Tires, Tomatoes, and Gardening Ethics
I’ve realized that a raspberry patch and a chicken run are only somewhat compatible. That blackberries can thrive in the most marginal soil. That when a hen’s comb and wattle are bright red, they are healthy and likely producing well. That some areas in my yard are better for tomatoes, that slugs are difficult to combat, and that you can almost see grape vines grow.
A recent blog post from Ekostories, reviewing Michael Pollan’s book Second Nature: a Gardener’s Education is helping me articulate some observations and reasons that I enjoy toiling in my urban garden. Blogger Issac Yuen writes:
The gardener doesn’t take it for granted humanity’s impact on nature will always be negative: This idea provides hope that we CAN do good, and gives us permission to get our hands dirty and to connect with nature. Nature is not a static backdrop to be maintained; it is alive, and humanity is part of it. This idea is explored in my entry on My Neighbour Totoro. The characters in Totoro not only pay respect to the forest, but they also actively engage with it through planting, ceremonies, and exploration.
The gardener borrows his/her methods and goals from nature itself: Nature has had the advantage of time on its side to work out solutions through natural selection. By careful observation, we can find out what works and what doesn’t in a given space. This links to ideas of permaculture (a topic for a future Ekostory), and the notions of working with the land, not against it.
With regards to the first point, there is something inherently optimistic and exciting about gardening, despite all of the ups and downs with tough weather, weeds, and pests. To see what was previously a dormant section of grass or gravel transformed into a used tired garden is a reminder that with creativity and spirit, things can be different. Or productive. Or improved. We can transform our lives and places in positive ways.
Working in my small space has forced me to think and revise where and what I can accomplish and what the limits are in a given space. Like I mentioned above, the chicken run and raspberry patch is not a perfect combination, but it works. The chickens love to take their dirt baths, seek out shade, and peck ruthlessly at low-hanging leaves and berries. Their activity prevents new raspberry runners from shooting up. For now, it will do.
Urban gardening and experimentation provides such fertile grounds for reflection and discovery, and I’ll continue enjoying the work through the last fall harvest.