Recently, under the pseudonym soundsofOregon I began contributing to the Sunday Observer Magazine’s Organic Allotment Blog, which is relating the delightful horticultural adventures of the editorial team of one of the UK’s foremost national newspapers. My musings prompted the charming Head Gardener there to ask me to begin contributing a regular column to their online effort. I took the opportunity with my first piece, From our Foreign Correspondent (Dec 20, 2007), to put narrative flesh on the bones of ‘why I garden.’ What a stroll down memory lane that prompted!
“Deep gardening then, is a playground where the communion of the deepest needs of people and landscape meet the integrative nexus of human experience. Put another way, tending to my own sanity and health appears, in the same breath, to both demand and allow me the means of tending to the sanity and health of the All.”
A writing collaboration with the remarkable Kristin Collier prompted the second column, “Child’s Play,” (Jan 4, 2008) a reflection on the lessons of a decade spent gardening with children:
“As conscious stewards of gardens and children, we sit at the cutting edge, quite liberally, of our culture’s pain. We are at the place where the fabric woven by the worship of material goods and strategy (rather than need) is torn in two. We can see into the warp of that fabric from its edge, and we yearn to weave a new tapestry from conscious compassion by which to support life.”
My first article on Spring seeding tactics (Jan 25) was followed by a Spring Seeding Guide (Feb 8, 2008) - a biggie, which includes a planting calendar and a comprehensive description of the major challenges involved in successfully raising vegetable transplants from seed in maritime temperate climates such as mine. The article synthesizes my experiences managing a ‘low-tech’ greenhouse.
“By all means, give this crop a go, but many experienced hands - who have a focus on predictable productivity - find spring broccolis’ performance too erratic to justify the space. So very often, the plants, confused by changeable spring conditions, will mature a very small head long before the plants have sized up. Home gardeners, of course, may be content to embrace the likelihood of much-reduced yields, just to have broccoli around. One tack: consider sowing in April or May, somewhere a little cooler, say behind unpruned raspberries, or in the tree-shade of an afternoon sun.”
A visit to the Home Orchard Society’s annual propagation fair (March 18, 2008) gave me pause to consider the mythos of fruit:
“Now that Thomas Jefferson and I are eating of the same apple, I am reminded why my style of gardening is sometimes referred to as ‘political gardening.’ I like to think that Jefferson, a yeoman raised Church of England, and a celebrated horticulturalist, would appreciate the ever-evolving constitutional convention of my little garden, a touchstone so clearly informed by Eternity, cyclical, wedded to a suprahuman truth.”
With food in the garden thin on the ground in recent weeks, I have been eating more in the way of wild foods. Healthcare as Peacemaking: a monograph on Dandelon (May 22, 2008) is a paean in praise of weeds:
“…my own experience through the years has confirmed that plants we commonly refer to as ‘weeds’ (and which includes the whole kit and caboodle of assumptions that go with such a label - pesky, ugly, difficult, useless, worthy of extinction, and the like) have revealed themselves, more often than not, as among my strongest plant allies.”
which I followed up with a posting around the central place of herbal bitters (May 23) in healthy diets. And two related postings to Kristin Collier’s blog around the topic of the bitters archetype (May 26) and darkness and light (June9).
Some recent postings of mine to the allotment blog include The Slug Problem (May 29), a description of the Community Fruit-Tree Nursery-Raising (May 18) I helped orchestrate, Calendula and Arnica (May 1), Potato counsel (April 7), Spring activities (April 4), Street garden-raisings (Feb 25) Wheat and Bread trends (Feb 25), Andean Root Crops (Jan 24), Purple Archangel (Jan 21), the proverbial hits the fan (Jan 10), weeds and wordcages (Jan 4, 2008), favas and flatulence (Dec 18, 2007), seed germination (Dec 13), marigolds and seed saving (Dec 3), turkeys and shotguns (Nov 29), where gardeners meet cyberspace (Nov 23), harvest as thanksgiving (Sept 4), autumn plans (Sept 3), soy and civil disobedience (Aug 25), wasps and expletives (July 31), permaculture and Cannabis (June 24), biodynamics (June 5), and the soul of fertility management (June3).
I was a KL kid. Savoring the rich legacy of a childhood in one of the world’s richest cultural entrepots prompted Sarongs, Saris and Tigerbalm (May 23, 2008), a piece for the adult-written page of the international multicultural children’s magazine, Skipping Stones. I really enjoyed writing this one.
“…When, as a young adult, I began filling my shelves with music, I found myself gravitating inexorably toward “world music” - towards the sounds of a multiplicity of global cultures and, in particular, toward fusions, or should I say “communions” of different musical “ethnicities.” It occurs to me that this innate predilection for such sonic syncretism was kindled in the gracious receptivity of Kuala Lumpur ’s embrace.”
