Archive for the 'resilience' Category

Back in the zone

By David Parkinson

The elements of a resilient region, laid out into zones and sectors

Wow! what a summer. It seems as though there has been such a huge amount going on around here; which probably has to do with the fact that there really is a huge amount going on. Over the course of the next few weekly posts, I’ll try to sum up what has been happening and make some sense of it all. The overall sense I am getting lately is that this region is really starting to get fired up to prepare for peak oil and the world of reduced carbon consumption while struggling to figure out how the coming economy is going to work in regular people’s lives. The challenges are enormous, but more and more I am seeing the early shoots of innovation and imagination that augur good things down the road.

One of the recent events which epitomizes this new spirit afoot in the region is this past weekend’s workshop organized by Rin Innes and Transition Town Powell River. The aim of this one-and-a-half-day workshop was to introduce participants to some of the basic concepts of the permaculture design methodology and then apply some of these concepts to a few practical problems in developing community resilience.

The workshop took place on Friday evening and Saturday. To begin with, Rin led us through some of the basic concepts of permaculture, including the three ethics and the twelve principles. Permaculture, according to Rin, is a methodology for designing human systems that function like natural systems, and that deceptively simple formulation conceals an enormous amount of potential power.

Underneath every broken system in our world are a number of design decisions, whether conscious or not, which have somehow gone wrong. We cannot expect that solving all of the problems of the world is a simple matter of better design, but it’s certainly the case that most of our broken systems have evolved without any real oversight at all; so no wonder they produce vast amounts of waste (physical or spiritual), or consume excessive amounts of fuel or other inputs, or in some other way lead to unsustainable outcomes. Natural systems have evolved so that they tend towards equilibrium over time; any system which goes completely haywire cannot continue in that form and will need to change in some way to adapt to its environment: it will necessarily have to take in fewer inputs from its surroundings, or produce less waste, or reproduce itself less copiously, or in some other way find a new equilibrium.

Human-designed systems, in contrast, because they are often designed with short-term goals in mind and omit the long-term benefits or costs, do not have the built-in checks and feedback loops that any natural system possesses. And so, we end up building endless numbers of personal vehicles and vast highway systems to drive on, heedless of the eventual end of cheap fossil fuels. We mono-crop and douse our fields with chemicals which deplete the soil, calling for more chemicals next time around. We base our economic system on the creation of debt in a permanent downward spiral of ever-increasing indebtedness. And so on.

Given human nature, it would be difficult enough to devise systems that minimize the opportunities for greed and carelessness to make a mess of things. But generally we let these systems mutate as they will, without careful oversight and with little regard for the consequences.  It should come as no surprise, then, when our financial, agricultural, educational, governmental, and other large systems turn pathological and start displaying behaviour that does more harm than good. (Typically the good they do accrues to the people in a position to perpetuate the system.)

We’re so unused to thinking about intervening in our social and physical systems that the vocabulary for doing so is underdeveloped (to understate the situation). So the tools that permaculture provides are really worth looking at, and honestly not that hard to grasp. All that’s required is the ability to take a long hard look at the system we’re trying to construct or maintain, to understand the elements of that system and the relations among them, and to find ways to adjust those relations, using the least effort for the greatest results. At all times, we try to think like a natural system, to let the output of one process become the input to another (closing the loop), to make sure that the effects of a process in one place are registered quickly and faithfully (tight feedback), and to work towards an efficient and productive system which is resilient enough to absorb shocks and interruptions.

All of this sounds terribly abstract, and — like all systems with general applicability — it is. So we spent the second half of Saturday starting to apply these principles to three domains of community resilience: education, health care, and communication. In all three of these areas, there are reasons to think that the coming years will see some drastic shocks to the way these systems work; specifically, the ways we pass on knowledge and skills, keep ourselves healthy, and inform ourselves and others will change in the face of declining resources (especially fossil fuels), volatile climate patterns, and ongoing economic instability.

A sane society would take a cold hard look at these challenges, lay out the best facts we can muster, and start building alternative systems which stand a better chance of resisting these coming shocks. Ours instead prefers to do anything to keep fantasies alive, suppresses hard facts and speculation, and doubles down on the status quo.

