities are a special kind of “food desert”, where you can get anything at any time, as long as you don’t want to know where it came from. What people call “Big Food” is big business, and part of their job is to crush the competition. To accomplish this, these companies advocate legislation prohibiting the distribution of food in public places, unfenced gardens and livestock like yard chickens. After one near arrest for passing out sandwiches to homeless folks in a Denver park, I can attest to how serious cities are about these ordinances. The argument in favor of these laws is that they protect public health, and that’s true. It’s true for one reason only, though…

We got stupid.

Now, when I say “stupid”, what I actually mean is ignorant. We have allowed ourselves, over the past few generations, to forget nearly everything our evolution ever taught us about the natural world and our place in it. There are countless skills that have been lost, that we, as a culture, have abandoned. This lack of knowledge leaves us more vulnerable than we realize.

I have evidence of this, though it’s purely anecdotal. I have a friend still in Denver… Let’s call her Pauline. My friend Pauline, WHO TOTALLY EXISTS, is kind of a mess, physically and emotionally. While I’m sure many factors contribute to her issues, I honestly believe that, were she not in the city, she wouldn’t be nearly as sick as she is. Pauline is chronically “busy”, which means she is constantly stressed. She eats out at least once a day, usually drive-thru fare. She is dangerously overweight and genuinely has no idea why, she has high blood pressure, anxiety, sinus problems and ends up with bronchitis at least twice a year. Her knees are shot and the only exercise she gets is the rush from her house to the car. Recently, she told me about a doctor visit wherein it was suggested that she cut way back on animal protein and eat small meals, six times a day. Pauline has no earthly idea how she can accomplish this, just like she has no idea why fruit is better than juice or how her intestinal health impacts her immune system.

The thing is, it’s not her fault. When her eyes widened at the thought of me gathering stuff from the side of the highway and she asked me if I was planning to, like, EAT it, I realized how complete the victory of “Big Food” is. Pauline has been completely brainwashed into a fear of anything that doesn’t come from a store or restaurant, wrapped in plastic or waxed paper. Only that is food. Everything else is, on some level, dangerous to her.

We have forgotten how our bodies were designed to function, we have forgotten how to grow things. We have forgotten how to cook, we have forgotten hard-won lessons on procuring and preparing real food. Real food is work, it’s sweat, it’s imperfect. It’s the way we’re meant to be, grazing on seeds and berries as we explore the landscape. Kind of like eating six small meals a day, mostly plants.

So, with this first post, I’d like to congratulate all of us on finding our way back to this very elemental place. Now that our toes are back in the dirt, may we be wise enough to embrace this way of living as our birthright. Humans have always been opportunistic gatherers. That’s why when we go find our own food, it feels good… It feels like coming home.




Down to Earth fun

Here are a few things happening at Down to Earth this month.

Making Dilly Beans- Free
Saturday, August 18
11am-12:30 pm in our nursery
The OSU Master Food Preservers will be presenting a free workshop and demo on dilly beans. You’ll be packing jars and getting hands-on experience with the canning process. You’ll also take home a jar of pickled green beans!
Class is limited to 8, call to reserve your spot. (541) 342-6820
***if the class fills up, you can still drop-in to watch the demo!***
Bring Your Knives & Tools for a Sharpening Event – Cost Varies
Sunday, August 19
10am-2pm outside our nursery gate
Have any garden tools, knives, or scissors that are losing that nice sharp edge, making your work more challenging? Michael Baines from A New Edge Sharpening will be at our store. Pricing is reasonable, and depends on the size of what you need sharpened.