I ran across this question in a forum I am a part of for the OSU Master Gardener program. This question took me back to when I graduated from high school, almost half a century ago.
Back then I had a girlfriend and a ’59 Chevrolet with an AM radio. The girlfriend lived with her family on one acre of land in a small town just north of San Francisco. They weren’t poor, but they certainly weren’t rich. They had a vegetable garden, fruit trees, a berry patch and chickens and bought their meat half a steer at a time from one of the local farmers. They were not “back to the landers”, or “Permaculture” people, just a working class family trying to get by. I got my first taste of real apple cider, grape juice, and raspberry jam with that girlfriend. (I also learned how to slaughter chickens, play bad mitten and French kiss, but that’s another story.)
My girlfriend’s father, Robby, showed me how to test for the PH in the soil by putting some dirt in my mouth and tasting the sweetness or sourness of it. He showed me how to tell if the garden was ready for tilling by squeezing some dirt in my hand and dropping it on the ground. He was doing companion planting, organic gardening and raised beds long before I knew that it was anything special. It just was how he got the most out of the area available.
So here we are today and I see ‘59 Chevys at hot rod shows. AM radio is where talk shows and sports reside. People take classes in “Permaculture” and decide whether to have a vegetable garden by looking for a program to plug into their computers that will make the decision for them.
What happened? When did we get so far away from the land that we have to take classes in gardening, complete with power point presentations? The closest most of us get to where our food comes from is the nearby supermarket, or, if we are really daring, the local farmers market. And even then we get all fussy when we find a worm in an apple; Robby would have just dug it out with his penknife and eaten the apple.
It’s time to take the ear phones out of our ears, turn off the cell phones and computers, and get out of the classrooms and living rooms. Time to grab a shovel, dig up some dirt and get to work growing our own food. Sure we will make mistakes, some of our crops may die, and we will get some blisters on our hands (and yes we will eat some wormy apples.)
I spent an hour this afternoon turning the soil over in the grape plot here at Rose Villa. Tossed some buckwheat seeds around and stirred them into the newly turned soil with a hoe. Was I doing it right, according to what I’d learned in Master Gardener class? Maybe yes, maybe no. But as I was finishing up I realized I had done just what Robby had done in his grapes those many years ago, except he used mustard and I used buckwheat.
Economically beneficial? I really don’t care.