There’s lots of bad news in the world, and thanks to technology, it’s all at our fingertips, all the time. I am quick to hide my eyes and ears from gruesome stories of murder, abduction, or other such crimes, but I don’t hide from all the ugly. I am trying to learn from it, figure out what I can do about some of it. There are just things I cannot ignore, because I don’t want my son to look at me someday and ask, “why didn’t you do something?”
Where to start? There is so much to be done on this crowded, congested little planet it is easy to throw up your hands. But I think about what that means – to throw up your hands, to shutter your windows and ignore it all. I’m well enough versed in both personal and collective history to know what becomes of that tactic. So, I’m building up an arsenal of examples to show my kid that I wasn’t sitting idly by when the world all around us starting looking like hell.
I have lots of ideas – my head swims in them all the time – so that is not a problem. The real problem is focusing on what I can manage, and not getting overwhelmed. I’m starting in the place I know best, which happens to also be my favorite place: my backyard. And front yard, too, for that matter.
More food, more natives. We already grow a lot of stuff – food for us, nectar for insects, seeds for birds. But we can do more. I keep encroaching on John’s beloved lawn. I understand his attachment to it, but it’s getting in the way of our self-sufficiency and sustainability. A green lawn is not sustainable. Growing food that we can eat fresh, preserve in myriad ways, and share with others, is a much better model. What we can do with a toddler in tow may be limited, but we can still make better use of our existing space . Over time, we’ll plant more native plants, which will need less human intervention and water than some of the non-natives that I admittedly love. So we’re both giving up a little something, but gaining a whole lot.
Though Henry Mitchell said, “Trees belong in forests, not in tiny city yards,” I am ready to make some concessions. We went with espaliered apple and pear trees that won’t block any of our precious sun. We chose grafted trees so we’ll have several varieties that self-pollinate, all on one plant. Besides delicious fruit, we’ll also provide food for birds and insects. It’s a great way to lesson our environmental impact, not to mention our grocery bill.
Get back to preserving. I know how to preserve, though I haven’t done it in a while. I’m confident pickling something after a long absence will be like getting back on a bike after a snowy winter. Additionally, I’d like to add fermented veggies fruit leather and seed crackers to my repertoire. The goal here is to not buy food out of season when it has to be shipped from elsewhere, but rather to preserve it at its peak to enjoy throughout the year.
Pesticide free, obviously. I invite all creatures into my garden. Why in the world would I use pesticides/insecticides to screw up the natural balance? You can’t spray aphids with toxic chemicals and think that it’s not going to work its way up the food chain. If you wouldn’t poison a robin, don’t poison a bug. If you don’t want to kill an owl or a hawk, don’t use toxic means to get rid of mice, moles, or other rodents. Because this planet ain’t a vacuum. Don’t even get me started on what pesticides are doing to our pollinators.
So there you have it. First, I vowed to think more positively, and now I’m working on acting positively, since the two need to go hand-in-hand. I think I’m going to need more coffee…