Self-tutoring: the tutor delves into the philosophy behind urban gardening.
In the late ’80s I talked to a farmer, and survivalist, who lived way up north. He didn’t have a garden. His wife did; he snickered at its mention.
“You’re a survivalist…why don’t you believe in gardening?” he was sometimes asked.
“It’s much cheaper to buy produce at the grocery store,” he would smile. “If you think of the money you could earn for the time spent tending a garden, you come out way behind, gardening.”
He didn’t talk much, that man, and he was almost always right when he did. Back then, he could make $20/hour for working…why would he garden?
My father had a garden in the 80s in a region where agriculture is favourable. Yet, our home sat on a sand hill; our soil wasn’t so good as that of our neighbours across the street, who lived on the flat.
I came to learn that my father loved gardening. Evenings from late spring to early fall, he’d spend out in the back yard. Sometimes he tended the garden, while other times he’d stand there, smoking a cigarette, surveying it. He was proud of the garden. No-one else could see it; our garden lay behind a bluff that backed onto woods. He took personal pride in it, regardless.
About a third of his time out there, he spent planning what he’d do next year. If I went out to talk to him, he’d discuss the crop, but soon begin about how the soil was better than last year, and what he’d yet do to improve it. We were surrounded by deciduous trees whose leaves he collected each autumn, then tilled into the garden. He loved talking about compost.
During our three years there, he improved the soil a great deal, from almost pure sand to darker stuff more like loam. However, he was a military man; we had to move. All that progress was lost to him when we moved away to live on a base.
My father had known, when we arrived there, that we were destined only to move away in a few years. Yet, his compass, first to last, was improving the soil. We ate delicious produce from the garden – I still remember the first tomato we picked from it and how good it tasted. However, he didn’t mainly talk about that. Rather, he talked about how good the soil would be next spring or how much it could improve after ten years of composting.
My only conclusion is that Dad’s point to gardening was to improve the soil. Whatever produce we ate from it – and we certainly did – was a bonus.
Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.