I probably mentioned this already but the town historian tells us that years ago before the property we’re living at became neglected, this house had the best vegetable garden around for miles. She pointed out to this overgrown field near the pond as the former site. It’s so hard to believe looking at it now. When we moved in it was nothing but goldenrod and stupid scrubby bushes & prickers. Now that it’s spring and the field is renewing I’m finding few signs of what it formerly was.I’ll find a clump of daffodils or lillies coming up among dried stalks left behind by the goldenrod.
Monday I stumbled upon a beautiful row of rhubarb. A perfect row, a long ago gardener as it’s architect.
I started harvesting what was ready. I filled a clothes basket full.
Now I’m at the full on chopping stage, freezing and preserving most of it but looking forward to strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert tonight and apple-rhubarb muffins for the boys’ school snacks. My grandmother used to make rhubarb syrup that I loved. I’ll can some of that.
There’s plenty to share,too.
My multi-tasking media today: ::watching::The Family. I started watching a few days ago, then found out yesterday it’s been cancelled but I’m in too deep now. Damn, Andrew McCarthy is great-creepy in this. ::podcast::Season 2 of Serial. The general reaction from most people has been “meh. It’s not as good as season 1” but I’m into it so far. ::music:: Painted Shut, Hop Along
How cool is this? A family bought a home with a rundown pool and converted it into THIS:
Garden Pool started as one family’s blog to document converting an old backyard swimming pool in to a closed-loop food-producing urban greenhouse and has evolved in to a non-profit organization.
The GP (short for Garden Pool) was a one of a kind creation invented by Dennis McClung in October of 2009. It is truly a miniature self-sufficient ecosystem. Rather than keeping our creation to ourselves, we have decided to share it with others. Garden Pools are being built all over the world offering an easy and sustainable solution to current food production challenges.
I’m not sure where The Empress of Dirt has been hiding all my blogging life but now that’s I’ve found her,I’m doing the blogger thing and making sure you all know about her ,too.
If you’re trying to grow your own chow on a budget, this is how you do it. This is very much the same way I garden . Even given the extra money in my budget, I don’t think I’d change a thing. Besides, those professional landscaped gardens are boring and have no personality.
I have a very small space to garden in , so I need to grow up as much as possible.
I had a terrible gardening season this year. I dealt with a stubborn , jerky woodchuck and masses of greedy slugs. We live on a creek bank, perfect breeding ground for tons of slugs. There was no method of slug control that was 100% effective, my guess is because there were just so many of them ,but everything that I grew vertically or in containers was spared somewhat. They at least had a fighting chance.
I have been saving the crib we used for the last 3 kidlets , NOT for another baby (SO done with that) ,but to upcycle into a bench . It’s hard to get rid of cribs, even on Freecycle or Craigslist. Because so many have been recalled, a lot of people don’t want to take a chance on secondhand cribs, even if they’re free. This makes them great for upcycling projects. Since I didn’t need the metal springs for my bench project (which I have not made yet. I will, I will….) , I decided to use them as a trellis.
Here’s how it looked when I first “planted” it in the ground:
All I did to set it up was to dig a little trench, set one end in to it, and fill with dirt. Then , I planted my cukes at the base.
The plants have since overgrown the top but it’s nearing the end of our gardening season and the trellis has held up marvelously.
I foresee a day of pickle making in our near future.
I just discovered a great Pinterest board this morning of other vertical gardening ideas, mostly things that can be easily build with upcycled things one might find easily in curbside free piles, Freecycle,craigslist, or salvage shops.
After publishing my last post about obstacles to gardening when you’re poor, I realized there were maybe one or two points I missed…but then I read my emails and discovered there was more than just one or two things I neglected to mention! Thank you everyone who shared their individual experiences and gave feedback.
More Obstacles To Growing Your Own Food
I’m feeling like a lot of these points are reasons all people,regardless of socio-economic status might not garden.
I can’t believe I missed this one. I lived in a house without running water for awhile. Rain collection barrels helped but it was a pain in the ass.
In drought-afflicted areas, there are tight water restrictions. People who have to pay for water aren’t able to justify using large amounts every day . Rain collecting doesn’t work where it doesn’t rain and some states now prohibit rain collection now.
Sometimes there is no other way to combat animals that eat your garden other than building a fence. Building a deer proof fence…it’s not cheap. If you love in an urban setting, shooting an animal probably isn’t legal and catching them in a humane trap doesn’t do much good if you have no way to transport it outside of the area.
