Monsoon season has hit here in New Mexico. Twice this afternoon, the sky turned abruptly from sunshine to pelting the ground with hail stones the size of ice cubes. Huddling helplessly under shelter watching the hail bounce for almost an hour, then walking through the garden surveying the damage, I was flooded with thoughts and emotions.
First, in the worried faces of the farmers beside me, I felt stabs of the anxiety of losing half a year’s work in the course of a few minutes. Months of dedication, sacrifice, and endless back-breaking labor, from dawn until after dark, seven days a week, battling the wind and a failing well, weeds and bugs and squirrels and gophers and mice and rabbits, political and legal labryinths. Now, the garden almost entirely planted for the summer, too late to start over. How tenuous and fragile and uncertain the fruit of all our efforts, how little truly in our control.
And at the same time, I realized how deeply fortunate and sheltered I am. Even at its worse, a hailstorm holds little power to harm me. Even if it completely obliterated the garden into which I have poured nearly all of my thoughts, energy, and waking hours for the past four months, even if it put me out of a job and forced me to leave the people and land I have grown to love dearly and commit to deeply. I would still have family and friends to turn to, other opportunities I could pursue. I would still have a warm place to sleep and food to eat. I do not truly depend on a single piece of land to provide a living or feed me.
And so, I was surprised to find that more than anything, the hailstorm left me brimming with gratitude. Gratitude that we have such a diversity of crops, most of which should recover, and we still have a few seedlings for replanting. Grateful that the storm came after the CSA shares were harvested for the week, and for all the concerned neighbors who dropped by to check on the farm. Gratitude that I am craddled in the love and support of so many people. Grateful that I am not chained to a mortgage or debt, and live in a country which, for all its flaws, provides a security net of social services. Grateful for such a multitude of blessings and provision I usually take for granted.
Grateful, and aching to think of most of the farmers in this world, just barely eeking out a living from the soil, dependent on each crop in order to feed themselves, their families, their communities. For them, a single hailstorm, or an insect infestation, or a marauding army, could destroy their harvest and leave them penniless and starving.
Certainly a stark reminder of the critical importance of diversification and decentralized local food system. If we were only growing melons, or winter squash, or stone fruit this year, we might have lost everything. Imagine if we were a major national supplier, with hundreds of people around the country depending on our farm for their produce, and our fields were hit.
The garden may take a few weeks to heal. One casualty of the monsoon, however, was much simpler to resurrect. After I discovered a fresh loaf of bread accidently left in the first deluge, the only way I could think to salvage the soggy loaf was to make bread pudding. The only problem was, I have always found bread pudding to be absolutely revolting. But I figured everyone else might enjoy it. Of course, once it came out of the oven I couldn’t help but try a few bites, and was pleasantly surprised to find it mildly appealing, subtlely sweet and a far cry from the typical taste and texture that usually turns me off. Wouldn’t go out of my way to make it again, but not bad. If only all problems were this easy to solve!
3 cups bread, torn into small pieces (I used a whole loaf, which was possibly more)
2 cups milk of your choice
1/4 cup butter
1/4 to 1/3 cup maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice)
1 teaspoon cardamon (or cinnamon, or whatever spices you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Heat milk over low heat, then add butter, remove from heat, and allow to melt and cool to lukewarm. Whisk eggs with spices and sweeter, then mix with milk. Grease a baking pan and fill with bread. Pour batter over bread, press bread into mixture, and bake 45-50 minutes, until set. Serve warm (can be reheated in the oven) and enjoy!