"Because you can't hug a tree if you can't find one."

2/19/2008

The Growing Challenge: Week 2 Update

Since it was about 40 degrees on Sunday when I had planned to work in the garden, I got to thinking about why I ever joined the Growing Challenge. It's not because I think I can grow enough food to preserve, or even enough to feed us during the growing season. We just don't have that kind of space.

I know there is a whole sector out there that is working on being self-sufficient, to prepare for hard times ahead. I can understand why people feel the need to do this, to protect their families form food shortages. Unfortunately, I don't think
widespread scarcity is something we can prepare for on an individual basis, at least not in an urban setting. We can't store enough to feed ourselves, and our neighbors and everyone else who notices we aren't suffering and comes knocking at our door. If hard times are coming, we have to prepare as a society. Maybe that means learning the basics of gardening, and sharing those skills with the neighbors? Maybe that can lead to sharing other kinds of skills, and sharing tools and resources? If growing vegetables and fruits can be spun as a political act at all, maybe what it does is prove that no matter where you are, or what color your thumb is, your role is not limited to consuming what corporations want to sell you. (Take that, agribusiness!)



Like I said, it was about 40 degrees, overcast with heavy rain in the forecast. I had decided that if I am going to grow at least enough vegetables to make one local salad this summer, I'll need some compost. Lately, the compost pile has been more about reducing our curbside trash than actually making usable compost. I had made a shallow enclosure out of bricks and rocks in the back of the yard, and was actually surprised when the pile reached the top. Kitchen scraps thrown there tended to roll off, or just dry up, rather than decompose. It was all very casual.

Because I am going to be a serious gardener this year, I needed something to actually contain
things back there. So I dug out the compost and put everything aside. Next, I set up a wire mesh enclosure about 3 feet high and pushed it into the ground. Before tossing the original contents back in, I collected some leaves from the front yard (that luckily were never raked up last Fall - I knew they would come in handy!) I layered the leaves with the compost and dirt, and added just enough water to get it nice and moist.

OK, maybe it won't be the most "active" compost pile. I'll do a little research (here and here?) and see if I can keep improving it as the season progresses.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, my son had been looking forward to planting some seeds. We had an empty plastic carton from the "cage free" eggs (don't even get me started on that,) and some cherry tomato seeds from last season. We'll still be planting in containers because of the likely soil contamination (which I wrote about here), and my Mom does very well every year growing small tomato varieties in pots.

Georges was in charge of shoveling dirt into the egg cups, and after I helped him with the seeds, he covered them with a bit more soil and misted the tray. We closed the tray and put it near the sunny window in my studio. And we crossed our fingers.

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