Monday, August 1, 2011

So, what was the point again?

a suburban greenmom is kinda bummed out and thus writes a very unfocused post...

I'm sort of depressed this morning.

Part of it is a disappointment in my garden. I know I'm still comparatively new at this whole "doing it right" thing, but there's been an alarming divergence of success in my vegetation. The cucumbers are being a huge disappointment, though the zucchinis are finally giving me food, and so far I've only managed to harvest three tomatoes. One little bowl of sugar snap peas, from a row of maybe 30 plants in the ground. A few green beans that don't taste very good. Radishes out the yin yang. And of course weeds that put the veggies to shame. My nursery plants all seemed to sort of take hold and then go into a Star Trek like "stasis field" where they're just standing there not sure what to do. I know it's largely a result of undernourished soil (no matter how much I nourish it each year, the basic truth is that without building straight UP 20 inches or so, I'm dealing with soil that hasn't gotten much nourishment at all in the past 25 years, so I'll need to be patient and keep layering and layering and building a good base...I may have underestimated the need for fertilizer this year, though I thought we did pretty well...I'll whip up some stuff tonight and see if I can turn things around for the last half of the season), and a crazy-late growing season up north here, and that without that solid start all the summer sun combined with ample rain just isn't enough. But this is turning into a fairly expensive exercise in not-many-veggies.

Part of it is probably the whole budget-deal-debt-ceiling-armageddon-averted thing I'm now reading about. Last thing I want is to rant about politics on this blog, but long story short when all is said and done I feel sort of like, "okay, huge hype and mass panic and oh goody it's all going to be okay for now but really absolutely nothing has changed" about the whole thing. (And, for me, I think that would be true were I red or were I blue. Business as usual in Washington. Sigh.)

I know, these two realities aren't linked at all--gardening and government--and even I, Queen of the Unlikely Metaphor, don't really have the energy to pull it off right now. But I'm in one of those places where I start wondering what the point is, and whether any of the stuff I'm trying to do is making any difference at all. I don't have illusions that it will change anything on a grand scale, but heck, I can't even grow veggies in my own backyard--I should have just gotten a CSA membership, that would have probably cost less and maybe had a little more of a positive impact.

And the other "big news" I read the other day--McDonald's is now shrinking the fry size on their Happy Meal, and adding apples (without dipping sauce) as a default for every meal. Oh yeah, and now along with soda choices, you can also choose between 1% white milk and--get this--FAT FREE Chocolate milk. Because that 1% of fat reduced, of course, will make us forget about all the added sugar in the chocolate milk...(sorry, my cynical is showing.)

The big change. This is the latest big change in helping to make the world, and our children, a little healthier. Smaller fries, and a few apple slices wrapped in plastic.

Then I remember the Colin Beavan interview (the No Impact Man guy? remember him?) I read more than a year ago...this quote has stuck with me:
Trust your capacity to make change. Trust your capacity to make a difference. We often talk about the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but we never talk about the thousands of straws that are already there. What we have to remember is that the reason why a straw breaks the camel’s back is that there’s already thousands upon thousands of other straws already there and it’s that last straw that’s just one too much.

So every time one of us decides that we’re going to live differently, that we’re going to engage with our politicians differently, that we’re going to talk to our neighbors about our problems differently—we may not get to see the impact of what we’re doing but we have to trust that it’s working and that we’re another straw on the camel’s back. We may not have the privilege of being that last straw that breaks the camel’s back, but that last straw can’t do the trick without the rest of us already being there.

And then I look at the brighter side of the McDonald's Happy Meal changes...I mean, yes, they are doing this to make more money, and much more about "spin" and public image than some deep heartfelt desire to reduce childhood obesity. But think of it...McDonalds is changing the way it sells food to children based on public pressure. A very small step, yes. But it's a substantive one. Is WalMart following through on all those green initiatives out of warm fuzzy heart-goodness? No, they are doing it because they are perceiving that the public tide is changing, and they will sell more stuff and do better financially if they yield to that tide. Slowly the number of straws is shifting and putting pressure onto various companies and organizations to change the way they do things.

Today the Happy Meal...tomorrow the EPA?

We'll see.

Okay, maybe I'm a little less depressed now. We'll see.
--Jenn the Greenmom


Astra said...

Just keep on going. Our veggie garden produced tons of lettuce. Our carrots never made it past about 1 inch, and our snap peas took over. Parsley was insane, thyme is battling. I guess it's trial and error with what you plant.

robbie @ going green mama said...

On the garden, keep trying! And remember this is not the last effort. It's time to rip out the dead stuff and think about fall! :-)

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Robbie, not in Chicago! :-) Upon reflection, I realize that our "normal" growing season is barely half over, so there really is hope for all those spindly Roma tomatoes and sad sprouty carrots. (I put in the basil at the same time as the Romas. The basil tops the tomatoes by literally about a foot. I can only eat so much pesto.) And one of the random plants that just showed up (presumably brought in either with the wood chip mulch or the horse manure) that I thought was a horrible invasive weed has turned out to be a gorgeous wildflower. I have no idea WHAT kind of flower, and it's still invasive, but it's so pretty I can no longer resent it wholeheartedly.

The nursery plants, in which I invested fairly heavily, are the big disappointment...they took hold, gave me a little new green growth, and are now just SITTING THERE. Maybe they're sinking in roots or something to make it through the winter and I just can't see it, but these are my perennial fruit bushes mostly, and my medicinal herbs. Bergamot and hyssop and balm and blueberries and elderberries. (The raspberry is still looking perky.)

It's just bewildering.

And Astra, I'm jealous of the lettuce! We always get a huge heat wave 2 weeks after I plant it, and it bolts before it's harvestable. I need to find shadier places to plant it, I guess...

Ann said...

Love that quote from Beavan. That's me, one of the little bits of straw trying to make a difference.

SustainaMom said...

I, too, love the Beavan quote. My biggest hope for this year's garden is that I don't get so frustrated that I don't even try next year. Last year's garden was much more successful and I don't know what I'm doing wrong :) Good luck with the rest of your growing season!

Green Bean said...

I feel ya sister! On the garden front, live and learn and wait out the season. Every year is like that for me. Two years in a row, I had pumpkins growing like crazy. This year, I planted them everywhere and nothing grew. Part is just garden life, part is changing climes.

On the everything else front, I do understand. Sometimes, I wonder how far we've come that our government cannot get anything done and guts environmental protections daily. Hang in there, little straw.

Denise said...

The title so says it. I have that run through my head, wondering if it's worth all the effort. As far as gardening, I'm pretty bad at it- I do containers every year and have very little yeild, especially tomatoes. I'm putting my hopes on the okra this year, my first year trying it. The carrots are long dead as is the lettuce. We've had brutal heat this year. Even the basil that is so easy to grow, isn't doing much.

But it's not just the gardening. I get tired of worrying about what's in the food we buy. Running to serveral different stores and drop off points for healthier options.

It's usually when I'm stressed in other ways.

Your post makes a great point. It's together that we make the difference. We may not see each other's efforts first hand, but the McDonald's change as well as packaging indicating "no HFCS" or "no growth hormones" shows that there are enough of us out there to make these big companies take notice.

To preserve your basil, that that you don't make into pesto or dry, mix it with softened butter and freeze it. Easy to use in recipes.


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