Saturday, September 19, 2009

Say it Loud, Roger!

Today we were vendors at the Lebanon County Master Gardener's Symposium. All of the vendor tables were along the walls of the main room where everything took place. It is unusual that we get to be right in the middle of things, and it was exciting to hear Roger Swain of "Crockett's Victory Garden" fame speak for several hours. He could have gone on for many more, I suspect, without ever becoming boring in the least.
I apologize for my fuzzy picture. Darkish room and too fascinated to remember the camera! The talk was in three parts. He began talking about "planting villages". What he meant was that Americans have become insulated and that gardens can help people to know each other. Planting gardens in our front yards means that we go out and water them and prune them and see our neighbors at the same time. He said that "gardening is a language that everyone should learn to speak." As you can imagine, I was shaking my head and shoutin' "amen!"
My sister and I both got a good chuckle when he mentioned that automatic garage door openers are the devil's spawn because they enable people to come and go from their homes without ever being outside.
Roger sprinkled his talk with his opinions on some fairly hot-button topics and I realized that either nobody told him how conservative the area is OR he just says what he thinks. Either way, I appreciated his forthrightness, and that goes as well for when he told the crowd that he considers his gardening practices as PMO. That stands for "pretty much organic". He grows tree fruits, and they are nearly impossible to grow 100% organically, so he does as much as he believes to be reasonable. His produce is for his own personal use and his friends and neighbors.

He gave us his 5 principles for Planting Villages:
1. Generosity. He had several anecdotes that referred to the glut of zucchini by this time of year, including telling us that he needs to keep his car locked lest it be filled with the squash during the night. But that there is always lots to share and once again, that will grow the village. He also tries to spend $10/wk at a farmers market, saying that there is always something he doesn't grow.
2. Competition (friendly). Why not have competition with neighbors for the first peas or the first tomatoes? I think a lot of us do that now. Where he comes from they grow those 800 pound pumpkins.
3. Rules - not many. This one is near and dear to my heart. In the herbal world, it is a something I stress to readers - TRY IT! See if it works! Too many rules make it difficult and rigid and no fun.
4. Whimsy. Just like less rules, it should be fun. To illustrate this point, he showed a slide of a garden sculpture depicting a goose being bitten on the butt by a snapping turtle. He then helped us with the difference between "tacky" and "gaudy". Tacky is 2 pink flamingos. Don't do it! Gaudy is a dozen or more. Better.
5. Celebration. When asparagas is available 365 days a year, we never get to miss it. Same with strawberries and so many other things. We've talked about this before, so I was in complete agreement when he talked about eating asparagas 3 times a day for a few weeks, and then not wanting it again until about March - at which time it started to sound wonderful again. I do remember as a child, celebrating the seasonal foods. Ah, the first spring peas and new potatoes! Strawberries! Here we have our peach farmer over the hill, and I wouldn't even consider eating peaches out of season anymore... they are just no good! So we need to eat in season in order to celebrate the crops. Like basil, for instance. Is this not the most gorgeous opal basil ever?The second part of his talk was about growing fruit, and the third part concerned keeping things over the winter. They were both very interesting, but the first segment really resonated with me.

So the event was a terrific way to spend the day.
Then we came home and finished getting some stuff ready for the next leg of our September Journey - the bus tour on Monday. Stay tuned :-)

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