Things don’t always turn out the way we humans plan. We had expected a “normal” maple sugar season this year, and it didn’t happen…we were a bit below average in our production. We had planned for a ‘normal’ planting season and it didn’t happen…it was cold and too wet when we planned to plant and we were delayed a few weeks. We had forecast a “normal” raspberry season, and it didn’t happen… things are early and the varieties that usually ripen in mid-July are already ripe and ready.
Things happen at their own pace and with a large dose of unpredictability. All we can do is look for silver linings in the darkest clouds and beauty in what might seem ugly. When I came home after a long day in the sun picking beans, peas, raspberries and blueberries and supervising shifts and keeping things presentable at the store, I was pooped. It was all I could do to crawl out of the car, it seemed. But a patch of beautiful ‘Black-Eyed Susan’ flowers caught my eye, and I couldn’t resist a photo. The patch was full of the expected flowers, but one wasn’t quite the same as the others.
Somehow, as the flowers grew, two of them merged or only one created a twin. What is usually a round domed center in the center of the flower was oblong in shape with a melting scar in the center giving it the shape of a hot dog roll. The petals lined two sides of the center, and the flower was unusual enough to catch my eye. It made me wonder if it was viable as a flower. Would it create seeds? Are the flowers of this plant “normal” or is it a new viable mutation?
We know a lot more about mutation these days than we ever wanted to know in our daily lives with mutations in viruses and bacteria making it deadlier or in some cases less deadly than its predecessor. The science of genetics and the endless combinations of DNA and chromosomes is a bit beyond me, and I rely on family scientists to tell me what it’s all about. But I know that in the agricultural world, it’s a constant mission to grow the biggest, best and tastiest vegetables. to produce desirable traits.
The same happens in breeding, with dog breeders, horse breeders, cattle breeders, even chicken breeders looking for examples in herds and herds with desirable traits to breed with those of the opposite sex with equally desirable traits, hoping for the best and improved model. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, though, and just like the strange flower I saw, the new version isn’t quite right.
I am grateful to those who research and select and provide us farmers with better seeds and better genetics in our animal production. But I also don’t entirely agree with selective breeding when it comes to humans. With many advances in genetic modification, we are an ethical breath away from creating ourselves, and I disagree. Sometimes when I think too hard, my head hurts and my anxiety skyrockets. I think I better go back and marvel at the unusual flower and appreciate each of my neighbors and friends for their differences and their beauty, even in their “flaws”, and be done with it. But I keep thinking… and worrying a bit.
Becky Nelson is the owner of Beaver Pond Farm in Newport, the eighth generation of a multi-generational farm founded in 1780. She can be contacted at [email protected]