Saturday, March 10, 2007

Schpring is in zee air

I am officially, but not technically, on break. I still have a paper to finish, but I took the day off to buy dirt (it's dirt cheap!), plant 25 strawberry plants, and do a little judicious pruning. Tomorrow, the Progeny and I are going to participate in a Hunger Walk to benefit the local community food bank, so I wanted to get some gardening in while the gardening was good.

My current obsession is with the idea of permaculture, specifically with a couple of books describing a permaculture approach to Suburubian-sized lots such as mine. Tony Hemenway's Gaia's Garden is probably the most useful for U.S. audiences. He comes in for some criticism for using invasive exotic species (he's a little fanatical about nitrogen fixing), but I trust that his audience can make decisions that don't involve planting, say, kudzu as a ground cover and still get something out of his approach.

You may well ask: why is The Simpleton so fixated on gardening? I thought her deal was just spending less time in the car? The first answer is that hopefully the garden will let me spend less time in the car. For the last three years, I belonged to a CSA that let me taste the pleasures of local food, but I had to drive an hour round-trip in rush hour traffic every week to savor those veggies. Moving back in time through my train of thought, local food itself is an important contribution to climate health, since the average food item in this country travels 1500 miles before it lands on your table. Add in the energy costs of, for example, freezing (and keeping frozen) and your Amy's spinach pizza looks a bit less appealing.

In truth I just like puttering with plants, and I'm a bit of a closet foodie. It seems to me as if simplicity really is about finding those things that give genuine pleasure, that fill you up, so to speak. I get a little extra frisson from feeling that my choices are also part of an integrated life--that I will see where my food comes from, that its manner of raising will also benefit wildlife and soil health, that I will waste less and enjoy more. I'm a little bit of a freak that way.

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