Spring has been slow to come to Hull. In the last two weeks the high temperature has been below average 12 out of 14 days. But the sun continues its march higher in the sky and the cold frames have been stored in the basement. As you can see from the photographs above and below the food is coming in despite the cold.
Last month I wrote about arugula and told my story about this amazing green. I also proudly celebrated the meager food that came from the garden and the value of cold frames. A month ago it took about an hour to pick a salad. Now in five minutes I can go out to the garden and get greens for three days.
At the end of last month’s post I wrote, “I hope you can get out in the beautiful spring air and not just feel the warmth of the sun but the feel of dirt on your hands and the sense that the work that you do now will feed you later. May that food be literal food from your garden or figurative food for your souls, and may the work you do now be honored in the months to come.” I love sitting on the ground slowly thinning and picking. Maybe that love comes from the almost fifty years of tending a garden. I know from practice and experience that the tending and the labor of the present will bring me food later. Perhaps that is why I love sitting on the ground for hours gathering little tastes. Or perhaps it is because I was taught by both of my grandfathers who shared their gardens with me? Or perhaps it is because I was taught by my parents, who usually kept a garden?
In the garden I have seen year after year that the work of the moment gives my future life joy. That is experience. But what were the preconditions that allowed me to have that experience? Certainly among them were the privileges of land and stability. Carrot Day is a way of encouraging the experience of learning that work/time/labor/focus now produces something that can be celebrated later. That is why this simple act of planting, tending and waiting for the frost can be more than fun; it can be a lesson in why effort is important, but fun is enough.
This year has been a hard year for schools. I have been thinking a lot about why this is so. It seems to me that one reason for the challenge of the year is that it is even harder now than before the Pandemic for students to believe that effort in the present will be worth it and that a reward will come later. That struggle, “the-discomfort-in-the-now-for-gain-later,” has always been a challenge in schools. Schools acculturate. In a school the knowledge and wisdom of the past is handed from one generation to the next. The problem is that the world changes and the wisdom and knowledge of the past may not be what the children think they need and sometimes the children are right but sometimes the children are simply children.
This dilemma is not new and at least since culture was codified by the written word the old have been complaining about the young and the young have been complaining about the old. In schools the adults want to be able to explain and tell the students to “work now and it will pay off later and it will be worth it even if it is hard now.” But for many of us being told something and instructed on “our attitude” and how “to be” does not work. Being told to do something only works for some so now more than ever we need to figure out how the “group project” that is “a classroom” and “a school” can create space for the young to see that there is value in what the old know.
How do we set up situations where students can experience the joy that can come later from labor now? I got an answer to this question in the monthly Zoom Meeting of the the Middle School Network in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In a small group conversation I said that it seemed harder than ever to convince young people that putting in effort now will lead to personal benefit later and I wanted to know how others were handling that situation. Bo Lembo, the Director of the Gately Youth Center, in Cambridge, gave me an answer that rang true. Bo has worked with youth for over two decades and through his years of experience he has learned how to create space where students learn how to be a cohesive group and work now for gain later. He divides the year into four sections and he starts with joy, moves to gratitude, then to setting goals, and ends with celebration.
That feels right if we start with joy and end with celebration we might create a set of experiences for all of us that demonstrate that effort now brings reward later. I think Carrot Day follows that pattern, plant, thin, tend and then harvest.
Two weeks ago I sent out over 60 packages of carrot seeds. I still have over half of the carrot seeds left. Please order your free seeds here and remember to start with joy and end with a celebration and a love of hard work may come in the middle.