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Fruiting Vine Moon

As I inspect my trees and plants, heavy and bowed with veggies, fruit, and flower, I am celebrating abundance. There is no scarcity here. Even the moon is at its peak over these two days, adding to the sense of fullness. I am amazed that so many have turned to vegetable gardening, in the midst of COVID-19. It was only when a neighbour, who had just put in a new garden, could not access seeds, that I realized the shortage of seeds. In my sustainability classes, we always talk about the WWII Victory gardens. A few still remember them as a child…the effort to become more self-reliant to enable the nation to channel its collective resources into the war effort. But little did I think that this would be taken up again by the general population in my lifetime! It is very reassuring that these “old skills” are still alive and people turn to them in uncertain times. It is also the "germination" of something much more important!

Let’s be honest though! Emma Beddington in The Guardian (Aug 30, 2020) talks about the failures in her new garden…many high hopes planted with each seed, seedling, and sapling plummeted alongside the shrivelling, infestations, and disease. So, despite the pride in my gardening, I think gardeners need to come clean, for those just starting out.

No, not everything grows well every year. Gardens go on a boom and bust cycle – bumper crops one year and sometimes little the next. Hence, the need to preserve bumper crops to make it over a span of two years. For me, this year’s successes are 10 pounds of garlic, at least 30 pounds of onions, and many pounds of apples, enough for most of the year. The cabbages, broccolis, cauliflowers, and countless greens have already provided four months of eating with lots more to come. The cucumbers, peas, fingerling potatoes and various berries are passable, although brief for about a month of eating. But the carrot fly decimated my carrots several times over and the weather left my normally 12-foot corn barely 3 feet.

The jury is still out on the final tallies for beans, tomatoes, squash and peppers. I need enough to fill jars with dried beans for a few soups and baked beans, and enough for a year’s worth of salsa. Eggplant is probably a wash out. Honestly, it takes three to four years for a garden to get established, especially building up the soil, the core component. I have had numerous gardens in three different ecosystems, needing three years to experience the challenges and work out non-invasive responses. And let’s be fair, there is no end to learning about everything from composting and healthy soil to when certain pests lay their eggs to pruning to avoid powdery mildew and promote maximum fruitfulness. Then there is our beloved dog tramping down the middle of the raspberry patch literally munching on ‘low hanging fruit’ there and around the garden. HE will never go hungry. Some days you just want to throw in the towel…er, trowel!

My awe and respect for all my grandparents and ancestors has skyrocketed as I realize that they purchased very little, only honey from local beekeepers, salt, sugar and apples from regional providers, and imported tea and coffee. They did EVERYTHING else, from all dairy, meat, grain, egg, fruit and vegetable production. Clearly, I have been slacking! To augment, they fished, hunted, picked mushrooms, berries, and some medicinal plants, like chamomile. Even I remember making sauerkraut, sausage, jams and jellies from picked berries, and freezing or pickling a range of vegetables, most of which I continued with my children. And I still resist convenience,

doing things the long way, to remind myself. The many stories of my aunties and uncles attest to the backbreaking labour of my grandparents as well as some devastating losses. In earlier generations, looming cloth and knitting clothing would also have been part of the daily round. My elders tell me that they knew every person in their large families was vital to the annual success of feeding, clothing, washing, housing and warming themselves. Everyone had a purpose. And in times of devastation, their large extended family and the local community were there for each other. So, the lessons and memories of self-reliance are still in living memory. I have worked hard to record all this for our descendants, who will absolutely need this knowledge once again.

To be honest, both my grandmothers wanted an easier life for their descendants and saw education as the pathway. But this has been a slippery slope in terms of knowledge loss and a rise in dependence on global systems and massive transport for our necessities. It is money that now stands between us and our basic necessities, not a significant issue in nonmonetized economies. It is the job/employment now that is critical and trying to keep work

commitments from swallowing the best parts of our energy and creativity. We put so much effort into landscaping for beauty, status, hosting, and "keeping up" with the impossibly green, weed-free lawn monoculture and consuming to duplicate our house amenities in outdoor spaces. But, when I realistically look at my alternative garden, we are not going to be feeding ourselves year-round anytime soon. It would take most of my backyard and per