Saturday, May 26, 2012

# 272 - City Living - Away from the Dirt

After reading a blog buddy's post yesterday (, I began to think about how many people actually talk about gardening compared to how many people who actually get out there and do it.

Deputy Dave and I have grown a veggie garden for almost our entire marriage, that would be nearly 26 years of marriage. We've shared gardening know-how with our children, the nieces and nephews, and extended family often gets to take home some delicious home-grown food from the backyard after a visit.

Whether the garden is large or small, Deputy Dave and I always dedicate time to start seed from an assembly line at the kitchen table. I don't think I've had to buy more than five bell peppers from a grocery store in the past ten years. Sometimes, we grow so many vegetables that we must give some away to friends, neighbors and family.

But, I began to think about our visitor and how they love looking at our garden...people who never grow anything but a potted ornamental plant purchased from the garden center, yet they suddenly become experts on growing edibles while standing in our yard overlooking our thoughtfully planted vegetables and herbs. It's humorous to hear expert techniques that they've never tried themselves.

In fact, I began to think about how we've always been the Lone Ranger on the block with growing our vegetables. None of our neighbors have ever grown their own veggies. On our current block, no one wants to make room for a vegetable garden because they're consumed with dedicating outdoor "living" space across every available inch of backyard that there's hardly any green space left to cultivate. Yes, it irks me to no end.

Now that I think about it deeply, I am grateful that our children grew up around a household that prized growing space more than a swimming pool. With that being said, I grew up with a swimming pool, but we also had more than ample green space for growing whatever we'd like. Even as a young kid, I had my own garden area in the backyard. No one else was interested in growing anything; my mother probably thought I lost my mind as I grew radishes and other vegetables I would never eat. Our dogs would sometimes eat my harvest and the other crops I picked would be given to my grandmother who would eat them raw and make a huge deal out of how delicious my home-grown veggies would taste. Now, I am starting to realize it probably wasn't an act of kindness so smack those lips; she likely enjoyed every bite.

On our current street, we are close with our neighbors. We have block parties and gatherings that are a lot of fun. For a long while, the running joke around the block was that if the sh*t hit the fan, everyone would know that our house has growing food in the backyard. Yep, that's funny, except there's definitely not enough food for more than one household. Then, we started raising backyard chickens and the neighbors expanded the joke to knowing where to find protein in a hitch. I began to joke back...What are YOU doing to contribute toward a possible disaster...besides owning a pool that will quickly turn sour and become full of algae in a dire situation?

I think the idea of surviving in the city during a disaster is not really feasible, besides the looting value that will quickly dwindle. If you have the means to enable your survival during a disaster, it is clear that your method of survival will be the entitlement of the next person who is eyeing your hard work for their taking.

As for sharing, we're big on sharing crops and eggs. However, if the you-know-what hits the fan, we're not staying in the city to grow crops and to raise chickens for all the city neighbors to scavenge; we're headed straight for our property in the country with enough seed and hold-over food to keep us going until we get the new garden growing. In our family, there are several people who know about our land and its rich resources, so they'll be headed our way as well, with their own contributions. It won't be like the city block of people who see something and feel it is theirs for the taking.

Even with all of this talk about the economy still suffering, many people are too daft to do anything about it. I'd rather be proactive than a little-too-late-reactive.

The weird thing is...I've seen our neighborhood look as if a bomb blast hit it...after Hurricane Ike hit us so bad that NOT ONE NEIGHBOR was left unscathed. We had neighbors who lived with blue tarps as their roof for over TWO YEARS. It's hard to imagine that people around this area continue to think the unthinkable will never happen to them. Well, it already did, maybe not in zombie form or end of the world form, but it sure hit us like a sledgehammer and altered our way of life for a very long time.

If we'd not had the Red Cross nearby, most of us would not have been able to make it in this area after the storm. Many didn't. Many took what could be salvaged from their destroyed house and permanently walked away. For a long time, all of the abandoned houses were pretty scary. It virtually shut down sales in our neighborhood for two years. It's taken our area a long while to recover from that kind of economic devastation. Granted, a veggie garden won't survive a hurricane, but it can survive other kinds of disasters. Since no one on the block is motivated enough to know how to grow their own tomato plant, you have to wonder if they are the type who think the Red Cross will always be around?

