It's planting week. I've been turning soil the last two days, bio-intensively. I'll be turning soil every day this week, about 8-10 hours a day. By Sunday, just about everything should be planted.
Spending so much time in the yard, I'm meeting more of my neighbors. Marsha is impressed by what I'm doing, but she's "about ready to pave over [her] whole yard." Ben and Angela may turn out to be friends, my age and living only a block away. Ben wants "to pick my brain" about a water garden, and home repairs. Arleen "Very much appreciates what [I'm] doing." Few people stop to talk though. There are very few questions. A few people say things like "looking great", but the most common response of course is, "that looks like a lot of work."
I don't think so. I think of it as a discipline: Practice form; Maintain a steady pace; Remember to breathe; Quiet the mind; Listen; Smile; Think clearly when thinking; Ride the wave of thought but pay attention (so as not to stab myself in the foot with the garden fork, or cut off a toe with the spade); It is a process; Don't hurry; Be present, like I was when I was a kid.
Just about everyone my sister knows is unemployed. Her partner's mother just lost her job working with troubled teenagers, in the St Paul schools (one of those oh-so important budget cuts by Congress.) It's a new reality in America, for a large portion of us, good paying jobs disappearing, the people who might have run industries now taking cozy corporate jobs and investing their money in ever larger corporations, the Fed and Wall Street and Congress indifferent to the jobs problem. There is a great deal of fear out there. My neighbor Patty the nurse says the corporate leadership of her hospital treat the nurses like peons. I told her the corporate and financial elite of this country are convinced of the righteousness of their economic model, though the country is inching toward Revolution.
I was standing on my back step this morning when I watched an unleashed pit bull walk along my sidewalk. I started to wonder if it was loose, when a big man came into view.
"You get a new water heater?"
It was a non-sensical question, as I don't know him, and I don't have natural gas hooked up at present. I replied, "No, but the city tried to condemn my house for not having natural gas hooked up."
"You get to keep it? You get to stay?"
"I do. The city let go of it when I brought up the Fourth Amendment, that part about unreasonable search and seizure."
"You one of those government haters then?"
"No, I don't hate government. I simply don't appreciate laws that make no sense."
"Yeah, well tell that to the FBI in a couple of days." With that, he was past the alley and gone.
He was the same man I wrote about last fall, I realized, who came by my house as I was returning late one night, who said I was going to have some "visitors soon". I think it gives him a thrill, terrorizing people. I'm not particularly worried about it, as my yard is full of implements to use, should this mad man or his dog attack. As I worked on the soil afterward, I thought about another neighbor who came to me recently with a mouthful of Aryan Brotherhood nonsense. He has five brothers and every single one of them is in foreclosure. And who is he blaming for America's problems? I told him my nephew is Black. That didn't prevent him from trying to recruit me to the idea that white people need to stick together, against everyone else.
Many people come by the house with little children. I tell them all they are free to pick the wild strawberries on the corner, and the black cap raspberries along the fence. Larry, who lived in my house a long time ago, stopped by. He has six kids, all of whom graduated from college. He is very proud of them. I told him about the berries. "The kids pilfer them?" I told him kids are free to pick, that I've had young kids picking as their parents watched, berry juice all over their face. He liked that. I told him to come back later this summer when there's food aplenty. Shortly after he left, I dug up another cache of garbage (probably buried before Larry's time here.)
I've decided to focus this year on saving seed. It will take some practice, and some infrastructure, to get it right. And then, should the culture crumble because of the collapse of the oil supply, or a lack of water, or runaway self-interest, I'll contact every family I know with young kids, and we will gather together to protect and plant that seed.
Here's a brief tutorial on the method I'm using to prepare the soil:
Remove the top twelve inches
Place leaves, wood chips in the trench (in this case, old tomato vines and leaves, as this is a tomato bed and tomatoes are both canabalistic and omnivorous).
Using a garden fork, loosen the soil and mix in the carbon material.
Rake the soil back into the trench.
Form the bed.