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The things you learn (also shouting)

(1) Compost is far more interesting than I ever thought it would be. That stuff blows my mind. One minute it’s all tea bags and coffee grounds and onion peels, the next week BAM: loam crawling with earthworms. I don’t have to do a damn thing except keep it fed and watered, and it turns garbage into, well, soil. Soil that you can plant stuff in. Soil that grows, you know, other plants. Why is there a market for potting mix?  When I was feeding the compost a couple of days ago, I found a spider web with an eggshell suspended in the middle of it: the spider had hauled the eggshell out of the compost and used its silk to turn it into a fancy little house, which it suspended in the centre of the web.  That is one clever and industrious spider. I tip my bonnet and wish it Godspeed.

(2) Potatoes make more potatoes. This should not be as surprising as it is, but, despite an understanding of the basic principles of biology (chickens make more chickens, flowers make more flowers, ducks make more ducks), it never occurred to me that things I had in my house could make more of those same things.  Here’s the recap: I found a potato that was already all sprouty and tentacley and buried it in the backyard.  A week or two later, a little green thing appeared in roughly the same location.


After that, a shrub appeared!


After some weeks of bushy goodness — they’re a leafy, happy-looking kind of shrub — the plant suddenly died back. As in, keeled over, dried up, lost all its leaves. Turned into sticks. Following some advice from Aunty Internet…

...what are these things in the ground? Some sort of...ground potato?

We took to the dirt and found food!!

Bucket o' spuds!

Do you see what happened there? I buried a potato, then did sweet FA for a few weeks, then went back and found nine potatoes! I am daft with excitement. A 900% return on my initial investment: a heady claim in these recessionary times. I have since been told that one is not supposed to just bury any old plain jane humdrum potato, nosiree.  I think it’s because nearly all food you buy from the shops is proprietary and sends a small radiowave to the Monsanto corporation, informing them that you are attempting to sidestep their potato patents. Anyway, I was using an organic potato from the farmers’ markets, so I assert it’s safe to do so. Don’t sue me if this doesn’t go well.

In the above paragraph, I was being facetious, but seriously: I understand that many vegetables and fruits available via the supermarkets and other major chains have been modified in such a way that you cannot use them to propagate new plants. I see the economic argument but frankly it makes me very angry. This means that the following situation is not uncommon: Big Company sells unreproducing seeds to farmers, who must buy a new batch of seeds every year, instead of propagating from previous years’ stock. They’ve broken a pretty fine natural cycle of produce/reproduce.

(3) So: I can use stuff I normally throw out to make soil in which to grow things. I can use a potato I would have otherwise thrown out to make more potatoes. These two facts, combined with recent plum superfluity I am still enjoying (those succulent babies really last well in the fridge), have lead me down a subversive path.  I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables: it would be seriously awesome if I could procure same by just heading into the yard.  But now I want to know: why isn’t this the case already? Why isn’t growing your own fruit and vegetables more common?

I know the answer, and so do you: people say they’re too busy. And maybe many of them are…but we’re talking about nourishing the body and the mind — yes, again — what could be more important?  Plus, growing food is a total cinch. Seriously, potatoes: bury sprouty potato, wait a bit, dig up unsprouty potatoes. EASY. Strawberry plant in a bucket of soil. EASY. Lemons: plant lemon tree, occasionally water but mostly ignore until you realise it’s covered in fruit. For fuck’s sake, you can’t get rid of mint or fennel once you plant them, and you can eat those all the live long day. Got a garden bed? Got so much as a patch of lawn? Plant a fucking pumpkin: seriously, just gouge out the pulpy stringy seedy bit and bury it. Try to water it occasionally and watch those tendrils go.  I’m not suggesting you take up churning our own butter or grinding your own toothpaste or anything, but we can do better. Folks, we in the Western world do not live a sustainable way of life. We cannot continue to till vast tracts of soil and then ship food the distances we do, just so we can have raspberries in winter (and only $17 each! bliss!). But the good news is: you can opt out. You can step outside of the chain of seed companies-farmers-shipping-shops-consumers.  We get taught this is the norm, as though capsicums sprout overnight, already huge and shiny, from the supermarket shelves, but frankly the current setup is historically bizarre.  The default situation of buying all your stuff, prepackaged and ready to nuke, from a shop is a comparatively new set of affairs.  So do your bit: grow herbs, fight the machine!  Plant a spud, step off the grid. Growing pumpkins = subversion. Also, if you grow your own lemons, you’re entitled to wee on the tree in broad daylight, even if kids can see you. True fact: it’s in the Constitution. (It is not in the Constitution.)

(4) Food and politics are closely linked in my head.They should be in yours, too because, frankly, they’re closely linked in the shops as well.

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