Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The beginning is the end is the beginning

Lily leaves, 2012, Jeremy Sandrik

Transition is the modus operandi of a dynamic universe.  The snow has melted after what's been a mild winter in U.P. reckoning.  Lilies, daffodils, irises, chives, sage, oregano, and lavender are all putting out their spring vegetation in my little corner of the universe.  The lilacs are budding.  And I, I am writing again.

This particular blog has two primary foci for the immediate term:  the veggie/herb garden and her companion, the DIY garbage greenhouse.  A little under a year ago, I sat down with Ric Loduha and Barbara Hardy at the Sustainable Keweenaw Resource Center, and had a chat about sustainability generally, and about the SKRC's role specifically.  I'd intended on writing up a piece to spotlight their work and how it connects with circles upon circles in the local and global community for a blog that never got off the ground.  In thinking about framing the piece, it occurred to me that my relationship to SKRC and sustainability was that of an admiring spectator.  I felt at the time, and still do, that I wanted to do something first, put my money where my mouth was, so to speak.  One doesn't simply write about sustainability and think he's contributing something worthwhile.  One does sustainability and shares the results.  I wanted a project.

I'd already been gardening my small plot, but was a bit disappointed when roughly 95% of my tomatoes were green, and peppers were few and far between at the end of the 2011 season.  Thus, the desire for a greenhouse to extend the season was born.  The blogosphere is rife with examples of greenhouses made entirely or primarily of repurposed materials.  In subsequent posts here, I'll share some examples that inspired me, and some of the tools and resources I've used to inform my design.  As an educator, I'm convinced that nothing I know or do really matters until I've passed on that knowledge.

As I said, I'll also be sharing about the garden itself:  my timeline for planting (already underway), intended layout, maintenance, harvest, preservation, etc.  Make no mistake; I am not a master gardener, by any stretch of the imagination, and I don't pretend to be so.  There's a lifetime's worth of learning ahead of me, but I can still teach what I've learned along the way.

In addition to the what and how of these two particular projects (the nuts and bolts), I want to dedicate some effort to providing a why, the motivation for a simpler, dirtier, more productive, less consuming lifestyle.  The garden and greenhouse don't exist in a vacuum.  They're situated in a local community, and embedded in a larger national and global political, economic, and ecological superorganism.  Our species, and others, face unprecedented challenges moving forward.  However, our species is uniquely gifted (or cursed) to impact the world well beyond the seventh generation.  I firmly believe the decisions I make in my own backyard not only radiate outward to impact others in my lifetime, but forward to impact others I'll never meet.  In talking about the more big picture stuff, I'd like to share inspiration I've received from people in and around town, as well as writers, thinkers, and doers all over the globe that I feel are working toward common goals.

I'll admit that I'm a bit scattered.  I like to shoot photos, and I make a little money as a chemistry tutor.  Occasionally, I make t-shirts with silly or inspiring phrases.  While I want to keep this blog fairly focused on thoughts and projects closely related to gardening, I'll be using it as a hub for various activities and interests, with spokes radiating outward to other web presences.  As of now, everything's under construction, but keep an eye out.

Also, while much of what I write about is widely applicable, there's going to be some local flavor here.  For instance, when referencing books, I'm going to provide a link to its record at Portage Lake District Library where possible, as opposed to Amazon's sales page.

I'll close this with an anecdote and challenge from a talk I attended this week.  On Monday of this week, Alexa Bradley of On the Commons led a discussion, hosted by Michigan Tech's Students for Environmental Sustainability, focused on the Great Lakes Watershed and the application of commons principles to the sustainable management of this most precious resource in our backyard.  She issued a challenge to all in attendance with the question, "How will you activate a sense of commons?"  I'd extend that question a bit.  How will you activate a sense of communion with and stewardship of this sacred planet, the only one we have?  For my part, the contents of this blog will be an attempt to answer that question for myself, and an invitation to you to explore these ideas together in the comments and elsewhere.  Thanks for reading.