Thursday, February 21, 2008

"edible estates" piece

Here is the piece that I wrote for the "Edible Estates" book that I mentioned in my last post.

February 2007. The piece of paper in front of me looked something like this:

Pros - Two flat 14’ x 20’ plots of land; south-facing; full sun all day; I’ll see the garden every day as I walk out my front door.
Cons - Everyone else will see the garden every day as they walk past my front door.

It wasn’t so much a “con” as an uncertainty. An edible front yard would be good stewardship of the little piece of land that I have. Could the “con” of high visibility actually be a “pro”? I swallowed my doubt.

March arrived. I borrowed my neighbor’s tiller, turned my yard into a plot of dirt, and panicked momentarily as I passed the “point of no return.” I laid out a walking path, cultivated beds, put in herb borders, and planted seeds.

At the very least, the resulting garden is a talking point. It piques curiosity. I’ve met more folks in the neighborhood in the last four months than I have in five years. Some ask questions. “What’s that plant?” “Are squash and zucchini hard to grow?” Most offer words of encouragement. “I love walking by every day and seeing the progress.” “I really believe in what you’re doing.” “Looks fantastic - keep up the good work!”

In truth, I’m an amateur. Last year was my first attempt at growing vegetables. It started as a pastime, a fun novelty: vegetables to which I could lay claim from my own ground. In short time, it has raised my awareness of the origins of what I eat, made me more intentional about choosing food. More than that, though, I feel intimately connected with the Earth. Watching a seed emerge from its burial to grow into a plant larger than my arms’ reach - and being an active participant in this natural cycle - has evolved into a tangible expression of faith in the natural order of things. That it produces the same fruitful results over and over again, year after year, is nothing short of miraculous. That I can share this with others in my own front yard is icing on the cake.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

a few words in writing

Throughout 2007, one of the more frequent topics of discussion on this blog was the transition of my front lawn from a perennial weed-scape to a more productive edible landscape, inspired largely by architect and designer Fritz Haeg. My March 3 post from last year provides a more robust explanation of the philosophy behind the movement to use one's yard in a more environmentally friendly, less destructive manner. After an article about my yard and my friend Antonia's yard ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch last summer, I got an email from Fritz Haeg himself (!) telling me that the author of the newspaper article had emailed the story to him. He asked if I would be willing to submit "before and after" photos of my yard and a 300-word essay for inclusion in an upcoming book about his Edible Estates project. Shortly after the Fourth of July, I sent my essay and photos. I had almost forgotten about it until a couple of weeks ago. The book, called "Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn", was released earlier this month, and I was fortunate enough to have my essay and photos included in the book. So...I'm published! And while it's not a huge deal (it is, after all, only a one-page essay in a garden book), I'm pretty proud of it and excited about it. I hope to post the essay in its entirety later this week.