Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some Gardening Realities

Many Americans put out a lot of brave talk about gardening, but the reality is, most Americans simply don’t do physical labor. Physical labor is the lowest-status work there is. Sweating out there like some kind of draft animal, get real! Compared to sturdy peasant people from much of the world, Americans are lazy and soft. But this will all change soon enough, and many Americans will be pleased with their new-found ability to cope with the challenges they are presented with. (Our upcoming new reality, though challenging in many respects, has the potential to be exciting, creative, and deeply fulfilling. Our present era of terminal glut will be seen, in retrospect, as a frivolous time which left most of us paralyzed -- much as a glutton has to sleep off a heavy meal.)

Pretty much everything in present-day American culture depends on unlimited, cheap energy. This is particularly true with agriculture, which depends not only on fuel to power the machinery, but fertilizer made from fossil fuels. American culture has given no evidence of being able to act intelligently; however, when peak oil really hits (which it hasn’t yet), gasoline and diesel fuel will have to be strictly allocated. The military and law enforcement will no doubt seize their share first. Then, transportation and industrial agriculture will have to slug it out. The rabble (that’s you and me) will get what’s left.

The point is, industrial agriculture will have much less fossil fuel to play with. Biofuels are a scam. So what to do?

If they were able to act intelligently (which they aren’t), they could start by doing two things: 1) cut way back on meat production, which is extremely wasteful, and 2) concentrate on growing high-protein human foods – grains and legumes. (Feeding grains and legumes to people rather than livestock means that less land would have to be farmed, less energy would be required to farm it, and much of our present farmland, which is subject to erosion, could be returned to pasture and forest.) Veggies are best grown locally -- either in backyards, or in large market gardens for local sale.

The most important benefits of a backyard garden are 1) the benefits to your health from eating freshly-picked, high-quality veggies, 2) the spiritual benefits of participating in the ancient interaction of sunlight and photosynthesis, and 3) the physical benefits of actually getting out there and performing some physical labor.

I took on a labor-intensive lifestyle back in 1970, and my attitude has always been, “People pay good money to work out at the gym. I’m getting my exercise and feeding myself, all for free. Such a deal!”

By and large, the foods a garden can provide are low in calories, high in water content, but nevertheless extremely healthful. The ideal diet would be mostly fruits and vegetables (many of them raw), with a moderate amount of concentrates (grains and legumes), with animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) used as a garnish. As an ex-vegan, I find that a modest amount of animal products allow my body to function most optimally. But everybody needs to experiment for themself.

(Parenthetically I should add at this point that the name of my blog, “New Earth Times,” should actually be, “New Multiverse Times.” (There are almost certainly an infinite number of physical universes, of which ours is but one.) Be that as it may, I am physically located at an elevation of 4000 feet in southern New Mexico, with a long growing season, lots of sun, and alkaline soil. So my specific gardening advice is focused on that physical reality, though much gardening information is relevant anywhere.)

It looks like today’s session is winding down. I like the way these 500-word segments can add together over a period of time into something significant. I will no doubt be uploading a lot more gardening info as time goes on. I also want to talk about orcharding -- a subject that tends to get neglected, probably because an orchard presupposes that people will remain in one spot for a period of time.


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