And so, out on the margins, quietly and slowly, the alternatives will come together. People with an interest in a more sustainable, stable, and socially just world will look at the situation and ask themselves what they can do to make our systems hang together and produce more benefit for less cost. We will talk about all the important areas of human life: food, shelter, health, work, play, art, culture, and so on; and we will use the best tools we have to understand how things work the way they do, how they could work better, and what we can do to get from here to there. The tools that permaculture gives us are very promising, because they give us a vocabulary for seeing and talking about systems in a holistic way.

It’s about so much more than growing food.

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Walk slowly, pay attention

By Tom Read

Here comes the new stinging nettle! In addition to eating the steamed leaves and stems of young nettle plants, this year I'll use nettle roots and leaves to make a vinegar-based tonic and a fertilizer "tea." The pen in the lower right is for scale; it's about 5" long. Photo taken this morning.

Today I visited Dr. Kevin Black at the Texada Health Centre in Gillies Bay for my annual physical check-up. In the course of our routine review of my cholesterol levels (normal) and blood-pressure (acceptable), we talked about the prescription drugs I use to keep my moderate hypertension “under control,” including how expensive they’re becoming. Nothing new there, but it occurred to me as I drove home that maybe I can eventually reduce my pharmaceutical intake if I start using more of the wild food and medicinal plants that grow in abundance here on Texada Island. This wasn’t a random thought, as I’ll explain in a moment.

For years now I’ve resented my dependency on a daily dose of industrially produced drugs to moderate my blood pressure. When I started using these drugs I lived in the sedentary-yet-fast-paced urban rat race, and since moving to Texada 10 years ago I had hoped that my pharma-dependency could eventually end by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Indeed, my blood pressure has decreased somewhat during my years on the island, possibly attributable to such factors as less job stress, choosing a better diet and the necessity of a more physical way of life here at Slow Farm.

Earlier this week I attended a Texada Garden Club presentation by local herbalist and healer Doreen Bonin on how to benefit one’s health using wild food and medicinal plants that grow right here on our island. Doreen’s talk gave me hope that I might gradually wean myself off the pharma-habit, but I must acknowledge that this is something I approach cautiously. Uninformed self-medication can be dangerous to one’s health, so I will seek my doctor’s advice before making any substantive changes. That said, I was fascinated by her detailed descriptions of how to find, prepare and use the likes of nettle, dock and dandelion, along with many other locally common wild and easily-cultivated plants.  I am looking forward to joining a like-minded group on Doreen’s next “nettle walk” sometime in the near future, to get hands-on plant identification practice in the field.

The place to start looking for these plants is in your own garden, according to Doreen. “I teach people to pay attention, to be like children in adopting a beginner’s mind, and to walk slowly and quietly as you look for these plants.” One example I’m already familiar with is stinging nettle, which in years past we have harvested and eaten as a vegetable in various recipes. But there’s much more to nettle. Along with dock and dandelion, it’s what Doreen calls a “broad-spectrum plant,” because its leaves and roots can create a multi-faceted tonic for people and a powerful fertilizer for plants. As of this week, the nettle on our property is about four to six inches high, and growing fast. The dandelions are also coming on strong. I am walking slowly and attentively, digging tools in hand.

We live on an island but we need the city

By Tom Read

This slightly modified BC Ferries route map of our greater region shows Texada Island (partially circled in red) in relation to its urban neighbours. Rather than try to ignore these population centres, could we consciously interact with them for mutual benefit?

This weekend we begin a three-day journey, leaving our snug home on Texada Island to visit the city of Vancouver by way of BC Ferries and Vancouver Island. This isn’t a holiday vacation; it’s mainly about me having a root canal operation that requires a big city specialist. It occurred to me, after scheduling this appointment, that I have not seen Vancouver in a year and a half, which I consider one measure of my contentedness with living on Texada.

My dental appointment in the city is just one example of the reality that our seemingly remote home is merely part of a greater urban region. Most of my friends and neighbours on Texada travel to Vancouver, the “Big Island” or beyond far more frequently than I, yet are no less content with life on our own island. Some needs simply cannot be met here in paradise, so we go where we must.

City and rural interdependence has a long history in British Columbia and elsewhere around the world, thus my observation above is nothing new. As we enter a new year and decade it’s also no secret that major economic, political and environmental uncertainties abound, tempering our New Year celebrations with a bit of wariness. And that is what feels “new” to me — a growing awareness that we rural people should take nothing for granted, including, perhaps, affordable access to first-class medical and dental specialists in a relatively close big city.

