February 17, 2009
I am not a lifelong gardener by any means. I have done a bit of “dirt in a box” planting, and kept an underground herb garden in the SF basement using $8 full spectrum light bulbs and aluminum shaded work lights. I have a few tomatoes under my belt, and a few houseplants. I set my mom’s back yard up as a garden, but did it too well, and the work of harvesting and storing was too much for her, so she’s got flowers now in a few good strips of fertile soil. By nature, I am a walker and a builder, not a grower. So, again, my experience in this blog is limited compared to my camping stuff.
However, I want this blog to inspire you. I am not a master gardener; I don’t have a permaculture design certificate. My thumb is only green when the hammer pounded blood blisters get gangrenous. However, even for me, it is surprisingly easy to stuff a few seeds in some dirt and let the seeds do the rest of the work. Just water and occasionally feed. Some plants will flourish and feed you, others will die and feed the soil. But eventually, and probably sooner than you expect, you’ll get that breakout plant. You’ll be wading in food and you will instantly be hooked. Your successes will increase, and eventually, you’ll be sitting in a camper in the mountains trying to figure out what you can grow there. Well, it worked for me, anyways.
At this point in history, gardening may be the most socially aware and culturally subversive act we can involve ourselves in. If we are truly concerned with liberties, rights and justice; we must realize that dependence breeds consent. Not needing to rely upon the established distribution networks allows us to work directly for ourselves, without paying our tithing to the cesspool of corruption in corporate boardrooms, and government’s halls. Nothing is as liberating as being free to feed yourself. Should you grow enough to feed others, you can safely call yourself a revolutionary.
If we are to change the world, we must change our relationship to it. It is difficult to bite a hand that feeds, no matter how hard it strikes us, but it becomes downright impossible with it wrapped around our throat. We must begin to provide for ourselves in any way we can. And while in many places we are unable to dig a well, built a wikiup, or sleep naked under the stars, there is NO place we cannot grow.
When we grow food, we are doing more than growing calories, we are growing ourselves. Gaining a deeper understanding of our agrarian past and the fragility of our agricultural present. But one of the most important things we learn is a potential for independence. Once I realized that I really could grow my own food, all bets were off. I had always known it was possible, but until I took that first bite of a tomato that had grown in a old, duct-taped television box on my apartment’s balcony, I did not understand what it meant, how easy it was, and how deprived we really were to not have that simple understanding forced into our brains while in kindergarten. The fact that I spent months on a fairy tale history of America, and “oh yeah, here’s a lima bean in a milk box…” is probably 90% of the reason this country went to shit in the first place. Food comes from money and money grows on trees, obviously.
This year, plant a garden. If that seems too much, buy a packet of seed, spend fifteen minutes on google and bring up your favorite plant. Do it in an old shoe, coffee can or a million dollar antique vase. When you eat something you have grown from seed, you might find yourself growing roots, becoming more safely tied to the earth in these topsy-turvy times. And you will grow more next year.
If you have the spare time, or can make it, I urge you all to grow much more than one seed. Plant guerrilla gardens, pull out your pretty willow trees and drop peaches, stick alfalfa seeds in your ears. But GROW! Because the ability to feed yourself could become very important in the coming months. If it does not, and we can still rely on grapes from Chile, then at least your food won’t reek of diesel, and you can spend your grocery budget elsewhere.
You should grow for others. If you wind up with too many zucchini starts, give them to friends. Tell them you just want a hundred dried seeds back. Involve them. Give the meme of seed this year. If you’ve spent the last eight years protesting, then you should be ready to convince people of the importance of growing. Every bite we take that is not fed to us by a system which we claim to abhor is an act of personal liberation, and every convert we gain is an act of insurrection against the agro-chemical-corporate-complex that would patent our world into monoculture.
I always liked Sartre the best of the existentialists. He wasn’t such a freaking emo-kid about the absurdity of life, like Nietzsche and Camus. But one of the most important things he ever said, in my opinion, was when he was talking about the validation of ethical systems in a world without a god. He suggested that we should live our lives with the hopes that everyone will live exactly like us.
While this is not the source of my personal ethical philosophy, it does guide a great many of my actions, and enlighten many of my concerns. But when I stand at the garden gates and look out at my green manure and the slowly emerging grand garden, I frequently wonder what our world would be like if everyone grew food as a hobby, as a passion, or as life support.
We may overthrow a government with guns, but we will make it obsolete with gardens; under-throwing it with seed.