When the news broke it hit me in the chest. I have a high-risk child on immune suppressant drugs. Have fought so hard for him. My own lungs are damaged from embolisms. My other 2 smoke. Brutal. Yet all of life is at any given moment perched on the tip of a pin. Life had taught me that many times.
The news unfolded in waves of shock… then the conflicting stories… matched by asthma attacks. What is really going on? Staring down the monster felt like staring down the barrel of a gun. No matter how you looked at it there was no escape. Nothing made sense.
The terror took my breath away… this way I was not going to make it. Into lockdown we went. Time to change my mind to keep standing, look after others, support the world. It is all in the framing. The shift was not going to come on the outside. That would be my own inner work.
Special time special mind
“How can I make the most of this special time?” I asked on day 3. What is the best I can do for my family… to help support our mental and physical health in the best possible way? To allow the spirit to fly despite us being locked in. How can I best unlock grace in the face of terror?
So we can be whole, functional and helping others.
What do I still need to teach my children? What is most important?
Many creative ideas followed. It was as if the questions had released a frightened child’s arms wrapped around my neck. So tightly no air could get through.
“Let it be,” the words of the old Beatles song woke me up that morning. Ah, my theme song for this time! I shot out of bed, found it on YouTube, plugged in laptop speakers, and mounted the health walker.
“When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom. Let it be.”
Paul McCartney and I singing together this timeless song from another traumatic time. Loud.
“When the broken-hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer. Let it be.”
During those years I used to run up the mountain to find peace. And Nature never failed. It was time to re-member as one of her children. Not just from the desk and in word, but in the garden. Yes we cannot walk out, but thank God for a little piece of earth where I may practice restorative stewardship.
Restoring soil restores the soul
Building, supporting the web of life – that is what restores also my soul. Five years ago I had the vision of leaving my kids one day a fully functioning food forest. Very ambitious for an urban garden, but it inspired me. Planted 25 fruit and nut trees. Added a few every year. Vegetables for the family.
Then the drought came.
Water quota was set to a minimum to conserve. All the veggies died. Brave and thirsty plants got sick, fell down. I mourned the big dying on my watch. Felt like a mean murderer. There was nothing I could do. So I committed to keeping the fruit and nut trees alive, carrying buckets from the house.
This drought persisted here for 3 years as I begged the City to up my quota. More youngsters returned home … it was a strain on all. Then finally, a week before lockdown, my request was granted.
A silver lining… one of many that would unfold.
I had ordered a load of compost and mulch just in time. Have collected seeds over the years, found some seedlings too. We were armed for this special time. Now the food forest would be extended outside the kitchen window – close enough to nip out and pick greens for the pot whilst cooking.
Never too much basil
We spread cardboard over the former lawn, then compost, then mulch. Installed drip irrigation. All pitched in to plant… peppers, tatsoi, pak choi, basil, lettuce, spinash.
I shot a little video… feel the excitement.
All black hands and happy hearts from a day outside.
Soon the broccoli sown in trays were sticking slender necks through the soil… such magic!
Last week already we were eating from the new greens with gusto. We thrive on a big pot of veggies of all colours every day. Super antioxidants keep us well. Add good fats, spices for taste and their awesome minerals, fresh herbs. This has always sustained my family.
A few days later there was progress… happy plants.
This weekend it was time to sow seeds in situ (so in the garden, not in seed trays – these guys don’t like to be transplanted): butternut, Swiss chard, spring onions, beetroot, cucumbers, peas and patty pans. The idea is to do so weekly so that you always have food to harvest.
And then the rains came… first batch visibly shot up from the fresh heavenly water. They clearly prefer the non-chlorinated version. I must now rig the irrigation to pump from the natural pool rather. Good fertilizer in there from the fish droppings. Rather replenish pool with city water… let chlorine evaporate… wetland filters the water and veggies will get the best possible food.
Nature is my teacher in urban farming. We learn as we go, make mistakes. Plants are good communicators – they show quickly what they do and don’t like. It’s fun to learn their language. I am yet a beginner again after all this time, but an eager student.
And so to build, to grow, to feed, to celebrate that we are here now. That we have food and water. That we have each other. Life is beautiful.
To be clear… My end strategy here is not just to supply nutrition – immune defense – to my family. But to ignite all with gardens to do the same. Then we will have excess to share with those who don’t have the privilege of having ground to grow food. Fresh produce, especially veg is the great shortage in the diets of the poor and the vulnerable. Let’s use water for one thing only in our gardens: food production. Please share.
By Elma Pollard