The Crestone Eagle • May, 2020

Writer’s Forum: I’m planting onions 

by Ricardo Burns

Many of us are creatures of habit—myself included!

Numerous daily routines have been dramatically disrupted as we endure self-imposed “lock downs,” due to a raging worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Yet there exists a deep, almost primordial yearning to hang on to a sense of normalcy.

Enter my early morning cup of coffee and, like thousands of farmers, an internet check of today’s and the coming week’s weather forecast.

For a bit of context, let’s back up, say, over fifty years ago.

Like many kids, I imagined what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” For me it was definitely either be a world champion race car driver or, go figure, a weatherman.

The contrast in these paths was stark: one involved celebratory bottles of champagne bursting open on a podium swarmed by beautiful models (keep in mind, puberty was omnipresent!), while the latter involved studying maps and weather trends. Needless to say, my life evolved into neither, particularly the champagne-drenched fantasy.

Regardless, to this day I have remained an aficcionado of weather tracking.

So, along with that excellent daily cup of coffee I concluded that today was a good day to go outside and put my hands in the dirt.

Time for a confession. As a result of having been born and raised in a vast metropolitan city, the idea of where food originated was obvious: from the shelves in the supermarket! And dirt, well that was what I played little league baseball on. There was absolutely no connection in my young mind that a lengthy chain of hard work was required to make three meals a day possible.

I can’t pinpoint the precise timeline when I planted my first garden but there is little doubt the desire to grow vegetables can be traced directly to my maternal grandfather.

It is a common understanding that every generation is shaped by circumstances and events of the times. In my grandfather’s era it was, without a doubt, the Great Depression that guided his every decision. With daily survival first and foremost, securing food was topmost on people’s daily agenda.

As a result, milking the family cow, collecting eggs and planting a garden are what my mother fondly credits as to how she and her five siblings survived those lean years. Foraged wild dandelion greens, doused with vinegar, were a dinner time staple at the Holmes home.

My generation, the late sixties and early seventies, went full throttle taking the cultural pendulum to the other extreme:  embracing love, sex, rock and roll and a hunger to “return to the land.” Wearing overalls, consuming The Whole Earth Catalog and listening to Canned Heat’s hit song “Going Up to the Country” was all the rage during my most formative years.

So, naturally, growing one’s own food was suddenly all the rage.

To be honest, very little food was actually harvested, but the yearning inside me continued to smolder. Throughout the years I made numerous attempts to have a garden plot, though many were not any larger the fabled “Victory Gardens” of the 1940s!

But today I am fortunate enough to have my own plot of “tierra” (dirt) and am now, finally, harvesting years of accumulated knowledge—including many past failed attempts!

My own reward in gardening includes the obvious: fresh food and knowing where it comes from. That, alone, is a huge motivating reason. But the intrinsic sense of self-reliance is incalculable. This is particularly prescient as we move through the scourge of our current pandemic.

It is often said tongue in cheek that farmers are both gamblers and unfailing optimists. Our current living situation is most certainly in dire need of the latter, so today I planted some onions.

One final thought: if you haven’t recently indulged your senses I highly recommend sticking your fingers in some dirt sometime very soon—I guarantee it will do wonders for you, the Earth and your connection to the world we share!