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Horti-Counter Culture: Gardening as Liberation

January 22, 2017

Horti-Counter Culture: Gardening as Liberation

Yesterday I wrote a piece about how being a feminist homemaker is not a contradiction. I marched for women’s rights in my state capital. Tens of thousands joined me there. Those acts both felt good, but today is another day, and I like so many coming down off the high of yesterday’s record-breaking rallies have to ask myself “okay, what’s next?” What’s next for me, is gardening.

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Beautiful fall day in the yard

Last summer my husband and I bought a new house, and the primary feature that drew us to it was the giant (by urban standards), south-facing backyard. We joked it would make an excellent croquet field. We moved halfway through the summer, and we didn’t do anything with the yard except sit outside and enjoy it. That in and of itself was a very worthy activity, one that kept me sane through my first summer of motherhood, and soothed my son noticeably each day.

As we cycle into a new year, the sheer potential of the yard practically screams at me all day, even in its current dormant state. My husband and I agreed some time ago to get four laying hens, the maximum number allowed by our city. Our little flock with arrive this spring. In addition to the chickens we are planting a vegetable garden, raspberry bushes, a small plot of rye, and trying out the barrel method of growing a large amount of potatoes in a small space. That’s year one. I am trying to keep this year’s projects small enough that I can manage them and a toddler. In the future I would like to cultivate native grapes, mushrooms, dwarf apple trees, bees, and much more. There are people all over the world who grow the majority of their food on less space than we have available to us. One of my new favorite winter pastimes is watching tours of people’s urban homesteads on YouTube. There are so many reasons I dream of eventually providing our family with a majority of food year round from our own property and labor, with plenty to share.

  1. I want my son to grow up with a natural sense of the rhythm of the seasons, and to understand where our food comes from. I was a very picky eater as a kid, and I want to do whatever I can, within reason, to avoid that with the tiny guy. He is a great eater right now, but I have no delusions that this will continue uninterrupted all the way through the toddler years and childhood. My hope is, as “gangster gardener” Ron Finley says “if kids grow kale, kids eat kale.” He will be able to help a little more each year as both he and the garden grow.
  2. I want to continue to dig into my identity and vocation as a homemaker. To me the obvious next step beyond raising my son, cooking our meals, and baking our bread, is growing and preserving our food.
  3. Every action  I take outside the capitalist system is one that helps me breathe a little easier. I want to grow our food and save our seeds each year. I want to participate in the barter economy with my friends and neighbors. My labor together with my land can create so much value for our family without ever cashing a paycheck.

I couldn’t write this post without a special shout out to my dear friend Miss Weinerz– not only does she make the best donuts in the land, but she inspires me and countless others to take positive action in our food systems.  If you’re in the Chittenden County area of Vermont, get yourself one of her donuts stat. Radish and radical come from the same Latin word for root. Planning my garden today is my radical action, what’s yours?


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