Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Urban-ish Garden: 10 Thoughts on Eating Very Local -- Part I

Dear Friends, I am delighted to share a piece by the first-ever KIG Guest Blogger. Please give a warm, Greene welcome to Maria T. I hope you enjoy her observations as much as I do. xoxo, Court

    Many a morning lately has found me crouched in the dirt, dodging bees, with a pile of pantyhose strips in my fist as I try to wrest control over the tomato plants.  I can almost understand why people thought the tomato was poisonous for so long.  When I come inside, it takes me several minutes of scrubbing neon-green suds off my hands to wash off all the chlorophyll.

    I remember second grade science, when we learned about how seeds sprout, how plants eat sunshine to live, how the flowers have a gender and fruit is anything that started as a flower.  But I have recently seen all of this on my own, first-hand in a new wonderful way, in my own backyard urban-ish garden.  When I was growing up, both parents had gardens.  I never really helped them with their gardens, and I have only a few memories of eating the food or of the process of growing it.  I wouldn’t consider myself as having a green thumb, as even house plants die on my watch.  So I’m not really sure when the garden bug bit me.  Perhaps it’s like the other influences that our parents have on us, not so much an explicit instruction as a subtle process of observation, like when I realize that I hold my steering wheel like my father did, even though I learned to drive long after he died.  Whatever it was, that seed took years to germinate, as I moved from apartment to apartment with no outside space to call my own, until a year ago when my wife and I bought a house with a huge backyard and I immediately staked my claim to the sunniest side of the yard and began imagining what I could grow there.

    Maybe I just understand that a house should come with a garden.  I understand the importance of growing your own food.  Not in an apocalyptic militia sense, but in a fundamental sense of taking control over that fundamental cycle.  I believe in “eating locally.”  I’ve read Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver.  I’ve watched Food, Inc and King Corn.  And as a vegan, my diet is already plant-based, so a garden makes more sense to me than large animal husbandry.  But more than all of this, I believe that our downfall began when we trusted the first person who convinced us that food was not growing outside in the ground and on the trees, but food was what was available in grocery stores, and it was only available if we traded our money for it, and money was only available as an abstraction for which we traded our time and energy.  And so I believe most in the idea of energy-in, energy-out.  The simplest equation is that the energy that you take from the land in the form of your food should be equal to the energy that you put in to the land in the form of your labor.  There is something deeply satisfying, almost on a primal level, in the tangible reward for your effort in gardening.  There is something profound to me about walking across the yard to pick my dinner (or, lately, my breakfast), and eating half of it from my hands before I make it back inside.

    Maybe I like gardening because it’s like a more instant metaphor for teaching, which is the thing I trade my time and energy for in my real life.  As a teacher, I plant seeds, I cultivate talents, and I celebrate growth.  But I never get to see the fruit because it takes years to turn from something intangible to something fully realized.

And so my garden grows, with real dirt and real seeds.  I have learned these important lessons along the way...

Keep it locked for the next installment, in which we get taken to school by our resident gardening goddess...   

Guest Blogger Maria Thibodeau grew up on a leafy chunk of glacial detritus and now cultivates her seeds, both literally and metaphorically, in Los Angeles, CA, where she lives with her wife and 3 dogs.

1 comment:

  1. Totally love tomatoes and try to put them on every food I can. I am definitely jealous you have enough room to grow your own in a real garden!