It’s Saturday evening. I have two batches of roasted peppers from the garden to peel and freeze. There’s a big pan of yellow Inca tomatoes roasting in the oven as I write this. In about an hour they’ll be ready to peel and freeze, too. And there’s a counter full waiting to go in after that and a colander full of yellow pear cherry tomatoes that will be dried for sauces and soups during the winter. There’s enough basil for one more big batch of pesto to be frozen, and the long flowery tops will also go in the dehydrator for seasoning sauces and anything else I can find to put it in. The one squash plant left still has a few babies on it, ready to be picked and I have a feeling the five pepper plants will give me another batch or two for chile later in the year. And there are far more tomatoes to be picked for various uses.
While we aren’t completely sustaining ourselves, this little garden here in our front, side and back yards has taught me a lot of things and one of them is this: There IS enough in the world. Enough space, enough food. Or, there can be if we work at it. When I drive through my town and see vacant lots or big, lush lawns, these days I think, wow, that would be a fabulous garden! How many people could benefit from that empty space being used to grow food?
I challenge you to look at your neighborhoods differently. I challenge you to look at your own living spaces. You may not have a yard as large or well placed as ours, but anyone–anyone–can grow lettuce or other greens in a container garden. A friend of mine went to graduate school in New York City after we got out of college. The child of Florida orange growers, she told tales of getting strong-backed boyfriends to haul pots and bags of soil to the roof of her 5th floor walk up so she could have a garden in the midst of skyscrapers. I confess at the time I didn’t understand. Now I do. I believe it is imperative for everyone to grow something edible. Whether it’s a windowsill herb garden or a backyard full of pumpkins, growing things in the dirt with your own hands does something to you. First of all, it slows you down. You cannot hurry the growing process. I’ve tried to take a lesson from my garden and allow circumstances in my own life to ripen in their season. Rushing things to fruition is not a good idea. Ever try to bite into an unripe pear?
We get caught up in the media storms of lack and scarcity and starvation. It’s true that many people do not have enough. But the potential is there. I believe we need to think smaller. We are conditioned to think of a “farm” as those huge, mechanized places in the country’s midsection where no human or animal is visible for miles. Think instead of a simple house with a plot here and there with tomatoes, corn, carrots, beets, squash, herbs, flowers and trees. Full of birds and buzzing things, full of life. You don’t have to plow under the parking lots to regain paradise, just plant good stuff along the borders. My friend Margaret has created growing spaces on the outside of her fences in Adelaide, Australia simply by sweeping up the leaves and dirt that accumulated in the street outside. She practices “guerrilla gardening”, watering the plants and flowers around light poles by hand with ladles. She is almost completely self sustaining on a plot of land smaller than many American great rooms. It can be done.
Long ago, when the Russians were fighting to take over Afghanistan, I remember reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about their tactics. The Russians could not break the spirit of the Afghan people. Most of the time, they couldn’t even find them, because they melted away into their harsh, remote territory and disappeared. So, the Russians resorted to the one strategy that might have an effect–they began bombing, not the cities or villages, but the farmland. Ruin the land and conquer the people. I remember feeling such disgust reading that. Now I take great pride when I compost and return our trash to the ground to create a rich, fertile place for food to grow.
It’s overwhelming to think of trying to save the world. Think about planting something instead. Pour over garden catalogs this winter and pick one or two things you’d like to try. Watch the sun as it moves across your yard or balcony or window. Look for pots in thrift stores or yard sales. Dream of fresh salads with lettuces that actually have flavor. Plant a seed. Watch it grow. Savor the experience and the result. And best of all, share the bounty.
Remember, there’s enough to go around.