There is a tinge of lemon on the poplar leaves and that all too familiar bite in the air. Summers are crazy when you live as far north as we do…just over 1200 kilometers (760 miles) north of Vancouver, BC.
When spring arrives summer is hot on its heels, licking up all the ice and snow and churning out so much fast growing greenery it takes your breath away. My father loved to tell us to be careful not to stand in one spot in the field too long because the grass was growing so fast it would knock you off your feet. As a kid you almost believed it.
Then along comes a string of days like the ones we are having now, with that undeniable shift in the air. Yesterday a flock of Canada geese winged past our apartment window. They weren’t forming their practice V’s like they will be in a few weeks, but they were starting to gather together, sharing gossip, showing off their babies and discussing flight plans.
As for me, I am trying to find a direction for the surge of energy that always comes with this time of year. In my old life I would be elbow deep in the vegetable harvest, busy taking any surplus honey from the bee hives and stacking enough hay to see the horses through to spring grass. Instead I drive down to the community garden and take stock of my tiny plantdom. Someone snapped off the tops of my onions and threw them beside one of my raised beds. I’m not sure what the motivation would have been. Maybe they were trying to pull them up, but the stalks broke and they threw them down in disgust. But why give up so easily? Why not root up the bulbs? Or at least take the stalks and chop them up in a soup or stew or something.
And then it occurs to me that I am annoyed with the vandals for their laziness in not taking my produce. But still. Others report beets pulled prematurely and tossed to the side and a few immature ears of corn snapped off the stalk and tossed on the grass. The metal hose bracket has been broken off the side of the shed.
It’s the nonsensical waste that irks. If someone just took the produce we would tell ourselves they needed it more than we did, but to pull up plants and toss them about or destroy things like the hose holder is crazy making. We also have lots of “share beds” painted green and clearly marked. We tend these beds communally for public consumption. Why not just harvest from them?
Ah, but what use is anger? It’s simply swallowing rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. Everyone cleans up their plots and carries on.
I still have some beans, onions, garlic, beets, kale and some sad looking tomatoes, carrots and zucchini. I tap my watch, look pointedly at the skies and tell the latter three, Get it together will you? We’re almost out of time. We have ate most of the potatoes already since there is nowhere to store them in the apartment. I have a few plants left and might try keeping some potatoes in the storage locker in the basement, but it isn’t very cool even down there. At best they’d likely only keep for a month…two at most.
I realize now that a large part of the reason I loved gardening was the sense of security I felt every fall when our little log house groaned at the seams with the year’s harvest. I would look in the cold room at the rows of canning jars, dried herbs and baskets of root vegetables and then note our wood cook stove and know that we would be okay no matter what happened. I liked the illusion of being in control of my future.
In our apartment I feel at the mercy of the masses. I feel vulnerable. I am pretty sure I have a few teensy control issues, though preppers would say I was just being smart. Or stupid, depending on how you look at it.
Speaking of prepping, I had a strange series of experiences one day last week.
First I walked downtown to meet up with my husband for lunch and across the street from the restaurant the local food bank had set up a display of over 600 pairs of shoes depicting the number of residents who had to access the food bank in a single week. It was a pretty dramatic, sobering display that certainly was effective in making its point.
Secondly, Shaw’s system had crashed earlier that morning leaving half the city without internet access and no way to accept debit or visa payments. We were lucky enough to have a little cash on us-both to donate and for our meal-but many others arrived at the restaurant and found they were unable to pay for the meal they wanted to order and had to go elsewhere. Some no doubt had lightened their wallets of cash at the food bank booth, only to cross the street and find they couldn’t buy a meal for themselves. The irony!
Thirdly, after lunch I walked home and discovered I had lost my “secret” horseradish patch I told you about in the last post. I am no longer your go-to gal for horseradish should a disaster strike the city. According to a plastic sign and the distressed look to the once healthy green leaves, the city had came along and sprayed the patch of “noxious weeds” into oblivion.
Here’s what they looked like when I passed them on my way home. Sad enough, but now all the lovely horseradish plants are absolute goners. Just dried up husks right down to their spicy roots. I know they are invasive, but it still makes me sad. I’ll miss walking by and wondering how they came to be there.
I don’t pretend to have the answers for our future food security, but I still harbor hope for a kind of utopia where no one goes hungry and our urban centers become self sustaining. You do hear stories about it happening more and more. Instead of ornamental trees, the cities plant edible fruit trees-which ours already have done here and there. In San Francisco there is a Guerilla Grafting movement grafting fruit tree branches onto sterile ornamental trees in public spaces.
Personally, I would love to see more multi-density housing with rooftop gardens that supply all the produce needed for the residents that tend them, complete with root cellars in the building’s basement for keeping produce through the winter in colder climates such as ours. I like that idea far more than every man for himself bugging out to the bush, armed to the teeth to protect his potatoes. Or their onion stalks and immature corn for that matter.
We live in interesting times to be sure, which means we need some interesting solutions. I believe we will find them. In the meantime if you have a few dollars, cans of food or garden produce to spare, I know the food banks would sure appreciate whatever you can give them.