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Life’s cycles: endings and beginnings

2014 ended with some very big shifts. Dry to wet, warm to cold, life endings and beginnings. For a while I was absorbed in the extremes; so much rain and so warm was very strange. We went from record breaking drought to record breaking warm for December. Mold was growing all over and I was concerned about the lack of winter chill for fruit trees. Now we’re back to frosty nights and chilly days, and hoping for more rain in the forecast. Yet through it all, as a friend pointed out, there is always something in bloom in Sonoma County, and we have much to be grateful for. Now the trees are getting good winter chill – in moist soil!

I was sent the link to a short video of Dr. Vandana Shiva’s message for 2015, which I found very inspiring and helpful for my reflections on these changes and recent life passings.  Dr. Shiva is a renowned scientist and author whose focus is on environmental health and limiting global corporate control, especially of our food supply. She says, As 2015 has been declared the Year of Soil, let us recognize that in the seed and the soil we can find answers to every one of the crises we are facing.”

Dr. Shiva reminds us that we are made of soil and we return to soil, just like all other living things. I find it very comforting to know that ultimately, life does not end; it cycles. As a complex ecosystem, the soil has amazing potential for rebirth and healing – just as we do as individuals, and the planet as a whole. Many organic farmers and soil scientists feel that their mission is to figure out how to support the rejuvenation of soil that has been starved or poisoned. As gardeners, we know that feeding the soil will allow us to be fed.

Seeds also are the embodiment of life’s cycles. When a flowering plant completes its cycle, it transforms into a small, dormant capsule. This hard-shelled miracle contains all the information needed so that with the right conditions, partaking of the sun and soil, a whole new plant will emerge and become the squash or tomato that feeds us, or the sunflower that delights. A plant that goes to seed never really dies, but reincarnates, from plant to seed to plant again. And each new plant makes hundreds more seeds to help insure that survival. Abundance happens.

When Dr. Shiva says, “we are seeds”, I think she is referring to our capacity to spread the message of nature’s abundance and the vision of a healthy planet, with gardens and small farms everywhere, and where all have plenty of healthful food to eat. Just like Daily Acts refers to “ripplers” – those who practice care for the earth in their daily choices and those actions ripple through their communities – we all can choose to be part of making these visions real.

I’m grateful that fruit tree pruning season has begun and to reflect on these thoughts while pruning. Bare root trees, berries and other perennial food crops are starting to arrive at the nurseries now, so if you have space, planting perennials is a great investment. Just make sure that your site is appropriate, including adequate sun. Too often trees are planted too close to buildings or other trees, or surrounding trees start to cast too much shade on the new plantings in a few years. When choosing varieties, remember that erratic weather is likely to continue, so “tried and true” types and those with only moderate winter chill needs may be safer bets than more unusual or fussy varieties. More details on planting fruit trees were in my blog last year at this time, and at Basic Fruit Tree Planting and Care , on iGROW; a guide to choosing, planting, and maintaining fruit trees.

Happy new year to all!