My Suburban, Backyard, Food Revolution...Sort Of
I think the fact that I live in the suburbs (of Montreal) still surprises me, even though I’ve been here for almost 6 years. I’ve always felt strongly about issues regarding the environment and peace, but most recently, and perhaps most of all, food. I mention this because suburbia never seemed like the place I could live with a clean conscience with regards to the environment and food. But after university and living in and around downtown for four years, I needed green space (read: yard), clean air and wanted to be closer to the schools where I would be teaching (another story altogether).
So after buying a house and spending time making it our own, we (my partner and I) thought we should spend some time on the yard. So how do you ‘green’ suburbia? Slowly we got rid of some of our lawn, planted perennials and built, drum roll please...raised vegetable beds! For me, it felt like a revolution was happening in my own backyard. I felt empowered and I was really going to stick it to the proverbial ‘man’. However, that first year, the vegetable garden wasn’t quite the picture of success we had imagined (we really didn’t know what we were doing), though we did harvest tomatoes, beans and lots of various lettuces. In subsequent years, we varied the types of seeds we sowed and focused mainly on heirloom and organic ones. Thankfully, our harvest has been slightly better every year since.
Then, almost 2 years ago, I got pregnant with not one, but two wee ones. So, as you can imagine, last summer’s garden was virtually non-existent (the kids being about 6 mths old at the time), though I did plant an apple tree to commemorate the birth of our lovely babes. Having kids has reaffirmed our need for good organic home-grown food, and the need to get rid of more lawn to grow that home-grown food (not to mention the positive environmental implications of growing your own stuff). We have plans to build a cold-frame using reclaimed (we are proud trash-pickers) to extend the growing season. There is also the dream of owning some chickens and goats and moving to a larger piece of land one day, to expand on this dream of ours to be more self-sufficient. This year we’ve planted or started indoors, so far, 7 varieties of tomatoes, lettuces, sunflowers, melon, peas, broccoli, onions, okra, cabbage and eggplant. If all goes well (and space allows for it) there will be many more seeds planted when the soil warms up.
I wish I had the time to dig up the entire yard and care for it in such a way that I could grow food year-round and feed all of us almost exclusively on what I grew, but that is not realistic. The temperature doesn’t allow for that and neither does time. So, we grow what we can, on the land we have time to till. At this point, we’re not saving that much money by growing some of our own food, but anyway, I don’t think that’s the point. Honestly, I think what I love most of all, is that I know HOW to grow food. That, to me, is just amazing. Maybe the second best thing is that, one day, my kids will know that potatoes grow in the ground and cucumbers on vines, not trees J
So, what is everyone else planting and what are your reasons for claiming parts of your yards for food? Are your motivations political, environmental or romantic perhaps? What does your food revolution look like?
Thank you for this, Genevieve!
If YOU have something you'd love to write about (or make art about!), something cool you want to share, I strongly encourage you to submit it to the DIY Life Zine. It's a project I'm really excited about, and I'm so looking forward to seeing all the great stuff people come up with for it!