When the organizers of a September 2008 peace conference in Eugene sent out an RFP earlier in the year, I responded with suggestions for an earth-inclusive track: peace as a local affair. (August 2, 2008)
“…Peace-in-Earth. What shape is that peace which embraces a co-creative dialog with the patterns and forces native to local landscapes? Indeed, can any authentic covenant between people exist if it does not integrate an active, harmonious partnership with the larger ecology of which we are but a part? What is the deep ecology of non-violence? Where do the needs of people and landscape meet? How might we each move individually toward the genuine manifestation of Sanctuary?”
Recently I was asked what my ambitions were. My response surprised me. “They relate almost entirely to my inner life,” I said. The dance of meaning across the inner and outer spectrum of experience has long been an abiding interest, even as my writings have only recently steered toward addressing the substance of this interface. Blessed are they who mourn: the alchemy of metamorphosis (July 20, 2007) reflects what appears to be a deepening effort to describe this territory with words.
“Let us turn our focus for a brief moment to the crucible of inmost suffering. There, if we witness clearly, we perceive that the crux of any struggle we experience lies not so much in the circumstances that inform it, nor, particularly, in the pain such impersonal forces directly prompt. Rather, the searing fires of affliction are stoked largely by the nature of our response, by our clinging to our anger, our depression, our resentment, the unacceptability of it all. By our resistance.”
Current focii include an ongoing assessment of the horticultural characteristics of the key medicinal plants best suited for gardens in our bioregion - part of a contribution to the Eugene Permaculture Guild’s recommended plant database; the ecologically-coherent integration of native and non-native plants with a particular focus on native nitrogen-fixers; the scientific basis for whole-plant medicine. (July 5, 2007)
“Despite science’s clear historical role as “an alliance of free spirits in all cultures rebelling against” the tyranny of their local cultures (Freeman Dyson), not a few wise souls aver that the striking absence of scientifically-plausible evidence relating to the efficacy of whole plant medicine is largely a symptom of the materialist limits of the scientific method itself and the tyranny of the biomedical worldview it exclusively validates.”
Here’s version 2.2 of the winter-hardy crop table, prepared for the 4th annual Pacific Northwestern winter cropping workshop on June 23, 2007, which reflects recent intelligence regarding crop types, varieties, sources and seeding timing.
The Last Call: Sustainable Winter Cropping in the Pacific Northwest, penned in May of 2007, addresses very recent but little-noticed and foundational trends in the ‘organic’ seed industry and particularly, implications for the ecology of the bioregion of which I am a part:
“So then, do we continue to abandon the longest harvest season of the PNW year to shipped food even as the ecological rationale for feeding ourselves through winters has never been more compelling? And if we are up for the challenge, do we simply resign ourselves to the dominant plant-breeding trends that have all but extinguished our ability to steward or otherwise influence the varieties that will lend authentic ecological resilience to such an effort?”
School Gardens vs. School Schedules appears in the Spring 2007 issue of the School Garden Project of Lane County newsletter.
“Some souls, not unwise, suggest that if our culture has a future, then we will have to re-pattern our lives and understandings in accord with the cycles of nature. If so, then it is clear the gardener’s brand of Paradise involves knuckling down to some strict natural rules. The seasons cannot be moved.”
Going local? It’s worth it! was penned for the adult-written page of the March-April 2007 issue of the international multicultural children’s magazine Skipping Stones.
“Navigating our way past this jungle of fast, processed foods and the accompanying tidal wave of sophisticated and seductive advertising deliberately targeting younger tastebuds, presents a very great challenge. Eating well requires educating ourselves, resisting temptation, and much willingness and determination to do the right thing.”
Reclaiming the Stolen Harvest was penned for the program for Seedy Sunday, the UK’s largest seedswap, which took place on February 4, 2007. It summarizes the core purpose of the Seed Ambassadors Project and was written to support the appearance of the Seed Ambassadors team at that event.
“A new natural and cultural drama is unfolding. Revolutionary insights into the nature of seed stewardship are fuelling a sudden surge in our understanding fo how to steward plants, landscapes and our own lives, in a manner that is authentically rooted in a co-evolutionary dialog with Nature, rather than along lines dictated by the closed, essentially synthetic rationales of a dominator mentality.”
The Seed Ambassadors Project original home page continues to live on. Romanian and Hungarian translations arrived in early 2008, thanks to support on the ground at the Ratiu Center for Democracy in Turda, who hosted our team’s recent visit to Romania.