“The garden teaches us there is something we are all capable of doing. Only with something so small that can be in everyones hand can we challenge the empire.” Vandana Shiva
We are currently building a house, a process that involves watching a drawing come to life before your eyes, to the heartbeat of nail guns and tradie’s radios.
We are intensely excited about the garage door, the floor, the windows, even the linen cupboard. Of course not all of it is there yet, but it will be, and we look forward to it like a child looks forward to the end of a story, because no matter how we think it will look or feel, we know it will surprise us in some joyful way.
But around the house is something really special – a blank slate. A yard that has not been landscaped or planted, no garden beds or trees or overgrown pathways. It just is. And I can’t wait to start helping it grow.
I’m really noticing lately how reliant on the grid we all are. For our power, water, entertainment and most of all – food. Few of us want to live a fully self sufficient life, but as evidence continues to show sprayed fruit and vegetables to be toxic, and organic food prices soar while genetically modified ingredients creep into our food supply… maybe it’s time to do something, a little something.
Our little something is going to be an edible garden. Not a veggie garden, but rather an entire yard where everything, bar the grass, either is food, or helps to grow it.
There is an online campaign called “Grow Food Not Lawns” (find them on facebook) and though I love soft green grass beneath my feet, it does make a good point. What if we got used to seeing a front garden filled with vegetables? What if we dug up just a little of our grass and planted something we could eat? What if we turned our ornamental gardens into practical ones? The easy care trees into fruit trees? What if we planted potatoes in the corner of the yard we never use, and turned our kitchen scraps into compost? What if our salad greens thrived amongst edible flowers?
What if even a quarter of us converted even a quarter of our yards into urban farms?
What if all of us grew something?
Can you imagine what it would do for our budgets, our health and our communities? We’d have enough to share, even with that. We would connect with our neighbors more, and ‘fast food’ could be a salad thrown together in minutes from the garden.
We are blessed where we live, but for a lot of people even here affording as many quality fresh fruit and vegetables as they should be eating is difficult (let alone the range they should be eating, or organic). In America someone living on foodstamps has around $30 a week to feed themselves. In other parts of the world people have even less.
We all carry with us a wealth of practical life skills to pass on to our children. They are an inheritance of sorts – a precious one. Maybe this inheritance can help them along the way or even save them revisiting some of our own mistakes. But how many of us have this skill to pass on – how to grow a high yield, thriving, organic vegetable garden. The skill of feeding yourself.
I don’t. I don’t learn gardening from books, for me it’s like trying to learn dance from print. It brings out my clumsy side.
I have planted gardens before, plenty of them, but my system involved putting things in the ground and hoping. In the end the cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes were victorious (and ones the size of footballs continued to be dug up MONTHS later), while most other things either became insect entrées or just didn’t do anything at all. Seriously, I had a cabbage stay an inch high for months – I had too much sympathy for the poor runt to pull it out.
So I’m hiring someone better versed in permaculture to help create something on that beautiful blank slate of ours. To show me where things should go to help them thrive, how to feed them and nourish them so that they can do the same for us.
Children often learn best by doing, so that garden of mine can plant seeds of knowledge and inspiration for my kids. They might love it and munch on fresh snowpeas and cucumbers they harvest themselves, or they might ignore it in favour of Lego. But I want it to become normal for them, habit, to think of food as coming from the earth rather than a supermarket.
Considering that what we eat and how we eat can affect our health, the planet and even our ethics, I’m realizing that no matter what else I teach my children this lesson should be right up there in “Life 101”.
We look around at what’s wrong in the world and we get a lot of fight in us. Our inner activist looks at all this before us and either attacks what they can or has the breath knocked out of their fight because there’s SO MUCH to be done, and there are SO MANY bigger, stronger warriors on the other team.
But real change doesn’t need the force of a tidal wave, it needs the reach of a ripple. It starts small and spreads, and slowly, it can make a new normal. Because that’s what we have to do to make real change. It has to stop feeling like change at all. If we can get used to seeing lettuce in place of mondo grass, spinach in place of gerbras, potatoes in place of ferns – we can change the world.
Our power doesn’t lay in a fight, but in ceasing to be passive. It lays in planting that seed. That’s what starts the ripple, because we vote most powerfully with our forks – with how we eat. We show how we will accept our animals to be treated, we take the power back in our health, and we help the environment as we do it.
Our garden might make up the knowledge we pass onto our children, parents or friends. It might build a bridge between neighbors or inspire a passer by. It might ease the strain on our budget, or it might just make for fresher herbs and salads. But if we can plant that seed – plant something – the future we grow can surprise us.
Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2012