Wisdom From Nature, Gardening and Our Ancestors

“Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy,” said Isaac Newton. When I see this quote, I think about the intricacies of nature and the mere survival of it all; there is a wisdom beyond what meets the eye.

I love the fact that we do not need to teach a seed to grow, that the head of the sunflower follows the sun, and animals in the wild innately know what to do to survive.

A few summers back, I watched the microscopic workings of the insect world in our vegetable garden. We had just planted about 80 tomato plants and I decided to order beneficial bugs for my garden: ladybugs, parasitic wasps and nematodes. My family thought I was crazy spending $75 on bugs, but it soon became a great science project.

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The Tomato Hornworm and the Parasitic Wasp

I became absolutely amazed at the inner workings of the parasitic wasp, placing white sacs of larvae onto the backs of a tomato hornworm. If you have never seen a tomato hornworm, it is about 3-5 inches long with white diagonal lines on its back. It’s a type of green caterpillar from the larvae of a hawk moth. Reminding me of something out of “Alice in Wonderland, the worm can consume an entire tomato plant within a couple of days.

The white cocoons from the parasitic wasp paralyze the tomato hornworm and once the larvae are mature, they lay eggs on future hornworms.

John Muir’s quote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe,” is a great example of wisdom. Managing a garden organically is no small feat, but the effort is beneficial. Simply put, harsh chemicals stress and weaken the plants immune system and attract more harmful pests. The health of our soil plays a vital role in our survival. Basically, the more we avoid harsh chemicals, the better the outcome.

Focusing on Community Helping Community

Charles Spurgeon was quoted once saying that “wisdom is the right use of knowledge.” I ponder what the right use of knowledge is with our soil and food production. I think about my ancestors and how important it was to cultivate a garden, all for mere survival and to sustain a family.

As a society, our food production has evolved since then and how we buy and consume our produce, as well. I wonder sometimes how necessary it is to transport raspberries to my area. For what? So that I can have the pleasure of eating ripe raspberries in the winter time. If we become knowledgeable about the health of soil, we may find those raspberries are not as nutrient rich as they should be.

Perhaps, if we focus on community helping community, instead of the government providing lifelong programs, we may just find that more money can go into organic community gardens. I apologize for my view towards this delicate topic, as it is not intended to upset, just to create thought. While I believe the government can help someone down on their luck, they have created learned helplessness. It doesn’t matter what side of the political fence you are on, sometimes the government reminds me of the tomato hornworm.

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Lessons From Our Ancestors

In talking about my ancestors and gardening, I do know that my ancestors that immigrated to America did not ask the government for any support. I think there is wisdom in their story.

Another great quote by John Muir is this: “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” I admire my grandparents and realized later in life how wise they were. I believe my Grosmom, German for great grandmother, received far more than what she sought. She loved to garden and could make a fruit pie and nut roll to reckon with any professional baker. In my eyes, she was amazing. I have her to thank for her wise and brave immigration to America when she was 30 years old with her spouse and three children.

Leaving Germany, her parents, siblings and extended family for a whole new life, escaping the tyranny of the German Reich, soon after World War I. They traveled on a ship to Ellis Island, with no real formal education, but wise beyond their years. She had a smile that was invitingly warm and kind, but wow, when that index finger would come out and point in your direction, you knew she meant business. She was a force to be reckoned with and was someone that provided building blocks for my growth. Her wisdom continues to be a part of who I am today.

One last touch point of wisdom, which I hope some find humorous, involving “gray” or “grey” hair. Use the spelling how you wish, as both indicate a different meaning, gray being ashen and grey being older. I am using grey, as I want to express in my words, older or aged. I spent 10 or so years, I honestly don’t remember how many, coloring my hair. Not sure why, perhaps because grey hair represents getting older and if anyone personally knows my son, a beautiful man today, those greys came by me honestly. At any rate, I am proud of the aging process and the grey hairs my son gave me. When I look in the mirror, I say, damn, I earned those! There is wisdom in life and nature. As Aristotle said, “Nature does nothing uselessly,” perhaps we can learn from that.

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