Today marks the first day of Spring at long last. The temperatures will likely fluctuate for a couple of more weeks before Winter finally gives in to the inevitable warming trend that will give rise to all sorts of amazing biological activity. Last weekend here in Connecticut, I saw skunk cabbage emerging in wetland soil which is a sure sign that spring is well and truly on the way. Robins have been bob, bob, bobbin’ along around here for a few weeks now and the Red Winged Blackbirds have been filling the air with their distinctive call as well for a while now too. Spring fever will surely follow as people who have made the unfortunate choice to be cubical bound will know that out there somewhere the sun is shining, the trees leafing out, and the grass is emerald green. Students too will feel the desire to skip class and of course LOVE will be evident all around us as the animal kingdom here in North America starts looking to procreate. Is it any wonder Spring is longed for so deeply by so many?
Those of us who long to touch the dirt, to taste it, and to plant it also cannot wait to get out there and put seeds in the ground to start the magical process of creating a garden. My hope is that countless millions will heed the call in their heart to do just that, to create a garden where once an energy sucking lawn lived. The reasons to garden are many and varied. One of the big reasons to do so is to re-localize food production. There is a lot of land that could be used to grow food, probably right in the neighborhood where you live. Getting our fruits and vegetables from hundreds or even thousands of miles away is a recipe for disaster when that is the main source of these vital foods. Weather patterns changing so it is imperative to have food closer to hand and to use much less of our dwindling fossil fuels on transporting them.
Gardening organically is a healthy activity for adults and kids alike. Due to the proliferation of sugary, fatty junk foods in America, we now have a society that is unhealthy and often medically obese. I’ve heard it said that if one takes the time to grow a vegetable, then it’s much more likely that that person will eat it. I love eating the food I grow that’s for sure. We could all use more veggies in our diets as well as soil under our nails! Kids can learn a lot by being out in the garden, and healthy eating habits is only one the things they will learn. A well designed organic garden is an ecosystem teeming with life of various kinds. Pollinating insects, pests, beneficial insects that eat the pests, birds, and worms all make up this ecosystem along with the plants to create a living classroom for a child to marvel at. Kids who have time in natural surroundings are often healthier than those who lack nature time (google nature deficit disorder). Adults too need time outdoors in fresh air with the buzz and hum of LIFE around them to feel happy and healthy as has been shown in studies of hospital patients who got better quicker even if there was only a window to look through at a natural scene.
During World War II, “Victory Gardens” were very common as the government encouraged people to help with the war effort by growing food locally thereby letting farmers feed the troops. Now we need these same Victory Gardens to defeat the insidious agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, Cargill, and others whose stated aim is to control everything you and your family eat while using human beings as unwitting guinea pigs in their experiments with chemical laced, gene spliced GMO crops. The more food that is grown locally, the less poison crops they can sell. Permaculture is often jokingly referred to as “A revolution disguised as organic gardening.” It should be a huge wake up call to know that growing a garden is a revolutionary act in an ostensibly free society.
By like token, the more space devoted to organic gardens, the less space devoted to mono-cropped waste lands mistakenly known as “a well manicured lawn.” Nature refuses to mono-crop. Instead She seeks to cycle nutrients through the various ecosystems from the root layer to the canopy of the tallest trees. Lawn care companies like Scott’s or TruGreen Chemlawn make their money by convincing people to expensively fight against these natural cycles by dumping inordinate amounts of fertilizer, herbicides, and insecticides around their homes, parks, and offices. These toxic chemicals are the only things that make the mono-cropped lawn possible. Stop putting them on and as soon as possible other species of plants will start to colonize the waste land territory. The chemicals do not suddenly become inert when they hit the dirt either, rather they remain actively toxic to the ecology and end up in the local watershed or in the ground water. Lawn care companies here locally put up signs warning that kids and pets should not play on the recently treated lawn because it is toxic. How incredibly insane is that? As is so often the case, people have been duped into buying something wholly unnecessary (and in this case toxic) in order to line someone else’s pockets. Madness.
Today’s equinox marks the day when sunlight and dark are equal. It’s time to reflect, to restore sanity and order to our neighborhoods, farm lands, and watersheds. To me conventional agriculture, lawn care companies, and other toxic industries represent the ‘Dark’ while Permaculture and other ecologically sound, community building ways of being represent ‘Light’. Spring is the perfect time to learn from nature as so much is happening while the sun begins to warm the land and our hearts once again. Participate in the revolution towards the ‘Light’ and sanity by observing nature, planting an organic garden, getting dirt between your toes, and watch with joy as a child squeals delightedly at the wiggly worm s/he is playing with. Spring is the time of renewal, of fecundity, of love. Fall in love with the area you live in and demand it is ecologically taken care of. That’s the best chance we have to leave our kids with something other than a huge mess. It’s our best chance to actually thrive.