I’m all for strengthening local self-reliance in our rural communities, but I wonder if we should simultaneously focus more carefully on our relationship with urban neighbours. Rural and city people might both lead healthier, happier lives by consciously developing mutual support networks for coping with the potentially unpleasant uncertainties ahead. Now there’s some good food for thought, and a future post. In the meantime, “Happy New Year!”

What really matters

By Tom Read

There's just one store-bought food item in this photo, namely the bell pepper in the foreground. It's not easy to grow such big peppers here on the cool coast because they thrive on sustained heat. But we like 'em in our salsa, and for now they're still relatively cheap and available through the industrial food system. That's a conscious compromise, eh?

There's just one store-bought food item in this photo, namely the bell pepper in the foreground. It's not easy to grow such big peppers here on the cool coast because they thrive on sustained heat. But we like 'em in our salsa, and for now they're still relatively cheap and available through the industrial food system. That's a conscious compromise, eh?

Texada’s almost ideal mix of mild temperatures, ample sun and just the right amount of rain this past month has given our garden a shot of warmth leading to lots of ripe tomatoes.  So today we turn our attention to converting our ripe Romas into salsa. Most of the ingredients will come from our garden; we will use only a few store-bought items. If we were to consider the amount of labour we’re about to expend on making this salsa, it wouldn’t be “economical,” but what matters to us is the satisfaction of creating a very personal taste of summer that will last us through the coming winter and spring.

Preserving our harvest is a deliberate act of resilience-building for our household. We know that the world around us swarms with economic, ecological and political stresses, but we pretend they do not affect us. After all, we live on an island! What matters to us at this moment is that a friend has loaned us her pressure-canner (we’re keen on trying this food preservation approach), while another friend has offered us an opportunity to glean more apples and pears. And all the while our garden and domestic animals are thriving.

I feel a sense of well-being by living in a place where the world’s problems seem far away. This feeling may be an illusion, but the accumulating supply of home-grown food in our pantry and freezer are real. From time to time I like to write about the politics and economics of Texada Island, but what really matters is being part of a network of friends here, and learning how to be more self-reliant.

Politics in two dimensions (and beyond)

By David Parkinson

Old stump, new tree. A composition in chiaroscuro.

Old stump, new tree. A composition in chiaroscuro.

Recent events have made me more conscious of how our political system works. It came to me not long ago that the way we talk about politics is very one-dimensional and that there are other dimensions we should be trying to hold in mind as we think about where we are and what lies ahead.

We often think of large-scale politics in terms of left and right. To strip away a lot of rhetoric and vast amounts of detail, the left-right dimension is a continuum along which we battle over the division of the spoils: left means using the power of the state to redistribute wealth and create social programs and a safety net for the less fortunate; right means allowing the individual to decide how to use her or his wealth free from heavy-handed interference by the state.

The real world is obviously much more complex than this simple picture; for example, the right no longer pushes for a minimal state but instead uses state power to redistribute wealth away from the public sector and the commons and towards those who are already wealthy. The last few years have seen a giddy and fast-paced smash-and-grab operation by and on behalf of the economic élite, with the clear intention of destroying the state’s ability to provide a baseline of social services to all. This program seems to be reaching a sort of culmination with the recent project of using the common wealth of the population to ‘bail out’ the élite. When the dust settles from this amazing one-time-only offer — and as we start to face the consequences of spending our capital and destroying the resource base on which all wealth is built — political battles over the allocation of our dwindling wealth will become increasingly desperate.

What’s left of the left meanwhile fights a series of rear-guard battles in a losing war to reserve some share of the common wealth for the poor and less fortunate. As the screws tighten, as the lifeboat shrinks, these battles are only going to become more desperate. Who has the ear of governments? Not the poor.

And all of this wealth, the spoils of reckless capitalism, that we fight over — it’s based on the idea that there are no limits on our ability to continue pulling minerals and fossil fuels from the earth’s crust and food from our fields. Once you have a population which believes that we can keep on creating false wealth forever, then you end up with a political system which is really little more than a stock market. Or a Ponzi scheme.

So rather than a one-dimensional political system which turns every decision into a question of who gets the money, we need to start looking at some of the other less visible dimensions of how we make decisions about how to create, store, and (re-)distribute wealth. Until we start doing that, the language we use for talking about the economy is not rich enough to capture what is really going on. Like a poorly-ground lens, this impoverished language distorts the world around us, accentuating some aspects and diminishing others. We owe it to ourselves to get our heads out of the phony and constricting box of left-vs-right and start thinking about all of the factors that shape the way we interact with one another as individuals, with other groups of people, and with our society as a whole.

