So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

07 March, 2007

Politics of Gardening

This is not really about things like buying local produce or farming organic or any of that stuff, except that it is, in an oblique kind of way.

I'm talking politics sort of in the space between "the art and science of governing" and "the often conflicting interrelationships between people" space. And dealing with my vegetables. There's snow on the ground here, but establishing a good society requires a certain amount of planning.

So I'm sitting here with my copy of Carrots Love Tomatoes and looking at the intricacies of things.

And among other things, I'm remembering the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. The corn provides a trellis for the beans; the beans fix nitrogen for the corn, a heavy feeder; the squash deters animals and shades the soil to keep weeds down; the three plants together are, for humans, suppliers of a broad selection of necessary nutrients. I find something beautiful in this: the interrelationship between things, and the way people fit in to that relationship. There's a lot to be said for paying attention to these things, for learning what gets along and what doesn't, for finding the synergies, or the places that things don't work smoothly. People are like that too -- adding to the health of the people around us, or creating those intricate synergies of meshed needs, or thriving in environments that aren't pleasant for other people, or improving one thing and retarding another, or attracting certain things or repelling other things.

And I look at what I'm considering planting, and decide that I'll do two plots -- divided largely by 'things that get along well with corn' and 'things that get along well with tomatoes', because corn and tomatoes share parasites. The things I was considering divide up well that way, leaving two functional communities that can be rendered into different conditions -- some because of synergies, some because of dislikes, the aromatic herbs away from the cucumbers, these plants can get along in either community so I can organise it by space or some other thought. And I see that something I wasn't considering goes along well with tomatoes, and neither my husband or I is likely to eat it, but our loves are; we can look at the community of the garden and see what grows well, and we are not alone, isolate: other people will eat the asparagus.

I plot what I intend to try against what will work well together, and against my own uncertainty about my own capacities and capabilities; I don't know when depression will eat my brain or when my hip will go so I need my cane for a week and a half. I have ideas about minimizing labour, I plan raised bed work thanks to Eyebrows McGee Plays in Peoria's discussion of her garden last year, I look at the synergies in part because I know I am limited and want to take advantage of the natural flows of the world to grow and be healthy in proper interaction so that my limitations are not going to be overwhelming. There is no need to fight things into segregated order here, because they work well in combination.

There's politics, here, in knowing which party the onions fall into. And in knowing who will eat the asparagus. And in knowing what to plant to draw earthworms to the compost pile. And in knowing that apples tend not to self-pollinate all that well. It's all about navigating relationship and good governance: the shape of the needs of the community and what that demands.

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