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  • Writer's pictureJeni Kelsch

Nature Vs. Nurture

I am going to write a book someday. I already have the title; Futile Farming: How to Succeed at Failing at Growing. It’s a little wordy, I know, but I feel my extensive research and experience will make up for my lack of literary finesse. I have much expertise to offer the beginner It’s not so much that farming in concept is hard…you plant, you water, you weed, you harvest. Simple principles. There is just one problem, nature has a death wish. Everything I plant has something that wants to disease it, eat it, or starve it. Be it animal or seed, there is something already out there in the natural world that seeks to destroy it. I have found nature to be rather uncooperative to my dreams of fruitfulness. I dream a little less dramatically now, I only aspire to lack of death.

It started with the apple trees. Apple trees grow all over this area of the country, they have been here for generation upon generation. I planted apple trees, they listed and sighed, unconvinced that I really cared about them. I moved them to a better location, they tasted the new earth and rolled their apple eyes like a haughty teenager, proceeding to develop brown spot. I tended to their needs and said encouraging things...they resisted prosperity-choosing to reject soil and fertilizer, keeping themselves willowy and small. I moved them again and discovered they hadn’t even bothered to develop their roots, choosing a life of humble wasting away like a rejected lover in a Victorian novel. I warned them that this is the last time I will relocate them, they better settle in and grow, but I suspect they are planning the ultimate powerplay and will just choose to die. Even if they wanted to live, they’ve seen the chicken population around here dwindle nightly, they know the odds are against them.

Chickens are supposed to be a starter animal. They are cheap to buy and cheap to keep. But nature knows the advantages of chicken keeping, she has a backup plan for her victory. Unfortunately for them, chicken is everybody’s favorite dinner. My chickens have been systematically picked off by dogs, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, and hawks. They can’t even make it to chickenhood- their eggs have been consumed- still warm- out of the nesting box by a big black snake that sat coiled beneath them as they laid. Keeping chickens is like keeping raindrops, they get absorbed by everything.

Despite the chicken slaughter that I constantly battle, or maybe because of it, I turned my sights to gardening this year. I even built a greenhouse. It’s not finished, but I put some plants in it anyway. I was so excited to extend my growing season this fall. Nature wasn’t even challenged by my ambition with the plants, she slapped it down like a pro-wrestler on pay per view. Fickle Fall, the headliner of the battle, decided to get hot one afternoon- much hotter than it was predicted by it’s weak and undersized competitor Humanity. By the time I got home to open my greenhouse my plants were a pile of steam and rot. Nature-20, Jeni- 0.

I don’t know why nature wants to destroy itself, you would think there would be little victory in cutting off your own arm. Nature has had millions of years to just sit around wondering what it can make next so it can destroy it. By the time people showed up it had already perfected its’ craft. Even so, I won’t give up. Every once in awhile nature gets distracted destroying someone else’s farm (I assume), and I get to have fresh vegetables and eggs. It’s edifying and tasty. It inspires me to go back into battle hoping for a few more victories than defeats. I keep planting, growing, weeding, and occasionally even harvesting despite nature’s expert resistance to my success. After all, farming can be the work of a lifetime-and lucky for us- it seems human doesn’t taste like chicken.

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