May was a very busy month for me and June is proving to be equally so. My garden is doing very well and keeping me plenty busy, so no complaints there. Also, the animals keep us hopping, with the pigs needing new pasture, the rabbits having babies, continuing to incubate eggs, and even our cat now expecting. Finally, the kids are out of school and home full time, which presents its own challenges.
One recently unexpected challenge came just the other afternoon. My in-laws had been down from Wisconsin visiting for a week. It was a lovely time, with the kids and grandparents all having fun. Everyone was happy and it was a great way to start the summer holiday.
My husband had to work on the day of their return flight, so the rest of us loaded into the minivan with their luggage, planned for a nice buffet lunch, and dropping them at the airport in a timely fashion, and that is exactly what happened.
Now, however, I feel I should note that it is time to harvest the elephant garlic that many people have mixed into their landscaping.
On the way to the airport from the restaurant I noticed a business that appeared vacant and also had a good sized cluster of the aforementioned elephant garlic. In my house we can never have enough garlic, and the seven or eight heads I had already harvested at home needed some companions. I resolved to stop on my way home.
We completed the drive to the airport, said our goodbyes, did some slight re-arranging of seats for the children, and headed in the direction of home.
As I came back to the place I had seen the garlic, I pulled the van into the driveway. A sign on the door said the business was open by appointment only, but the place was looking pretty shabby. The landscaping was overgrown or dying and it did not look like anyone was mowing on a regular basis. Additionally, since elephant garlic re-seeds, I didn’t feel that I would be causing any damage to pull the ten stalks of garlic I could see.
I opened the side door of our van, left the children watching their movie, and began pulling stalks. I was careful to leave the loose baby garlics behind in the holes left vacant by the plants I was pulling. I then laid the stalks on the floor of the van, turned around, and continued the journey home.
My six-year-old, however, stopped watching her movie, and said, “Mommy, did you steal that garlic?”
Oh dear, I thought, now what? I don’t want my kids to think it’s acceptable to pick flowers in other people’s yards without asking (a discussion we’ve had more than once), so was there a justification for my actions? I told her, “No, I was just foraging.”
“I think that was stealing,” she said. At which point I explained that that building was a business, not a home, and I did not believe that the people who ran the business had planted the garlic for consumption, otherwise it would not have been left for so long. I also explained that, had I left it, the garlic would have simply rotted. She replied with, “then the worms will eat it and make it into good dirt.” We’d had that discussion before, too. She went on to say that she thought it was worse to steal food than it was to steal anything else; how can a person argue against that?!?
For thirty minutes we continued in this vain, discussing the merits of picking roadside fruit such as prickly pears or mustang grapes. I’d like to say that we reached an understanding, but truthfully she was adamant that she felt all such activities were theft. Had we been seeking points in a debate setting I think the match would have been a draw.
It all leaves me wondering, which is the more valid lesson for my child, that there are native, natural treasures to be found and foraged or that theft is theft is theft..? And, what lessons will I take away from this adventure?