One reader told me, “We managed to grow quite a bit but I ended up giving a lot of it away which seems to defeat the point.I filled my tiny freezer. I didn’t have money to buy a canner, which was too bad since I have enough mason jars to get me through doomsday ,if I could have just filled them with food! I don’t know how to can anyway….”
I can completely understand this. We scored an upright freezer at a yard sale years ago for only $30 and my Faux-MIL gave me a pressure cooker one Christmas. Both are really helpful when you do manage to grow any food in quantity.
“Gardening is fucking HARD!”
Thanks to Melissa for lending me that quoted headline right there. Add to this Shantay’s “Mother Nature sucks sometimes.”
Many readers shared their experience of spending money they did not have because they felt they needed to provide for themselves only to battle with surprise snow storms, bugs,hail,kids,animals,poor soil,plant disease,mildew,drought,flooding…. you know…pretty much every bad thing that can happen when you garden.
Once people have a horrible,no good,very bad experience with gardening, they aren’t likely to venture back into it,especially when they didn’t get a return on their investment the first time.
You can buy seeds with EBT? Who knew!?
It turns out a lot of people on food stamps didn’t even know that. Some people who did know that and had tried to buy seeds using their EBT said that they found limited gardening places that would take EBT and they weren’t interested in GMO seeds at the grocery store. Seed saving from store bought produce only works if you’re absolutely certain of the seed heritage .Most are hybrid and aren’t going to grow right (some won’t produce anything at all).
This part of the program is fairly new ,so perhaps the USDA has more plans to expand upon it .Maybe by offering gardening classes for SNAP & low income people?
Community Garden Plots Cost Money
True story. So do memberships to CSAs…although in my area, there is one CSA that has a sliding fee scale based on income and has a few shares reserved for SNAP recipients.
I received an awesome email from a reader who cannot grow her own food because of several of the original points I mentioned. Her email was long but there was one point I wanted to share:
“Even when I say to someone all the reasons I can’t garden, they throw WHERE THERE’S A WILL,THERE’S A WAY at me. I have will! I WANT to grow my own food! Hand to God cannot do it right now. Otherwise I would! I’ve ALWAYS had a garden and I’m good at it. My will & knowledge isn’t the problem here and it just makes me feel like a giant piece of dog shit when someone lays the guilt trip on me that I’m not doing enough to help feed myself because I don’t have enough will. “
Yeah. The “Where there’s a will,there’s a way” thing is getting old for me,too.
It seems pretty simple. Having a hard time eating? “Grow your own food!”, they say. “They” are usually well meaning and coming from a place of only good intentions, otherwise I’d be whipping out my, “Honey, you better check your privilege!” speech. Which I guess is what I’m doing right now but I want to try to do it gently, in more of a pointing things out kind of way and not the tongue lashing kind of way. People living below the poverty line often feel that the ,”YES, you CAN grow your own food!” sentiment is just another way some people make poor people feel bad about being poor and blame them for not doing more to help themselves.
Growing your own food is undeniably one of the best ways to get fresh, nutritious food economically , and bonus points- ethically & eco-friendly. I will always advocate for self-sufficiency in food when possible. But when someone suggests that a person struggling with food security just simply grow their own food, they’re making the following assumptions:
The person has access to land,space , and the soil it takes to grow food
They are able bodied.
They have time to devote to a garden.
They have a budget to acquire seeds & supplies for starting a garden.
They know how to do it.
Digging deeper (that pun was not intended but it does seem like I didn’t try to hard to avoid it), I want to talk about each assumption separately.
Land & Space To Grow Food
Americans who live in urban areas are more likely to live in poverty than those who don’t live in the city.217 million people receiving food stamps live in urban areas compared to about 62 million in rural areas. Typically, the economically disadvantaged neighborhoods are not the greenest places on earth, which contributes to the food desert clime. In urban areas, the best places for growing food would be balconies,window boxes, fire escapes and rooftops. Not everyone has access to those spaces. If they do have an area they can claim as their own, they may have to consider getting permission from the building owner (who unfortunately, more often than not, is going to give the idea a thumbs down) . Is their hard work only going to be vandalized or destroyed? Is it practical?
I’m an avid gardener but I haven’t always been able to garden, even in rural small town America. I once lived in an apartment building that had a beautiful yard that I saw as potential edible gardens. The owners did not and tenants were only permitted to have small flower pots on the outside stoop. In the house we rent now, our Grey Gardens is A LOT of work for low yield. I’m mainly able to grow all herbs,greens and a few veggies but it’s not nearly enough to put a dent in the food needs of my 7 person family.
