April Fool’s Day will officially begin my next planting season, and unlike last year when I started a month late, already exhausted from the move, without a scrap of knowledge or real experience, this time I am relatively prepared and waiting for it eagerly like it was the first day of my dream job.  Might it be?

Except that it just snowed yesterday, again, and the weather has been as erratic as a three-year old boy.  Already the transplants are looking weary in wait, and the cold frame has an insect infestation.

Being so intimately linked to your food source, as in relying on it for survival (at least in theory), it occurred to me that old school farming and serious gardening is for gamblers who don’t like to play games .  Both are all about testing the odds, securing every sort of advantage, and while skill is essential it can be learned, but more greatly required are a passion for strategy, a knack for assessing risk, and a superior  talent at reading the signs.  If you keep at it for a really long time you may get good enough to sustain life, but to really flourish requires a certain degree of luck.  You can’t change the weather any more than you can change the cards.  All you can do is learn the tricks of the trade through experience and study, in an attempt to push the odds in your favor.

While planting on April Fool’s Day may seem like a bad omen, in a serious way it makes sense to me, because even the most inexperienced gardener knows that gardening is something of a fool’s folly.  You could research indefinitely, then work for weeks, wait for months, only to lose an entire crop days before harvest.  Stockpiling, I realize, is the only real kind of insurance against the whims of nature, that is of course, if you had to live primarily from what you grew.  As in investments diversification and patience and are your only reliable insurance plans and a little insider knowledge goes a long way.  I guess that’s why real farmers, of the modern monoculture variety, have no choice but to rely on subsidies.

The irony is that with most “real jobs” your reward for hard work is typically some relaxing time off, but for the homesteader or gardener the reward is an abundant and varied harvest, which then requires a whole different skill set and new load of work.  And still somehow, I am finding this way more fun than gambling.