Monday, September 24, 2012


BIRDLAND IS GREENING UP. The drought is not over, we're still several inches down. We lost trees and perennials to the scorching heat. My store of carefully picked walnuts is almost gone, and the tree in my front yard is barren this year. I will have to wait until next fall to sit cracking black walnuts again for scones and muffins and pesto. But in many important ways my emotional drought is over. 

 I think those 100+ degree days addled my brain. I remember my ridiculously petulant refrain, whining about the heat, the lack of green, my lack of energy, death all around. Last week I found myself in my yard paring apples and it suddenly struck me: I feel good! The modest rains brought us a sweet coolness and saved some of the plants. My tomatoes are in full bloom and I finally harvested a few of the little grape tomatoes. Even with irrigation, they didn't seem to pollinate in the high heat. Now they are trying to catch up. My cucumber vines, which in past years have filled my big crockery bowl almost endlessly until frost, have given me three squalid cukes, with a bitter taste. Though I watered, I think the ground was so dry at such depths that the poor, baked roots might have been able to grab only a few molecules of water as it ran down to the aquifer deep below. I found that the plants in my yard that did the best were in containers. At the peak of the drought I wondered if we would all have to learn to live in the desert. I envisioned container gardens in my yard, dust blowing between them. I hear it was better in town, and maybe in town the earth is more sheltered from the sun by buildings and trees. Here I found that the only green in my yard was around trees and bushes. At any rate, I'll take what I can get, and after this summer, a few cherry tomatoes to pop into my mouth seems like heaven.

With the coolness and new semester I have newly dedicated myself to bike riding. I found a great, old bike at our thrift store in town, the Willow Tree Mission. It is a 70's era 3 speed with a wide seat for my wide fanny. It was a wreck for just $10. I took it over to Baker's Bikes in Urbana and they fixed it right up for me with new tires, new cables and all for under $50. It is certainly not fancy, but just perfect for me. 

 Last weekend I went to a family birthday party. Ellis needed the car, so we threw the bike in the back and my youngest and I parted ways in town. I rode from my office on campus to the party in far eastern Urbana. I figure I rode about 5 miles. On campus I used the bike path, but when those ran out I got to zig-zag through the neighborhoods on roads I never drive on. What a delight to see! People are so creative with their landscaping. I saw some wonderful front yard vegetable patches, one with rows of cabbages and peppers in front of a modest ranch house, another with a colorful fence of painted one-by-ones arranged in diamond shapes, like a row of God's eyes protecting the tomatoes. I saw a few signs of chicken-keeping too! Urbana has a reasonable policy about poultry, and I delight in seeing “farm animals” in town. We need more reminders of our connection to animals. Keeping them out of sight does nothing to encourage compassion and humanity in our relationships to animals we use for food and clothing. Seeing them reminds us of our connection.

Front yard vegetable gardening seems so wise. You get the best of all possible worlds. The work in the garden gives you fresh air and exercise. You're in the front yard, so you can visit with neighbors. You get double savings of petroleum products and carbon emissions: first by not mowing your yard, second by not paying to have the food trucked from halfway across the country or even the globe. Oh, and of course the savings on groceries, and knowing you have fresh, good food. And with a little luck, and a little more rain, the harvest might be enough to share. If we have another year like this one, front yard container gardens might be the way to go.

Garden in Beauty;
Bike in Peace;
Blessed Be.

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