Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Defiant Gardens

When we (read Yvette) originally planned the garden we were thinking of it a great way to save water, enhance the neighborhood, know our food and it's contents, and reduce our involvement in the corporate food chain. I think I can safely say that we've been successful on all points and more become apparent every day. The one thing we tacitly knew was that in one way or another there was a sense of defiance involved. From snubbing the big-box retailers to breaking from the preconception of the suburban front yard.

As we've all seen over the last 7 years 1 month and 28 days, things don't look very good around here. Tainted meat, vanishing fish stocks, genetically modified everything, a divisive social and political climate, Hummers, etc. You get the point. It is with this background noise that we all live and breathe. It is with this background in a more extreme form that incredible human moments can occur. And more specifically, so can gardens. 

I happened across the internet extension of a book entitled Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime by Kenneth Helphand. Mr. Helphand describes Defiant Gardens as those created in difficult times and possess the ability to adapt to those circumstances. He continues to state, "...they can also be viewed from other dimensions as sites of assertion and affirmation." I couldn't agree more. The focus of the book are gardens related to wars in the first half of the twentieth century. The web site acts as a continuation by incorporating gardens from Vietnam, prisons, Afganistan, and Iraq. Be sure to look at the letters from G.I.s and the articles about the Japanese-American internment camps.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hayground Organic Gardening

Meet Jimmy Williams, owner of Hayground Organic Gardening (he's the one with the blue t-shirt in the photo)! I have been buying seedlings from him this year. He has an outpost at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Third and Arizona. He is an organic farmer, who, with his family, grows their infamous veggies and herbs at their Hollywood Hills Bungalow. They have all sorts of heirloom varieties. Their Goose Creek Tomato is particularly interesting and has an amazing history! These plants have been passed down for generations since Jimmy’s great grandmother came from the Caribbean as a slave, she smuggled the seeds in her pocket and planted them in Goosecreek, South Carolina. I will be planting one in the next few weeks!

XXO Yvette

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Radical Simplicity

Our friend Jim Merkel spent the night last week after being stranded at the airport, on his way home from two months of sailing the length of Baja, Mexico. Jim was a panel speaker at the Do It Now: Live Green show I co-curated at Otis College Of Art And Design last year. He is an incredible, gentle, warm, compassionate guy, and his book, Radical Simplicity is an absolute landmark. He lives in a cabin on 10 acres of forest in Vermont, grows his own food, and is a brilliant recovering engineer. Here's the skinny on Jim:

"Originally a military engineer and arms trader, Jim Merkel changed his life at the time of the Exxon Valdez disaster, quitting his job and devoting himself to environmental service and world peace. He downsized his life and 14 years later continues to volunteer and live on $5,000 a year.

Jim founded the Alternative Transportation Task Force in San Luis Obispo, California, and held an elected Sierra Club position while honing urban simple living skills. He lobbied in Washington for wilderness, peace, and Native American rights. In 1994 he received a fellowship to research sustainability in Kerala, India, and walked in the Himalayas. The following year he founded the Global Living Project (GLP) and initiated the GLP Summer Institute to discover what a “fair share" of Earth each individual might be entitled to. With plenty of help from friends and his partner, Rowan Sherwood, a permaculture home and demonstration site were designed and built. He instigated a Cycling for a Sustainable Future speaking tour that has logged over 12,000 miles and delivered hundreds workshops on sustainable living.

At the top of Jim’s cycling career, he earned three silver medals in the Empire State Games and raced in the Nationals. Cycling continues to be his primary transportation both around town and for adventures -- to Mexico, across Canada twice, and through Europe and India. His passions include wild edible plants, wilderness, and making homestead improvements from articles found at the dump."

His book is essential reading for anyone interested in living equitably in the world and getting the most joy for the buck. It'll make you want to sell all your stuff, in a good way.