Wye Island shore

Wye Island shore (Photo credit: WorldIslandInfo.com)

Nature is as well adapted to our weaknesses as well as our strengths.”

                                                – Henry David Thoreau


The month of October was challenging for me.  The cold season had begun to set in and I was worried that it would freeze and kill some of the beans and squash that I still had in the garden.  I would rather pick them early than lose them all together, so every day was a struggle with myself to determine if I should completely harvest the garden or wait for things to ripen fully.

I felt pretty confident in my larder.  I had three hundred jars all together and all but forty six were filled.  I dug my cellar deep enough to protect it from the winter and even used one of the sleeping bags as well as several of the coolers for insulation against extreme temperatures.

Since my arrival on the island, I had dug a fire pit and fitted the grates over it, as well as digging my storage cellar and planting my garden.  Most of the actual labor came from putting up wood for the winter.  Several of the neighbors I had talked to over the summer had told me of the cold winters on the island.  I would not be able to build a fire place on the camper, so I would have to content myself with a campfire outside.  I stacked the wood around the perimeter of the site to act as a shield from the wind.  I was also given several very heavy hand made comforters from my neighbors, the Bordleys.

I hung these around the interior of the camper to retain as much of the heat as possible.  I also found an anonymous gift of three propane tanks outside the trailer one morning.  Someone was convinced that I might freeze to death, and I was given several standing invitations to come and stay with my neighbors, should the temperature drop too far below freezing.

I honestly can’t understand why these offers concern me.  It seems odd that I should be offended by the generosity of good hearted people.  They were all encouraging of my goals and dream to live this way, but every single one of them dangled the easy out of the modern world in front of me.  I was welcome to use their showers as well as come over for dinner (an invitation that I did accept on the condition that they join me as well.) I also traded my excess from the garden with them, they seemed to want to pay me an excessive amount of money for my produce, I don’t know for certain if this was an act of charity or a reflection of the price of organic goods in the market.

Several of the neighbors came over to help with the first harvest of the garden back in June.  They commented greatly on the flavor and quality of the vegetables.  The one lady, Mrs. Chowning was an award winning gardener herself and had an amazing flower garden.  She gave me several tips, like planting the three sisters to keep the soil from dying out.  According to the works of Thoreau, a few more years at Walden Pond and he would have exhausted the soil and had to clear another area for a new garden.  I did not have the luxury of space as he did, to just abandon fields whenever I saw fit.

My neighbors were nice and universally pleased that I was here and trying to live this way.  I made gift of several of my sketches as well as a painting to Mrs. Chowning for all her assistance in practical gardening.  None of these things were discussed in the gardening book I had with me.  We also set up a sort of lending library and unofficial book club as we discussed the books while I went about the labor of the day.

Mr. Chowning was often over with a few cold beers to sit out on the lawn furniture he gave me and stare out at the Narrows and comment on its beauty.  Every time he came over, it was with the pleasant comment that this was the life he wished he was brave enough to do when he was younger.  I even inspired a sort of movement as a few of the neighbors took to planting vegetable gardens of their own and trading with myself and each other to obtain various different types of produce.  Some nights it felt odd to be eating watercress and frisse salad next to the campfire while sitting on discarded lawn furniture, but this was all part of the great experiment.  Unlike Thoreau I still wanted to be a part of the community, not divorce myself from it and retreat into isolation as so many self-sufficient experiments do.