It’s important to remember that politics is not just about the ballot box and the talking heads on the television machine. Politics is present whenever people wrangle over who gets what. It’s in the boardroom, the bedroom, around the dinner table, in the meetings we attend, the way we choose to use our time and energy and money. I have seen, lately, a few examples of how bad politics can poison well-meaning non-profit enterprises. Even with the best intentions, if decisions are made in an undemocratic fashion, or if information is not freely shared, or if one person or a small group takes control for their own personal benefit, then the group’s solidarity will suffer.

I believe that we are entering a period in which the community is going to have to step up more and more. I am very uncertain about the prospects for the economy, and if I’m right to be worried then there will be less money flowing around for capital-based solutions to the problems we face. Likewise, we are already seeing sweeping cuts to social spending programs, especially at the provincial level. Many of the social support programs for low-income folks and other less powerful constituencies are going to disappear over the next few years, leaving a huge burden on local communities to find workarounds and patches. How this is going to play out against a backdrop of an extremely disaffected and slothful populace is anyone’s guess; but it’s going to be a rough transition at first. To the extent that we can employ a politics of decency, the rough ride will be less horrible for those of us at the bottom. To the extent that we continue to approach every problem as though it’s just a niche for some new corporate venture, we will blunder and fail.

I want to throw around a few dimensions along which it’s useful to think about how we approach the problems we hope to solve. I’d like to return to these and some others in the future, and spend some time elaborating them. For now, it’s only a skeletal outline of how I believe we should be talking and thinking about the work of renewing and reinventing our communities. Much of this points outward to existing theory and practice, but for now I’m just putting up hasty signposts.

(I’m using the word ‘venture’ below because it allows me not to choose among ‘business’ and ‘non-profit’ and ‘project’ and so on.)

Public vs. private

How is the public involved? As shareholders? Spectators? Make-believe beneficiaries of fraudulent trickle-down effects? Do members of the public have any say in how this venture is run? Phony consultation? Do we have to wait a few years to vote it out? Are we the hapless victims of decisions made in a boardroom to which we were not invited?

Open vs. closed

Similar to the previous dimension, but more about how the real decision-making happens. Even in a supposedly public venture, there are many ways to marginalize members of the community. Cliquishness, secrecy, and any number of needless hurdles can be put in place to keep power concentrated in the hands of the ‘right people’. Are we telling the truth? Is everyone able to ask tough questions without being shouted down or shunned? Are we actively encouraging more public involvement?

Intrusive vs. free

Can people opt out of the venture or its effects on them or their community? Must they be constantly alert to potential damage, pollution, or other ill effects? Are people coerced into either participation or resistance? Are people allowed to opt out, but at the risk of falling behind in some important way? Does this venture create more choice? Or less?

Community vs. individual

Is this venture about satisfying individual needs or wants? Is it about providing some resilience at the community level? Is it doing one when it should be doing the other? How does it strengthen community or reinforce individualism? Are we overlooking some way we can use this venture to create or strengthen community?

Paid vs. free

This is a really important and largely invisible dimension.This society trains us to see everything through a money-coloured filter. When we look through a red filter, we can no longer really see red, because everything and nothing is coloured red. Money is the same way. We do not even see the extent to which we create ventures which are born addicted to the money economy. Could we have done it  otherwise? Who is excluded? Who is advantaged? Have we asked ourselves how far we could have got without taking that first hit of corporate sponsorship?

That’s enough for now. As I say, I’ll try to come back to these and try to have something more illuminating to say about them. I do feel that those of us who want to work on making our communities more resilient need to spend as much time interrogating our methods as we spend considering our goals. It is possible to have admirable goals but undermine their success by hitching them to working methods which enshrine the very things we pretend to be getting away from. It’s maddening and all too common.

The challenges of a 50-mile diet

By David Parkinson

Seeds of the red orach, one of the surprise hits of the Edible Garden Tour

Seeds of red orach, one of the surprise hits of our garden during the Edible Garden Tour

We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?
(Wendell Berry)

We’re just about halfway through the 50 days of this year’s 50-mile eat-local challenge, which goes from Sunday August 9 until Sunday September 27. On August 9 we held the first ever Edible Garden Tour, which showcased thirteen gardens from Lund down to Lang Bay where people are using a variety of techniques to grow food in a variety of conditions. From backyard lasagna gardening experiments to a demonstration garden and a community garden, and with all kinds of gardens in between, it was a really good opportunity for gardeners and would-be gardeners to see how other people are tackling the eat-local challenge by eating as locally as possible.