What if the Red Cross wasn't available? What if you were left with ONLY what you own for several weeks and without electricity to keep the food in the fridge and freezer from spoiling? What if a disaster of such magnitude hit us that there weren't enough Red Cross volunteers or supplies left to do the job, except in very limited places?

So, there is a side to me that feels an urgency to get our house sold. I see the city attitude and it's not very comforting. It speaks loudly, "I see what you've got and if I need it, I'm gonna come get it."

Is the country immune to this attitude? Heck no. But, at least you're not surrounded by a dense population of people who feel entitled. In the country, people are more likely to band together to protect what they've got while still being willing to reach out. I've lived enough of my life in the country throughout growing up and into adulthood to understand this fact. However, on a day to day life in the country, things are different...don't bother Bubba and he won't bother you. If you intend to form bonds with your neighbors, get busy.

We're already buddies with the former FBI agent who owns the acreage behind us, the only neighbor around us.

After a few deep Pow-Wows in the city neighborhood, after the hurricane, we all sat in a circle, snug in our lawn chairs, and I suggested to the neighbors that they start to think about what they could contribute during a bad situation. One has a brewery that many might find of value. But, I don't know if it runs on electricity. We've learned what life can be like without electricity or gasoline. If you can't do it without electricity or fuel, then you better start looking at those muscles you've got because that's your available power. Another person likes to can her own peaches...I don't know if she has enough stock to keep the block energized. And...that was it. Most everyone has plans, as they did before, to bug out.

Anyway, I'd love to see more people in the suburbs and inner-city growing their own vegetables, but it doesn't seem to be hugely important to many people because they feel as if the city should take them away from the dirt, not toward it.

Sadly, getting dirt back into the inner-city is a huge undertaking that is seen as non-conformist behavior. And I agree with the blog buddy's view that a garden window full of herbs or a counter-top plant is not enough to provide anything other than a few bites of freshly grown food. It appears to be more about experimental living than about anything else.

Maybe the world will keep peacefully spinning, the weather will be great in your corner of the world and your block will band together like a village during a major catastrophe...maybe not, but until I see that angle as a viability on my own block...I am prepared to head for the country. As far as I'm concerned, I guess we could leave our city garden in the hands of those who won't know what to do with good dirt, other than to grow a pretty flower.


Mary Ann said...

That was a very thoughtful blog post... and my husband and I have noticed the "entitelment mentality" too. We have a nice garden, (vegetables AND flowers) and our neighbors do, too... I know that our two families would be able to provide for a while should a disaster hit!

Vickie said...

You're right Lana. Tony and I have talked many times about "what if?" and we agree that we could go a long way now on our own since we have finally moved to the farm. I've always tried to have a little backyard garden area, my dad has always had a garden, and I have learned SO much each year that I've done it. Especially since we're now here. I can, freeze, sew, quilt, make my own laundry soap, newbie raiser of chickens. Fortunately, our community out here has get-togethers and we try to stay in touch. I hope that if disaster ever hits that we would all pitch in and try to help each other. These are country people out here, most of them. Hope we never have to face that, but if we do, Tony says he'll build high fences around our land with machine gun turrets on the corners and all our family members will come live here. We'll garden and raise cows and chickens and have our own little commune! He's joking of course! I know you are SO anxious to get out to the country, too, just be patient. I know how you feel!!! It'll happen! In the meantime, keep writing these great farm life lessons!

Kelsie From Our Country Home said...

It is kinda scary how city folk think they can just TAKE what they need with no effort given if the &^%# was to hit...I think Hollywood "end times" movies feed this idea too.

We are still learning how to grow successfully and building up the soil on our property after years/decades of the soil being raped by "traditional farming"....I still dream of fences to keep the life stock in and the ravaging end time zombies and looters out...we are blessed with neighbors that are more than willing to share their expertise and knowledge with us as we embark on this adventure of live on the farm.

I will continue to squirrel away my pennies to pay for above mentioned fencing and solar panels.

Hope your city house sells quick so you and D-Dave can get to your country HOME asap.

Blessing Kelsie

LindaG said...

Great post!
Plus, your woods could sustain you till your crops came in.
Hunting seasons don't mean anything in a disaster. You do what you have to, to survive.