April 30, 2021
Yesterday I harvested the first of what I hope to be a long season of strawberries from the bed along my back patio. I mentioned how the plants only produced three or four berries last year and the birds got to them before I could. I had dozens of flowers and even unripe berries before the hard freeze a couple of weeks ago. That was followed by the torrential rains we got this week that completely flooded the bed and left the plants in standing water. While near perfect conditions last year failed to provide a crop, the terrible conditions this year are (so far) creating an abundance. Go figure.
When I purchased the plants last year, I knew there were two basic types of berries, June-bearing, and ever-bearing. I went with the ever-bearing hopping to have strawberries throughout the summer. When I looked online, I found that these types are just the beginning of the varieties of berries. There are a lot of different climates and growing conditions, and each state has its own unique general soil composition, rainfall, and weather patterns. That means different varieties do better in one region than in another. While some can adapt to a variety of environments, others have been bred to be highly productive in a relatively narrow climate range. The recommended varieties for Arkansas are Cardinal, Camarosa, Chandler, Delmarvel, Earliglow, Lateglow, Noreaster, Sweet Charlie, Tribute, and Tristar. Being naive, I just got what was at the store, Ozark Beauty (Fragaria x ananassa). They seem to work.
I noticed yesterday that several of my berries were getting ripe, and that others had already become bird food and were going bad. I decided it was time to pick the ripe ones, as the birds already get enough from my feeders. The water had subsided and the straw I had covered the plants with last year was still in place. I gave no second thought as I stepped into the bed to get at several berries in the back. My foot immediately sunk four inches into the mud, causing me to lurch forward into the house, breaking several nails and cutting my hand on the bricks. Since that was not going to get me to the back of the bed, I leaned against the house and used a pair of scissors to cut the berries off the plant. Even given the bird depredation, I still reaped a dozen berries. I am hopping for a good year.
Thoughts: My berries reminded me how nature can be both fragile and resilient. The fragility was displayed last year as the plants needed time to adapt to new conditions before being able to produce berries. The resilience is evident in the ability to thrive over winter, and then withstand both the freeze and the torrential rains. It hammered home the point that conditions do not have to be perfect to produce a good result. Stepping into the bed also reminded me that you need to be aware of context as well as present conditions. The bed looked fine, but the recent rain meant the soil beneath the straw was mud. American society can be viewed through a similar understanding. We are both resilient and fragile and must understand context as well as present conditions. The decade of the 2020’s will be shaped by the past 500 years of colonial and American expansion. These conditions have been far from perfect, but that does not mean we cannot have good results. It is time to put away our fragility and embrace our resilience. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.