“eloquence in disaster”

“All the accomplished gardeners I know are surprisingly comfortable with failure. They may not be happy about it, but instead of reacting with anger or frustration, they seem fairly intrigued by the peony that, after years of being taken for granted, suddenly fails to bloom. They understand that, in the garden at least, failure speaks louder than success. By that I don’t mean the garden encounters more failure than success (though in some years he will), only that his failures have more to say to him about his soil, the weather, the predilections of local pests, the character of his land. The gardener learns nothing when his carrots thrive, unless that success is won against a background of prior disappointment. Outright success is dumb, disaster frequently eloquent. At least to the gardener who learns how to listen.”

Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education


I worked until dark today in our garden, first trellising the already-reaching sweet peas and then weeding. Chris worked alongside me, NPR blaring, crafting another garden bed. We had found our old rhythm again.

I felt as if I had been gone from the garden for a lifetime- a stressful move from the ranch back to the city, house renovations, the holiday flurry, and a miserable first trimester of pregnancy.  I was home again.

While weeding I discovered that nearly all of the seeds we planted have germinated, and seem to be thriving in the home we’ve prepared for them with truckload after truckload of compost and manure from our farm animals. I was overjoyed. Our soil is good and there are no rodents to compete with here.

(In our “spring garden” we are growing arugula, mustard greens, radishes, sweets peas, fava beans, kale, collards, cabbage, spinach, carrots, broccoli, garlic, bok choy, onions, brussels sprouts, leeks, and strawberries, to name a few.)

This past year spent farming at Rancho Vivo we encountered our own fragility, vulnerability, and ignorance. And we learned (I think) to fail well.

It is on the foundation of these failures and disappointments that we once again hope and dream, and plant a spring garden.  Slate wiped clean; a new year, new home, new baby on the way, and another growing season.

Nothing will be taken for granted this year.



  1. This is beautiful Rachel. We all need to learn to fail well, because fail we will. Congratulations on everything growing!

  2. Love the phrase “fail well.” I was just thinking with that. . . in a sense, Jesus did that, too. But his fail was his ultimate victory! I’d say that it was a eloquent disaster, wouldn’t you?
    It’s nice to hear from Psalterfarm again!

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