While on a cross-country, family-visiting adventure, my partner and I made many stops related to our various interests. One of these stops was at Walden Pond in Massachusetts as I had just read a section by Henry David Thoreau’s, “Walden” for my class, The Farm in Literature. When we think of Thoreau, farming usually doesn’t come to mind, but he actually tended a little plot of land and had many thoughts on the spiritual and societal impacts of tending land.
Thoreau grew much of the food that he ate during his two-year foray in the woods. He gardened in a simple manner, without added manure for fertilizer and hand hoed, sowed, weeded, and tended to his plot regularly.
Although his gardening was a major part of his daily routine, there was no garden at Walden Pond currently, much to my disappointment. I was hoping to see the meager rows of beans tended by a scruffy gentlemen farmer play actor.
“…I learned from the experience of both years, … that if one would live simply and eat only the crop which he raised, and raise no more than he ate, and not exchange it for an insufficient quantity of more luxurious and expensive things, he would need to cultivate only a few rods of ground, and that it would be cheaper to spade up that than to use oxen to plow it, and to select a fresh spot from time to time than to manure the old, and he could do all his necessary farm work as it were with his left hand at odd hours in the summer.”- Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walden’
Thoreau’s simple farming method was slow and thoughtful, using his time in the field as a time to reflect and feel connected to the earth. He said of his time in his garden that it, ‘yielded an instant and immeasurable crop.’
Many of us who garden understand this connection when we work in the soil. I think his routine of daily morning gardening helped keep him motivated and grounded during his time of intense reflection.