A tiny seed, some the smallest of specks. No one would assume the power and life that these tiny dots hold within. They seem so minuscule, fragile, and easily underestimated. The odds are against them: the right temperature, the right light, the right moisture. Yet they germinate, thrusting themselves from the soil. They turn toward the light, yearning to touch the sun.
Specks in our hands (expensive specs) have now turned into a greenhouse filled with new life. We dote on them. They give us life in so many ways. Our food, our income, our livelihood, so much is riding on these tiny new life forms. So many people have had faith in us, willing to pay us for food they will not receive for months.
Now months have past and we are eagerly in the garden, transplanting all of these adolescent plants into the dirt. No more coddling in our greenhouse, no more perfect temperature, no more gentle watering twice a day, no more ceiling!
Now they are exposed to that often wicked North Dakota wind, spring thunderstorms, and well, this year, the rising river.
This year the spring was late coming, we were nervous, we needed to get our plants in that ground we spent so much time prepping the fall before. Snow kept falling though, late into April and now it was May.
Then before we knew it, we would have to confront one of our biggest fears, the rising river. As a child I saw it swelled beyond it's banks. We boated on the fields. It was fun then, but now it was our cropland, our livelihood. I knew it would happen someday, our name is Riverbound Farm for a reason. But not this year, only our second season. Once our prepped ground went under we decided that "the high spot" would do. We plowed it and figured we would be wading in. Then that went under and before we knew it we thought we would lose it all. We fought and thought positive, kept our eye on the prize. We decided to plow up the only 2 acres we had left above water: the horse pasture. Oh the soil was black and beautiful and we were so thankful. The horses were put in the front yard and we scrambled to get our plants in. The river that was once a mile away was now lapping at our home site. The one acre surrounding the home was now becoming saturated and water was filling the rows, we were thankful for raised beds.
In all of this drama with the river we found our perseverance and strength. All we could do was keep planting. No more equipment, we would have to plant as close as possible, it would all be hand work now. Our bodies would be our weapons. Our backs would have to be strong and our stamina would have to fight the stress and chaos around us.
We would also undergo more losses. The team of horses that we put so much of our dreams into would be lost. The mare who was to bear us a foal in June got out of the pasture and on the highway late one Friday night. When the police officer pulled into the yard we were startled. Brian approached and he said our horses were out. Brian went to look for them. I stayed in the house with the kids. Then, a knock at the door. It was a man saying our horse was hit on the road and she needed to get put down. In a flash so many horrible scenarios flashed before me, was someone hurt, our horse needs to get shot. I panicked, grabbed every gun we owned and loaded them in the truck and called Brian. Brian was up on the road and ran home and grabbed the gun. I asked if anyone was hurt, he said no and was gone, gun in hand. There on the highway Brian had to shoot more than just our beloved mare. We felt the accident deep within us. The man who hit her walked away from the accident and was arrested for drunk driving and once again we pushed through. We planted, we weeded, we focused on growing the food for the 90 families that believed in us.
By midsummer our crops were doing so great. The bounty that our blood, sweat, and tears produced was glorious. Then the thunderstorms began. Friday night storms became the reality. Severe is almost an understatement. The rain would begin, then the hail and wind. The entire state was getting pummeled what seemed like daily. The ground water was so high here at the farm that the 3 inch rainstorms we would receive wouldn't drain. We had to sump-pump the gardens around the home. I remember standing outside pumping the garden after a severe hail and rainstorm and watching what seemed like an apocalyptic movie scene form above my head. Colors I didn't know existed swirled above. Then lightning, scary lightning. We ran for cover and tornado strength winds blew through the farm and golf ball size hail fell along with a few inches of rain. We waded knee deep in water in the most unlikely of places here at the farm. But, we pumped the gardens dry and the next day harvested for the CSA. This scene would be repeated several more times throughout the course of the summer. A tornado even went through the farm and so many of the beloved cottonwoods in the area came down, it was a war zone.
We began working our tails off in the greenhouse back in March. The aches, the stress, the long hours toiling over these plants, our food, our love, our passion, our paycheck. Then a storm would come weekly and pound and whip and crush our hard work, our food, our CSA member's faith in us. It was so hard. To feel as though you have no control, that one day you can work so hard on something only to have it taken away in an instant. I remember feeling so proud of our winter squash, they were so healthy and productive up there in the sod we had to break after the river flooded. Then boom, in a flash it was taken, broken into tiny bits, almost nothing. So many tears were shed during those months.
Despite the losses and destruction we still had so much bounty. We always had a great diverse selection of food. Our CSA members were so positive and supportive. Every week we had so much to harvest. Every week we kept planting. Something would be destroyed so we would prep new ground and plant more. All we had control over was our hard work. We would plant, plant, plant, never give up. What one storm might take away, one hard days work and some sunshine could replace.
The resilience that we saw out in the vegetable field though was truly miraculous. Those plants that seemed to be totally destroyed, chopped to pieces, blown totally over, snapped in half, dead to the world were not dead, just hurt. The crops I mourned over were almost overnight growing back ten fold. The life that sprang up and recovered storm after storm was inspirational. Yes, some were lost forever, but more often those plants came back bigger, better, and more resilient than ever. Those plants bore food, food enough for 90 families to nourish their bodies. Our roots here at the farm have deepened as well. Our souls nourished from the resilience that we have learned this season. There was a lot of loss for so many of us in the area but, so many of us have learned to persevere and deepen our roots in the rich soil. We can recover from hail storms. We can regrow with renewed strength and vigor and still share and spread life.
I strive to learn to be as resilient as a plant in my garden.
BY: Angie McGinness