What’s Wrong with the World

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Viva la revolucion!

Via Jeff Culbreath I found this marvelous essay on the hope, the joy, the true liberty in gardening with your own hands. It contains numerous little gems like this: “The planting of seeds in my garden, by hand, on my knees, is a simple action of rebellion against the modern order. It is an act of wisdom and significance in the midst of a foolish and vacuous world. It is voluntary submission to an older, higher calling.”

I do not yet have a garden to speak of. The house we bought last year sits on a considerable acreage, but it is massively overgrown. Right now, however, I am enjoying the fruits of the hard work I put in over the past year, clearing out a section of that overgrowth. In late March, to my surprised delight, a mass of rye grass (presumably with good shade tolerance) sprouted up in the section I had cleared. I did not plant the stuff. As a more knowledgeable friend remarked, you never know what will turn up when you clear out the weeds.

The appearance of the rye grass accelerated my timetable. I had planned on another year of clearing and tilling, followed by seeding early next spring. But with the rye coming up on its own, I decided to seed some fescue out there with it. That was six weeks ago. On Sunday I mowed the section for the first time. Thankfully, the drought in north Georgia has abated this spring, so it looks like I’ll have a good solid section of lawn by mid-summer. And I am already at work, clearing a different section in preparation for the garden.

So indeed I know something of the joy of this small “rebellion against the modern order.”

Now this post could hardly be complete without a quotation from our patron saint:

The man who makes an orchard where there has been a field, who owns the orchard and decides to whom it shall descend, does also enjoy the taste of apples; and let us hope, also, the taste of cider. But he is doing something very much grander, and ultimately more gratifying, than merely eating an apple. He is imposing his will upon the world in the manner of the charter given him by the will of God; he is asserting that his soul is his own, and does not belong to the Orchard Survey Department, or the chief Trust in the Apple Trade. But he is also doing something which was implicit in all the most ancient religions of the earth; in those great panoramas of pageantry and ritual that followed the order of the seasons in China or Babylonia; he is worshipping the fruitfulness of the world.

— Chesterton, The Well and the Shallows, 1935.

Comments (11)

A very fine little piece. Thanks, Paul. I've been toying with the idea of doing more planting this year, fewer flowers, more food. Lord, help me shed my suburban complacency and laziness.

I've also been toying with a new, quiet little blog project where, coincidentally, my first post included the exact same Chesterton quote you just whipped out. Perhaps some WWWTWers will find something worth reading there.


The rye grass makes a good surface for practicing your chipping in winter. Make sure the left wrist doesn't break down.

My Atlanta sister has a small patch on a lively creek in Blue Ridge Georgia. Her love of that spot on the planet is near to adoration. Increasingly she escapes her city style for "real life." Soon (she assures us) we will find her there permanently. It seems in these past years as if there has been a thrown switch, a meme, a mass vision of the pastoral life.

Paul, Your mother will be delighted with your efforts in your yard. I intend to enhance the habitat for birds on my subsequent visits. And may go out and assist Chris in his endeavors.

Thank you for linking this, Mr. Cella (Jr.)! Herrick is always a good read. Please give us a peek at your yard-in-progress when you can.

Yes, that's lovely.

Yesterday, I planted a Viburnum & an Oak. Today, I planted a Beech & a Willow, along with some water iris & a hardy banana, in the bog at my mother's place. Tomorrow it will be three varied specimen maples.

Our tomatoes & peppers are surviving, despite the cold spring, and the sunflowers & gourds are growing like weeds.

But there's a possibility of hail in the forecast. The ultimate nightmare. Fingers crossed.

Two or three generations back, my people settled down from mining to farming. At which point they got really preoccupied with the weather. I used to think that was really silly and shallow of them.

I don't, anymore.

About all I grow is grass (but I have a really nice lawn), and I"m preoccupied with the weather. Can't help it. Watering personally is a large-scale pain, when Mother Nature doesn't do the job.

I have a blue spruce we planted about seven or eight years ago (I think) and it's not yet quite five feet tall, though it looks healthy. Does anyone know if this is anything to worry about? I finally had it fertilized properly for the first time this year. That may have something to do with it. Perhaps it knows that it lives at the home of a short person.

Spruces are beautiful trees, of course, but slow growing. One plants them for the next generation.

That's the idea. The one member of the next generation who helped to plant it was little then and is "big" now (in her view, as a teenager) and wonders if it will ever be taller than she is. :-)


It will be. In due course. In the fulness of time.

Or so I'm told.

Stupid, slow, blue spruces.

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