The Rumpelstiltskin Effect

If it is possible to spin gold out of straw, a la Rumpelstiltskin, we are well equipped, with fifty square bales of wheat straw piled up next to our garden area. Penny is determined to plant the bulk of the garden in these bales. The process might be something that I’ll take up at a later date, but today, I would like to consider the idea of turning straw into gold, or, as Dire Straits sang, “Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.”

After we took delivery of the bales, Penny felt some concern. We dropped $350 on these things. Straw bales, it turns out, are not cheap. At some point, we have to think about spending more time and money on the growing of vegetables than on what those things would have cost at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Have we reached that point?

You can’t plant your artichokes in the middle of the grass, so we have to do something to prepare a bed for planting. We could spade it up by hand, which is a titanic undertaking and sure to leave our backs aching for days. We could buy a rototiller, which is probably not the best way to prepare a bed and would run us about as much as the straw bales if not more. We could build raised beds, which would involve a good deal of lumber plus some trucked-in soil, plus a lot of work. The bottom line is that there is no free lunch–or at least no free bed to plant your lunch veggies into.

We can’t magically turn those straw bales into a side of beef. We can’t even get an unreasonable amount of vegetables from our seeds. But we can get plenty, even after investing a fair bit. Proverbs warns us about trying to turn straw into gold.

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.–Proverbs 28:19-20

Similarly, when we’re in too big a hurry, when we’re looking to get rich quick–whether those riches be in gold or in asparagus–we’re behaving foolishly.

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.–Proverbs 13:11

If we’ve been wise with this approach to planting, then the harvest will be plentiful. It won’t make us rich, but it will yield a profit. And when the season is done, the straw will have composted, leaving our soil richer and better prepared for next year.

We’ll keep you updated.Square Hay Bales.

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