Community gardens and CSA co-ops are an excellent solution to this problem but as Novella Carpenter’s experience with her Ghost town Farm ,and other city farmers like the people of LA who founded The Garden can tell us, space in the city is coveted and premium. Meaning, to create sustainable food sources in food deserts, communities need to raise money to own a space to call their own or a benevolent property owner will have to see a reason to give a gift of land to the community.
There’s a strong connection between being a disabled American and being impoverished. Roughly 30% of all disabled people fall below the poverty line. Disabilities is a broad term but a fair amount are physical and even disabilities not considered a physical disability could inhibit someone’s ability to garden.
Under this category, I would also include elderly people…and sadly, the statistics for the number of elderly living in poverty isn’t so great these days.
It isn’t impossible to garden with disabilities or once you reach old age but there are limitations and accessibility issues. Raised garden beds that are wheelchair accessible are a fantastic solution. Community organizations could help fill the need by contributing supplies and assisting with labor.
A common misconception is that poor people don’t work, especially people who receive assistance like SNAP. For example,40% of food stamp recipients are employed full time (and the rest are laregely made up of elderly,disabled, and children) .This isn’t a reflection of all people in poverty, since many do not seek assistance or make just barely over the qualifying limit but still live below the line. Some work part time and are full time students.It isn’t uncommon for a family living below the poverty line to be a two income household or a single parent household working 2 jobs. Underemployment is just as dangerous a place as being unemployed entirely. Time and energy are already being spent on working and/or raising a family in many cases.Gardening? “Ain’t nobody got time for that”.
There’s a popular homesteading page on Facebook that promotes growing your own food as a way to solve your economic hardships. After several posts with the “Poor people should just grow their own food!”, I felt the need to raise some questions, starting with ,”How?”. The response was a very simplistic: People who get food stamps can use their EBT to buy seeds!
Oh. Problem solved!
Except… if a person on food stamps is buying enough seeds to actually provide fully for their family, that’s a huge dent in their food stamp allowance. Many people are not going to be able to put off food they can eat now for seeds. Many food budget decisions are short term when you’re poor because that’s the way it has to be. The creation of more seed banks and seed exchanges would benefit poor gardeners a lot more than their EBT card.
You can’t buy topsoil or potting soil with food stamps. You can’t buy garden tools with food stamps.
If the person has to resort to indoor gardening, EBT isn’t going to buy grow lights. Planting containers… nope, not those either.
It’s fantastic that the USDA allows people to use their EBT to buy seeds but to help people be self-sufficient food providers, there has to be incentives and programs that offset start-up costs for gardening. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. But you still have to give him a fishing pole.
Some people don’t know the first thing about growing food. That’s not just a poor people thing. There’s a gap in our American modern culture that has a huge disconnect with where our food comes from ,and with nature in general. The bright spot in this deficit is the huge upswing of food education and ag-curriculum programs in schools. My children’s schools all have some type of food education and gardening program. These programs need to be in every school, not just for the gardening knowledge but for the nutrition education. It takes work,parental involvement and community support but it can happen.
The nice benefit that comes from community gardens is that the organizers pass on their knowledge to any adult interested and willing to learn and do the work. Peer education is an incredible free learning tool.
I’m not trying to rain on everyone’s real food parade here by pointing these things out. I’m just trying to raise awareness to the complexities of growing food. It isn’t as simple as just doing it. If a person CAN do it, then I am their loudest cheerleader. I’m just saying, not everyone can, so let’s just stop with the sentiment that says they can. If they really can and want to, everything should be done to cheer them on. If they can’t, so be it. Don’t keep preaching. It doesn’t help. Grow some extra food in your garden and donate it directly to a family or a local food pantry . That would be an excellent way to help.
Communities everywhere should facilitate and encourage gardening and community supported agriculture to solve their local hunger and food security problem. I have asserted time and time again that we already CAN feed every single human being with the food that is wasted in the U.S. . Politics prevents this from happening. With that in mind , it might seem like gardening is a moot point. If there’s already enough food ,why not just focus on managing that correctly and putting it in the people’s mouths? Why garden at all? The great thing that community and home gardens would accomplish is an end to dependency on corporations that grow and distribute the not-so-great food that’s in our system. Bringing food back into local communities and putting the power into people’s hands is best for everyone but everyone needs to work to make this happen. Poverty and food insecurity isn’t going to be eradicated by putting all the responsibility on the people in poverty. Becoming self-sufficient is a huge privilege and the obstacles to achieving it need to be kicked aside by those who already have the possibility of that privilege .