Saturday, August 17, 2013

On weather, again, and on paying for not planting food

Good morning everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.

I've been thinking about weather again and "retirement living".

Morning radio hosts have for a few weeks been discussing the "cool" summer we've been having.  Me, I love the temperatures that are below 25 celcius.  And everything in my garden is growing well, so that's fine too.  The radio host and weather reporter conversation has turned to "finally getting summer weather" because temperatures are going to rise with 30C predicted for next week. What there's no conversation about is that there's been only about 2cm (less than one inch) of rain in August so far, and none predicted on the next week's forecast.  So, we're headed into hotter weather and basically no rain.  This is stressful for the late growing vegetable crops that I and others put in: Chinese cabbages and pak choi, daikon radishes, beets, kale, swiss chard.

As for "retirement living" there's a posh retirement residence on a route I often take.  It's housed in a re-worked building on top of a high hill (surely one of London's largest, no-buildings places).  The grassy hill has for years been cut meticulously by a riding lawn mower.  The person who runs the machine is skilled: the grass cut leaves visible light and dark diagonal lines up and down the height and breadth of the slopes and it is tidily done with no wobbles or crossovers.  I've looked at this hill for years and never thought anything of it, until Wednesday when, as I approached, a dream must have taken over me and I saw the entire hill as a terraced vegetable and fruit gardens similar to those that grow in other countries.  There were gently sloping paths down so even residents who have to use wheel chairs could safely traverse up and down.  There were two rest spots with benches and a table.  There were people working in the various gardens, tending and harvesting.  It was a food forest on a piece of land that faces west and gets wonderful sun for growing. 

I had to stop my bike suddenly on the sidewalk, nearly tumbled off as my foot hit the sidewalk too hard.  It was that disorienting.

By coincidence, there was a woman groundskeeper stacking branches being trimmed trees near the sidewalk.  I called out to her "Have you ever thought that this whole area could be turned into terraced gardens?"  I saw her gaze shift from left to right and back to me.  Her face had a bewildered look, and she said "That would be a wonderful idea, that would work."

She might have been bewildered because a stranger asked her an odd and unexpected question.  She might have seemed bewildered because - suddenly - she had her own garden vision.  I hope the latter.

My mind has kept turning over the vision of terraced gardens in this space.  Of food production.  Of older, retired people who live in one of the most expensive places where all they need is "taken care of" and retirement "lifestyle" is easy.

Surely part of the high fees they pay is the cost of land that does nothing.  No tree cover, no flowers, no colours, no food, no paths, no shelter.

Still disoriented, but sending best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Guerilla Gardening should really be about - TED Talk by Ron Finley of South Central LA

Good morning everyone,

I hope this note finds you well. 

Again, the summer's been getting away with me.  I think of things to say when I'm nowhere near my computer!  This morning I spotted Ron Finley's inspiring and important TED talk posted on Jenna's Cold Antler Farm site - thanks Jenna! 

Guerilla gardening isn't about tossing flower seed bombs over a fence and running away, never to maintain whatever manages to grow; that idea of "guerilla" gardening is from 20 years ago. To my thinking such action missed the idea that in order to make a garden grow you had to come back regularly and take care of it.

Ron Finley of South Central LA comes back to the gardens he starts.  He works.  He inspires others to work.  He says that to make something like a garden sustainable you have to sustain it. (I've got to add that 20 years ago the word "sustainable" wasn't even in regular use)

In his TED talk, Ron Finley shows us that guerilla gardening gets people actually gardening and learning about plants and about food. It feeds people. It transforms people and neighbourhoods through food. And you get strawberries! To paraphrase him: make a shovel your weapon of choice and 'get out and plant some shit'. 

Hope you are inspired too!

Best regards!!

Why's Woman