Garden Diary

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Meal Train

Abby Schacter writes about Rod Dreher's book The Little Way of Ruthie Leming on the Aculturated blog, and one of the items she focuses on was the way neighbors reallied to support Ruthie (Rod's sister) and her family as she was dying and after she died by bringing meals. From there she segues into ways to do this without necessarily imitating Rod, who decided to move back to the hometown his sister never left for a place where community is a physical as well as a notional thing. One of the examples she provides is Meal Train, which helps organize groups that want to help out by providing meals.

My family as twice been the recipients of this kind of community support; when my daughter Althea was born, many neighbors and fellow parishioners brought meals and baby items. By that time, we had lived in two for four years, I was well-known at church and was teaching part-time in the village school. We were very much part of the community (unfortunately not to last, as finding steady, decent-paying work was tough, and still is, in the Northeast Kingdom).

Eleven years later, we once again found ourselves comforted with food, this time when our daughter Rebecca Ruth was stillborn. My workmates organized a huge delivery of food from a local Italian restaurant, Italian Kitchen, which one of my workmates brought to the house. I am still touched when I remember the gesture and visit, and that event and other shared experiences created bonds of friendship among my workmates which continues to this day, although the business has not been so fortunate.

A helpful web site like Meal Train (and there are other such sites) doesn't replace community, or even "physical" community; but it can help people organize their impulse to help. Here in Boston we've been seeing both that impulse and the importance of organizing, in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings that happened on April 15th. Problems, sorrows, even disasters will always be around the corner; but so, hopefully, will the impulse to come to others' aid; and what more effective way than to personally provide sustenance?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

7 Reasons You Should Be Gardening

From the entertaining and informative web site The Art of Manliness comes this guest post on "7 Reasons to Become a Gentleman Gardener".
With warm weather upon us and summer just around the corner, it’s time to think about gardening. “Gardening?” you say. Yes, gardening. If the mention of it has you thinking of aged ladies in big hats and frilly gloves gently nipping blooms from their roses, then you have the wrong picture. If you aren’t already gardening, there are plenty of reasons to be doing so. It’s time to lay down your gardening misconceptions and pick up a shovel and a hoe.

Manly Horticulturalists in History

Gardening goes way back and has a good deal of manly history. Thousands and thousands of years ago, the planting of crops led to the creation of what would eventually be modern culture. The first crops were grains, as in wheat, barley, and the like. But don’t think that agriculture began just so that everyone could eat bread. On the contrary, modern theories of early agriculture show that the practice started so that the Neolithic nomads could get their homebrew on. That’s right – early agriculture was driven to produce beer. You can’t get any manlier a start than that.
Fast-forward several thousand years and you find that some of the most celebrated gardeners of our time have been men. Perhaps one of the most prolific and adventurous of them was the third president of our country – Thomas Jefferson. During his time, he was known far and wide for his gardening prowess. He would even compete with his friends to see who could harvest the first peas in the spring (manly competition has obviously changed with the invention of football and video games). He kept journal after journal of his trials and errors in the garden and has passed down a legacy that lives still today. The gardens at his home, Monticello, still function much as they did when he was gardener-in-chief. There’s even a Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.
Aside from Jefferson, we find garden pioneers like Luther Burbank, who developed more than 800 varieties of plants throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s and is the father of the Russet Burbank potato. It was his unorthodox and untidy tinkering that led the horticultural industry for decades and ultimately culminated in Congress passing the 1930 Plant Patent Act. Since he had passed away four years earlier, he was posthumously awarded 16 patents. Burbank’s contemporary and competitor was W. Atlee Burpee, who had the largest seed company in the world when he died in 1915. The company distributed over 1 million catalogs annually and took over 10,000 orders per day. The company is still in operation as Burpee Seeds.
Of course, the one horticultural hero celebrated in both song and story is Johnny Appleseed. No, he’s not just a legend of frontier America; he really did exist. Despite living as a pauper, John Chapman (his real name) became a legend during his own lifetime. He traveled westward ahead of the expansion of the growing United States, introducing apples to much of the frontier of Ohio and Illinois. This itinerant farmer wasn’t planting apples so that people could get all their fruits and veggies, however. Back in those days, apples weren’t for eating – they were for cider; as in hard cider and applejack...
Go visit and read the whole post, which is informative and a good way to rev yourself up to get out and get dirty in the yard.