Step Outside

HERD ABOUT IT?
by Ana Grarian

Why are we so afraid to do without?

I have a relative who wonders if we (our generation) would be capable of doing what our parents, “the greatest generation” did. He seems to think no. I think yes. But often in discussion with my cousins they argue that we can’t do the sustainable thing because it’s too hard. Or at least that’s how I interpret their remarks.
Why not?
We are lucky enough to have come from rural stock and experienced how to do things without all the gadgets and goodies. We know how to cook from scratch and grow a garden, and how to make things. We have at least seen and heard about canned foods even if we haven’t done much of it ourselves. We didn’t grow up running to the supermarket every day or eating out. We know how to enjoy life without electricity.
Yes, there would be a learning curve.
Like my garden for instance. Having just arrived on this property in January, I’m in an ongoing learning curve as to where there is enough sun to grow vegetables. My daughter may need to learn to live with food plants in the flower garden and I’m trying to note which ones will be most attractive or least intrusive, thus leaving space for more of the leggy things in the small veggie garden I have now.
Now that I see what can grow in my little side plot, I’ll invest in the structures to make a vertical garden, maximizing the space and taking advantage of the warmth and reflective light of the stucco wall. I may build a small window greenhouse off the kitchen for starting plants in the spring. Gradually I have trimmed away branches in the back yard allowing enough sun to filter through while keeping the house protected from the strong afternoon sun.
My other daughter is learning more about raising poultry on her small woods farm and expanding beyond chickens. We are both studying how to forage. I’m looking at unused urban fruit trees and she’s investigating wild edibles. Lucky girl she has morels growing on her farm as well as an edible puff ball which becomes huge like a large baguette.
What I thought was one very vigorous cucumber planet, I am now convinced is a volunteer pumpkin from last years jack-o-lantern. Greens for salads are expanding beyond basic spring mix to include carrot tops and dandelion greens. My baby broccoli spears are so mild and luscious, can the leaves be used? Will the neighbor give me a sprig of rhubarb to transplant?
My granddaughter may think I’m mean when I tell her to turn the TV off – but there’s a playground down the street and a neighborhood safe enough to bike and skateboard and roller skate. Sitting on our porch and conversing not only means we are saving kilowatts, we are also getting to know our neighbors as we greet and are greeted by the dog walkers.
The boys who found our run-away rabbit now stop by to visit. A rabbit on the porch has encouraged many a passer by to stop and engage in conversation.
This is how neighborhoods are made strong, by being out in them. It doesn’t require a huge effort. just sitting on our porch has made us a known amongst our neighbors for several blocks around. And we have become acquainted with them. A young man stopped to give me advice on how the trash service worked because he has seen me trying to haul away the branches I’ve cut down.
This young man doesn’t always clean our sidewalks, but during a blizzard he ran his snow-blower in one path around two blocks to give everyone a head start before he headed off to work in the wee hours of the morning.
We can do it. We just have to recognize that what we have been missing, can be restored starting with a few simple steps. Turn off the TV and go outside.