So, after puking out all the moto-ness of it all I figure I should throw a bone or two to the other of my manias. Of late that would be gardening. Not really sure where this started-my best guess would be a book that my parents picked up early in my high school years-a book on Yardening. Prior to this book we had always had a large-ish vegetable garden and I have very fond memories of cleaning beans with my mother and walking those same bean rows chasing out the bunnies. This book changed my perspective-shattered my paradigm for how yards were to be maintained-up to this point it was the Scott’s 4 Step program, lots of mowing, and Weed B Gone. This book taught me about more holistic approaches like aerating, adjusting PH, and treating specific diseases-that there were underlying causes to a poorly performing lawn other than lack of water or fertilizer. This was all pretty exciting (remember I am a self proclaimed dork-what well adjusted 14 year old reads gardening books? Dork is a badge I wear with pride-known to many jocks and cheerleaders I guess)-but then I read the next chapter and my life changed forever. That chapter was Composting.
The sheer beauty of the process-nature’s miracles in my own backyard! I somehow convinced my parents to give me $50 to build a bin to the plan in the book and I set out on the journey of a life time. Those first piles were rank-way to much nitrogen as I piled on green grass clippings, but I learned and by the end of high school I had piles so hot you could literally burn yourself on the steel rod I had in the middle to gauge temperature. Looking back I can’t remember ever doing anything with that compost-I am sure my mother used it somewhere-but for me I was an alchemist-making gold from cast off waste. It is said that John Adams, when asked in the sunset of his life what he was most proud of-he mentioned not his dealings founding the US of A-but simply “his manure pile”. I can understand this, but I digress. Shocking-I know.
I took off several years-almost 10 infact as I attended school and later rented before I could get back into gardening again. Our first house in West Allis, WI had a very small yard with a very large Black Walnut in the middle, thus I learned quickly the power of alleopathy We only lived in that house for 3 years, but planted several beds-I did the sodbusting and my wife created the beauty. At this point I was embarking on my autoracing hobby so I spent most of my time in the garage, but after far too long I had a compost pile again.
When our son was born things changed. Having to put your first born thru surgery at 3 months old really changed things. I sought a transfer out of the city to another division that would allow me more free time, and we began to house hunt for our Someday House. This dream was integral to our relationship-back from our early days in college. It went thru several iterations-but always had enough land to be connected with nature’s rhythm’s, and the older we got the more
Eco it got. Passive Solar. Wind Powered. Probably Straw bale. Possibly septic and well free running composting toilets and cisterns. Regardless-it wasn’t in the suburbs of Milwaukee. So we started looking. And looking. And looking. We had one deal fall thru for all the right reasons, none of which made the pill easier to swallow. The land was too small-only an acre. It was too far from work-and everything else. But it was as close as we could get. After that deal went sour the pickings became more and more grim-and our house had already been sold-we needed to get into a new house very soon. On what was to be one of the final weekends to reasonable find a house without backing out of the sale of our house we had one more acreage to see-literally the last one even remotely in our price range. As we drove up the scenery was very nice-situated on a hill with several out buildings. We toured the location-a retired couple lived there and he had just built new sheds and yes the fully stocked wood shop came with. I was getting really excited. Sure the house needed some work, but we had seen worse. Then we went inside. And it, well it smelled. Of human waste. The septic field was shot to hell. Worse yet the field was down below the house in a wet land-almost gauranteeing issue with the well. I threw in the towel. My wife had convinced me that we also needed to start looking into new construction-so we went there next. Suffice it to say that compared to the septic house it was a promised land. A 1/2 acre lot, and a fully plumbed unfinished basement on top of a 50% bigger floor plan cinched the deal-the only kicker was that it was on the freeway. Not near: ON. Our back fence is literally owned by the DOT.
Sorry for the septic tangent, but it is very necessary to see why an organic vegetarian family ends up living on I-94 with all the noise and pollution-though the pollution is much better than in Milwaukee. But now I found myself in a quandary-our house had literally been a farm field a year or so before. We were urban sprawl. Looking back it was this realization that propelled me into Permaculture-I was committed to healing this land-to reducing the impact that we would have. To be better stewards than even the farmer had been. On my 1/2 acre I will succeed. I think I already have. But my 49 neighbors will take some work.
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