Saturday, March 21, 2009

Visualize whirled peas

Today I made my way out to the Master Peace Community Garden -- part of UMD's Engaged University. Sheldon and I took the metro most of the way there (I woke up a bit later than anticipated) and arrived around 10:30 to discover the garden abuzz with workers. The program coordinator, Vinnie, who I had met at a gardening forum a few weeks earlier, welcomed me and set me to work: first weeding, then digging holes for kale transplants, then mulching, then removing a cover crop from around the soon-to-be raspberry patch (my favorite!), then more mulching. It was a gorgeous day and a friendly group -- a mix of high school and college students on alternative spring breaks, a few other first time volunteers, and a mix of all ages of community members. I seemed to do particularly well with the group of 8-year-old boys who were soon bumping into each other in the excited rush to bring me the next kale seedling for the holes I was digging. But my favorite part of the afternoon came just before the tasty lunch of hearty lentil soup: when precocious Nicholas brought me a handful of purple flowers that he had picked from the edge of the garden as thanks for "all the squirmy worms you gave me." What a charmer.

Here's a picture of Nicholas kicking back while mom (Jennifer, who manages the community plots) puts some final touches on a future patch.

There are so many reasons to garden. To beautify your space. To be outside. To grow things with your own two hands. Some think these homegrown things look less perfect than what you can buy -- I tend to disagree: they're beautiful -- but in any case they sure taste better. Mmmm... heirloom tomatoes. And many dozens of tomatoes for the price of a packet of seeds, not $5 per pound. There is something empowering about being able to feed yourself. I mean actually take ownership of the food from beginning (seed) to end (sauteed beet greens with garlic, nutmeg, and cinnamon sticks). And community gardening, well, there's the whole other amazing piece of getting to know people. Sharing recipes and gardening tips. Marveling at the number of worms. Remarking on the richness of the soil. Learning about how things grow and the marvelous varieties of things you can grow. And heading to a bike shop still smelling faintly like mulch, well, now there's a selling point....

1 comment:

  1. To be fair... let's not compare (ahem) apples to oranges. Store-bought produce can seem expensive due to transport costs, insecticides, fertilizers, middle-men, etc. Yet, the price of a packet of seeds is not the entire input costs to home a grown tomato. You have to factor in soil, water, space, pots, let alone "labor".
    I buy all of Michael Pollan's arguments about the hidden costs of cheap agribusiness food, but food economics is very complicated no matter what system you're using.


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