As we are experiencing the last blast of winter weather we can already sense the rhythm of spring as trees, grass and plants begin to bud, eagerly anticipating the warmth of the coming summer sun. While this annual ritual is repeated without human assistance there are plants waiting for us to bury them in the ground by Good Friday so they can join this natural rhythm of nature.
This month, we will we reflect on our ABA – or Africans Who Built America – ancestors who broke the soil to prepare it for the annual spring planting and summer growing seasons. This process of being in tune with nature was a necessary requirement for many of them because much of the food they depended on was the result of what they grew themselves.
Their connection to the earth, sky, sun, and moon were all essential to the success of a bountiful harvest. Their knowledge of how these four elements of nature worked together had been passed down from generation to generation. It was their keen sense of being in tune with the rhythms of nature that would determine when it was the proper time to plant. To not plant in harmony with nature would often result in a poor harvest and the wasting of good seed. In essence, for our ABA ancestors the food they depended on was determined by their ability to stay in tune with nature, something many of us have forgotten.
As DABA – or Descendants of Africans who Built America – people, we have the opportunity through our Sankofa Garden Homes to reclaim this natural rhythm and get in tune with nature again, so our gardens can produce a bountiful harvest around our homes and for our families.
As I begin preparation for planting, I am taken back to my childhood, reflecting on my Grandfather and Great-Grandfather preparing to ready the soil for planting. While women could certainly do this work some did and some do, it was for the most part “man’s work.” It was considered “dirty work” that took great knowledge, skill and patience to do it right. Preparing the soil meant, mixing soil compost and manure. Preparing the soil properly and all its natural organic material was essential if there was to be a good harvest. You can purchase organic soil and manure at your local garden store and mix with your compost.
I can remember how my Great-Grandfather’s brother used his Mule and plow to break the soil, while my Great-Grandfather would use his International Tractor to break acres of soil for planting cotton and food.
It would be during these early days of my life that I bonded with the male elders in my life. These were invaluable moments that served to educate me to things I would not learn in school but were just as important. While they were not called STEM – or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – the things I was learning were grounded in STEM and the best example of Project Based Learning.
The bounding of African American male youth with African American male elders (kin and non-kin) is a critical element in the strengthening of our culture. The time they spend together will ensure that the passage of knowledge from one generation to the next is unbroken and the knowledge of what it means to be an African American man is past on. The same can be said for African American female youth and African American female elders who would spend quality time working together and discussing issues of womanhood.
The time I spent with my elders on the farm, I learned to tell the signs of nature – my observation to determine when it was the proper time to prepare the soil and plant the seeds based on the earth, sun, sky and moon. Not only did they depend on their memories they also used The Old Farmer’s Almanac founded by Robert B. Thomas in 1792. The Farmer’s Almanac would put the information in printed form that could be referenced annually.
Based particularly on the position of the moon many people who determine many thing, what and when to plant, when to cut your hair, when to pull a tooth etc. This information makes us aware how interrelated we are with our natural environment and not separate from it.
To this end one of the most familiar phrase I would hear during this season I would see my elders eagerly preparing the soil and seed to plant before or by Good Friday. They were committed to making sure that would have planted by Good Friday to insure a good harvest.
The Farmer’s Almanac added them in knowing when Good Friday would be in that it is associated with Easter, which falls at different times of the season based on the position of the moon.
While you can buy the Farmer’s Almanac I would like to share with you an Almanac link that will provide you with a regional planting map of the United States and what to plant and when to plant. Note that Texas is in Region 1. Take note of the Gardening by the Moon video at http://www.almanac.com/content/gardening-moon-calendar.
Good Friday planting has been a tradition in the African American culture for many years and other cultures as well. As I mentioned in an earlier article, as we become more urban we must work at returning to our rural roots by creating our Sankofa Garden Homes.
Good Friday is March 30. Please check the Regional Chart in the link for Southern United States and refer to the crop, planting dates and when the moon is most favorable.
While many of the dates will change, I have come to focus on what my elders and ancestor taught me, “plant by Good Friday.” This tradition may have ensured that while it may not be the exact time of the Moon to plant, it placed it within a certain timeframe to ensure enough time for seeds to germinate and plants to grow.
Just as Good Friday changes from year to year based on the Moon, so does the day of planting. But what doesn’t change is the fact that nature will take its course when we are in tune with it. What we must do is return [Sankofa] and fetch the lessons of our ABA ancestors and Elders and reconnect to nature.
Remember we left nature, nature has never left us.
Until next month,
Good Sankofa Gardening!
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