Harvesting Garlic and Independence

I’ve been harvesting garlic the last couple of days.  Cool, breezy, misty mornings, with birds singing and the smell of freshly dug garlic–what a nice way to begin a day.


Some of it I’ve held back to offer at the farmer’s market.  Freshly dug uncured garlic is something you’ll never find in a grocery store.

The rest of it is curing in our basement, which now smells powerfully (and wonderfully) of garlic.

Finally, in recognition of Independence Day, I offer these words from Wendell Berry’s essay “Discipline and Hope” written in 1972.  For more of it, go HERE.  Or better yet, pick up a copy of his book A Continuous Harmony and read the whole thing.

The going assumption seems to be that freedom can be granted only by an institution, that it is the gift of the government to its people.  I think it is the other way around.  Free men are not set free by their government; they have set their government free of themselves; they have made it unnecessary.  Freedom is not accomplished by a declaration.  A declaration of freedom is either a futile and empty gesture, or it is the statement of a finished fact.  Freedom is a personal matter; though we may be enslaved as a group, we can be free only as persons.  We can set each other free only as persons.  It is a matter of discipline.  A person can free himself of bondage that has been imposed on him only by accepting another bondage that he has chosen.  A man who would not be the slave of other men must be the master of himself–that is the real meaning of self government.  If we all behaved as honorably and honestly and industriously as we expect our representatives to behave, we would soon put the government out of work.

A person dependent on somebody else for everything from potatoes to opinions may declare that he is a free man, and his government may issue a certificate granting him his freedom, but he will not be free.   He is that variety of specialist known as a consumer, which means that he is the abject dependent of producers.   How can he be free if he can do nothing for himself?   What is the First Amendment to him whose mouth is stuck to the tit of the “affluent society”?   Men are free precisely to the extent that they are equal to their own needs.   The most able are the most free.

4 comments on “Harvesting Garlic and Independence

  1. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Bill, this line from Berry’s essay really speaks to me: “Men are free precisely to the extent that they are equal to their own needs. The most able are the most free.” I am a consumer and rely on others for so many things in my life. That’s one of the reasons I want to begin next year to do square-foot gardening in my back yard. I’ll raise my own herbs and vegetables and flowers for the dinner table. You’re inspiring. Peace.

    PS: I left a response to your response to my comment on your June 28th posting.


    • Bill says:

      Thanks for the kind words Dee. The essay is my favorite. Prophetic. And written over 40 years ago.

      Square foot gardening is wonderful. I do it on a small scale in some raised beds. It’s amazing how much food you can produce in very little space. And the beds are easy to tend.


  2. I didn’t get to this yesterday, but am so glad I did today. It’s the perfect post for Independence Day. For those who are able, every day is…


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