Cityboy goes green

Me being a dork in my garden in 2008.

Lately I’ve found the time to read a ton of books in the sort of earthy/environmental vein.  That and the impending Florida move have made me just feel a lot “greener.”  Let me explain.

When I was growing up, we had all kinds of things in the backyard: apple trees, a cherry tree, a peach tree, grapevines, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries (disgusting), asparagus, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, carrots, beans, sunflowers, corn, and God knows what else.  We had a shed, which my dad built from the ground up to hold all the tools, and a compost pile (a mysterious shaggy creature).  We also had some kind of mini-greenhouse on legs, which I think was used to grow herbs.  In the front yard we had a huge lilac bush and a ton of flowers.

It’s kind like I’m going through repressed memory therapy here, but I’m just realizing that damn, I grew up with a ton of gardening going on. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.  I’m sure I assumed everybody kept a grape arbor in the backyard, if I had even decided to think about it, which I’m sure I hadn’t.

Now I’m thinking that reviving this life would be a great thing to do on my own, but living downtown in a condo isn’t exactly conducive to having a garden and a compost pile.  The next best thing is to read about it, so I did.

I went down to the library and picked up Compost, a deceptively small book about composting.  The British author says you should actually compost food waste and paper waste in equal quantities — great, because I generate huge amounts of paper waste.  I also read The Square-Foot Garden, a classic that eschews the traditional row method of planting in favor of little squares that you never walk on, so as not to compact the soil.  (I now am realizing our garden looked like that — another thing I just assumed everybody else did.)  For a human perspective, I tried to sift through The 3,000 Mile Garden, a book of sort of gardeny love letters between an Englishman and a Maine cat lady, but it got too creepy.  (I tried!)  Because it was there (in the gardening section! what a scam the Dewey decimal system was!), I also picked up and devoured Silent Spring, the 1962 classic that helped launch the environmental revolution and crusaded against broad-spectrum synthetic pesticides like heptachlor, dieldrin, and DDT, all of which are now off the market.  I read all this stuff in the span of about three days last week, when I should have been studying, then I slept on it.  I heartily recommend all these books except the one.

After all this ecological ferment, I’ve decided: I can’t wait to move to Florida so I can grow a garden.  Apparently the soil is crummy (either sandy or clayey, and full of nematodes), but you can fix that, and you can grow up to five crops a year because of the wonderful sun, temperatures, and humidity.  I also decided I would like to try to never throw anything away, again, ever.  According to Compost, you can even compost things like old clothes (they’re cotton, a natural fiber) and cardboard.  I already recycle all kinds of stuff, including my cans, paper, electronics, and so on.  The only things you really can’t recycle are certain plastics — what else is there to throw out?  So, once the move comes, everything’s going on the compost pile or in the recycling.  I even researched how to compost meat, which everybody says is a bad idea (rats and flies), and I came across “bokashi,” a Japanese invention involving a sealed bucket, wheat bran, and bacteria, which is a process that anaerobically “pickles” your meat, permitting it to then be composted.  Sounds gross, though, to leave a bucket of rotting meat outside, but if it works, why not.

Amusingly, these decisions have led me to realize I’m going to have to live on a lot with some sun and some amount of land, i.e., I might actually have to move to the suburbs or the country (!).  Cityboy might go on hiatus for a while.  But I think it will be enjoyable to come home, change from the suit into the play clothes, go muck about in the garden for an hour or so, then get a shower and have a refreshing drink while admiring the garden, and have a dinner including vegetables I grew myself.  That kind of life should give plenty of time for contemplation.  Shouldn’t life be relaxing and innately rewarding?

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1 Response

  1. Justme says:

    You failed to mention strawberries which we also grew and the greenhouse on legs was to keep the starter plants growing. The most interesting gardening adventure was the Mothers Day Massacre.

    Your dad had grown plants inside and then moved them in the greenhouse for weeks. It was a beautiful day and he transplanted all the plants.

    That afternoon about 3 or 4 PM I was rocking you in a room upstairs and it started to rain, quickly changing to hail. At first I thought someone was beating the side of our house with a baseball bat.

    No it was the sound of the hail hitting the house, gutters, siding and yes devastatingly all the little plants.

    I suggested that the baby swimming pool we owned be picked up and taken out to cover the plants and that idea was not supported.

    After about 20 minutes the hail stopped and people had holes in their gutters, windshields and the plants were beat to death.

    We had 100’s of Mother Earth News Magazines that explained all kinds of gardening things and ideas, but alas in an attempt to rid my house of all things to do with your father, they were thrown out after the divorce filling several trash cans one day.

    I can also report we did not successful ever grow any potatoes that looked like small dogs or anything really unusual and suitable for Ripley’s believe it or not.

    Your brother also has a green thumb and successfully nurtured a marjuana plant to about three feet in height in his closet.

    I wonder if it is possible to have a post about my WWII project, perhaps some of your friends would be interested.