This is the third year that I’ve been involved in organizing the eat-local challenge; in fact, the famous ’50-mile diet’ was one of the first things I knew about Powell River before I moved up here in late 2006. And one thing I’ve noticed is that there are far more people eating locally than you might know from the number of people who sign up. In fact, quite a lot of people, when asked if they want to sign themselves up for the eat-local challenge, say something along the lines of, “But I eat locally all the time!” I’m sure that many people out there reading this can understand that response, since the idea of eating locally is really a part of the culture here, at least for a significant chunk of the regional population who have homesteading in their personal or their family’s history — or for those like me who moved here with the intent of getting closer to the sources of our food.

Another theme which has really jumped out at me this year is the number of people who feel that the eat-local challenge needs to be kicked up a notch. After all, just about anyone can go 50 days in the height of summer eating something like half of their daily food from sources within 50 miles of where they live; this is not entirely without some challenges and a certain amount of effort, but it can be done and it’s not a terrible hardship. But just try doing it in the winter! In the summertime, you can go to the Open Air Market, to numerous farmgates, and you can find local food at the fruit truck and at some of the grocery stores. In the winter, though, if you haven’t taken steps to put food by, you’re going to have a hard time finding local produce at any price. The upshot is that a wintertime eat-local challenge has to start in the summertime, while fresh food is abundant and while there’s time to plan and plant a winter garden. Of course, many people are busy right now canning, freezing, drying, and pickling, which are age-old techniques for preserving the harvest for leaner times. But if we were serious about eating local food year round, we’d all have to be doing this, and in serious quantities. Instead, we rely on the grocery stores to get us through the winter.

And this doesn’t even touch on all the foods that we don’t grow here, or grow in such small quantities that it barely counts:

  • Meat, dairy, poultry: I’m putting these at the top of the list, because — although we can obviously produce them here and in pretty serious quantities if need be — the government in its wisdom has seen fit to clamp down on small-scale production of animal products. This situation is still unresolved, and constitutes on of the most serious obstacles to a local food economy. What are we supposed to be doing about this situation? Will the grocery stores always supply our needs?
  • Grains: Imagine the amount of wheat, corn, oats, and other grains consumed here every day. Should we even be trying to grow these here? Many people are interested, and I am seeing some interest in a local grain CSA. Is it feasible? Can we produce these grains at anything like a reasonable cost?
  • Beans: A similar situation, except that beans are pretty easy to grow here. Although the amounts required are enormous. How can we approach the sort of commercial scale required to make a real farming enterprise out of this? Again, can it ever be economically realistic to do so?
  • Oils: Sunflowers certainly grow well here, and of course animals can provide oils for some uses. But again, imagine the amount of production needed to supply the needs of the region. How did people handle this in the days before importation of almost all food? I’m guessing that lard and other animal fats were pretty much a staple.
  • Spices, tropical/sub-tropical fruits & cocoa, coffee, etc.: There are some foods that we cannot grow here. That’s always been the case and always will be. We can try to find substitutes, or we can accept that no region can ever be completely self-reliant.

When you take a look at a list like this, imagine the amount of food passing through the tills of the grocery stores in the region, and then contrast that with the puny amounts of food produced locally, it’s enough to make your head spin. Are we even producing 1% of our local consumption? I’m not sure it adds up to even that minuscule percentage. But just because the task ahead of us looks Herculean, that’s no reason not to tackle it. The question you have to ask yourself is: why should we care? Why not continue to rely on the amazing global food industry, which brings us food from around the world at all times of the year?

What motivates the people who commit to eating locally, whether for 50 days at the height of the summer or all year round? I believe that for many of the people who make a commitment to local food, it’s worth growing, preserving, and hunting down local food for many reasons. But not the least of these reasons is the pure satisfaction — which is at heart an aesthetic pleasure — of connecting in the most primeval way possible with our surroundings. A strawberry from the garden certainly tastes more delicious than a strawberry from the grocery store, protected during its world travels by a pathetic plastic clamshell. But the strawberry also tastes better, and pleases us on a deeper level, because it is the fruit of our very own soil. It is as much a part of the place we live in and care for as we are. There is something genuinely spiritual about this connection to our food, and sadly this is a connection that many people have lost or have never had. The fight to save local food (and it is a fight, make no mistake) comes from the desire to save something whose passing from the world can never be replaced: the wonder of bringing our food into being, caring for it, harvesting it and preserving it, and creating meals that sustain our bodies and our spirits. The cultural importance of these activities is huge, but like so many things in our world, they get swamped in discussions of economics and efficiency.

Eating locally is an act of cultural preservation. And I think that most of the people who are drawn to the eat-local challenge understand this on some level, even if they’re not easily able to express it. And that’s why it is not going to stop growing, getting a little bigger and more visible each year. It’s a long game, but we have nothing to lose but the best food in the world.

Seed-saving adventures

By Tom Read

My apologies for this focus-challenged photo I took today. We'll soon be awash in carrot seeds, even if they're a bit blurry at the moment.

My apologies for this focus-challenged photo I took today. We'll soon be awash in carrot seeds, even if they're a bit blurry at the moment.

Texada Island is a good place to grow carrots, once you dig the rocks out of your garden and if you’ve got enough good seeds. Given the converging economic, energy and environmental uncertainties besetting the world today, we do not take for granted our access to good vegetable seeds. So, last summer we grew a Nantes open-pollinated carrot variety from West Coast Seeds. One difference between carrots and some other vegetables is that you have to let carrots continue into their second year of life to harvest seeds. Thus, we over-wintered the best carrot plants from our 2008 garden in hope of saving seeds this year.

Meanwhile, our friend Fred gave us about 30 scarlet runner beans last fall after I made admiring noises about their colourful long seed pods in his garden in Van Anda.  After decades of saving these runner bean seeds, Fred has noticed a gradual darkening in their colour.  Before planting, I soaked all the seeds overnight in a bowl of tepid water, then the next morning I set aside for planting only the seeds that had sunk to the bottom of the bowl. I had read somewhere that if a seed floats, then it’s not as vigorous as one that sinks. This may be a mistake in regard to scarlet runner beans, but I’ve soaked other types of bean seeds before planting, with good results.

I’m no expert in plant genetics, but of the 30 scarlet runner beans I planted (some more black than brownish-red), only about half germinated, which seemed a bit low compared to the store-bought pole bean seeds we planted about two weeks earlier elsewhere in our garden.  The store-bought seeds showed an 80% germination rate and are already six feet high, while the scarlet runners are barely above knee level, so far. This is probably a result of sun exposure and weather differences in the different garden locations, and each variety’s planting time requirements. I should have tried some side-by-side same-time planting for a truer comparison. Maybe the scarlet runners will catch up by September.

My point is not that Fred’s generously donated scarlet runners are somehow deficient.  The point is that I haven’t learned how to run valid plant genetics experiments in our garden. This matters because if we don’t learn how to keep our own food plant seeds viable generation after generation, we will remain dependent on an increasingly tenuous seed supply from a shrinking number of reliable seed companies.

We’re not alone in thinking about this issue. The Powell River Farmer’s Institute co-sponsored a 2009 seed-saving venture, which was promoted on Texada by PR farmer Wendy Devlin. Last winter, Wendy visited the Texada Garden Club and handed out seed packets for several types of garden vegetables to anyone interesting in seed-saving. I took 15 Styrian pumpkin seeds provided by a volunteer in the Powell River region, which we have since grown into six rather happy pumpkin plants.  They’re perched on well-fertilized hills containing rotted chicken manure and seaweed, about five feet apart.  Growing like crazy in the mid-July heat! We’ll have Styrian pumpkin seeds to share come October, if all goes well.

But our attempt to grow pumpkins in 2008 utterly failed due to several obvious-in-hindsight errors which could have been avoided by doing more research or having guidance from an expert. Confirmed optimists like myself call that a “learning experience.”  This year we’ll make different mistakes, no doubt. I believe that you can’t truly garden successfully just from reading about it on the Internet or in gardening books; experience counts, especially hard-won experience.

Which brings me to another, somewhat sobering thought in closing.  After several years of gardening, Linda and I are still really novices. We get some pretty good crops every year, but we make lots of mistakes, too. What will happen when the global price of oil takes another sharp turn upwards, making store-bought food a lot more expensive, so that people with even less experience than us must try to grow their own? Yes, we can help each other, but that will amount to novices leading other novices. That, and sustaining vigorous seed genetics, gives us something to ponder as we continue our adventures in seed-saving.


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