Tuesday, February 26, 2013

unexpected lessons in gardening and culture

In my archaeology class last Friday morning, we discussed the rise of agrarian society in the prehistoric world.

It changed everything, my professor said. It was a societal revolution when humans figured out how to take wheat that was sprouting in the wild and domesticate it. He didn't use these words, but this is what I heard: agriculture is powerful.

Yesterday, in another of my classes, my anthropology professor spoke about Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian monk who gave us modern genetics. And he did with pea plants. He was a gardener. Growing food leads to incredible things. Plants can change the course of history.

My archaeology professor brought up two other ideas that I scribbled in the margin of my notebook:

First, today we live among strangers. In band, tribe or chiefdom societies (those of early man) this would have been unimaginable. Everyone knew everyone.

Secondly, it's true: you are what you eat. Archaeologist can take skeletons that are thousands of years old and discover what the deceased's diet was thanks to chemical signatures left in their bones. What you consume indelibly builds the structure of your body. (Depending on how you choose to eat, this could either be alarming or gratifying.)

Maybe these four ideas seem completely disparate. I'm not so sure they are.

The power of agriculture.


Missing connections.

You are what you eat.

If you can keep a garden, you can feed yourself. That's pretty empowering right there. But a gardener is aware of their food - where it is grown, how it is grown - and so more likely to be aware of their own health. We must stop to nourish ourselves everyday. While that could make it appear less significant of an act, I think it only makes it more important that we eat mindfully. Growing food is also creative, hence it goes against the grain of our consumption driven culture (which, maybe it's just me, but that doesn't seem to be doing most people or our one and only planet much good). From what I've seen, gardens and food bring people together too: tending, harvesting, cooking, teaching, eating, cleaning up. And then - when the compost pile is replenished with scraps from the meal - the cycle continues.

Monday, February 18, 2013

lentil sprouts

The first time I had lentil sprouts they came from the farm, as Side by Side is called in my family. From time to time a box of them appeared in the share I received as an intern.

I'm not sure why I've never tried sprouting myself. This week I decided to give it go. The process is really very simple - so simple, in fact, that I sprouted these lentils in a mason jar on the window sill of my dorm room. It took three days of rinsing them in the morning and letting them sit, rinsing them in the evening and letting them sit. They're wonderfully crunchy and earthy tasting.

Sarah Britton (of course) explains why sprouting is so special in her post here.  And next, I'm going to try sprouting quinoa.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

notes from global environment class

I am now happily in the thick of school life again. Rising early, bundling up to walk to class (I knitted my first hat for just this reason), lectures, reading, writing, papers, professors...

This semester, one of the classes I'm taking is called "Global Environment." I was expecting it to be about climate zones, and natural disasters, and the water system, and all that jazz - but no, it's better than that. It's about ecology, sustainability, agriculture/food resources, etc. Right up my alley.

(And even better, I'm taking this class with a friend who occasionally whispers snarky comments and is good at playing the devil's advocate when we discuss weighty environmental matters after class. It lighten things up.)

This week we have an exercise due wherein we have to calculate our ecological footprint using this program. Mine resulted in this projection: if everybody lived the way I do (as best as I could articulate it in the calculator) we would need 3.9 Earths to sustain us. Granted, the program does make assumptions because I am an American. But try it for yourself. Seeing your ecological impact broken down - even if it is just theoretical - can't help but make you think.

In class last week we discussed sustainability and specifically voluntary simplicity - giving unnecessaries up for the sake of the "global commons." It made me consider how much I would be willing to give up.

Or maybe it isn't a voluntary matter. I recently came across this article from the New York Times about a brave lady who, by necessity, went "back to the land" in the heart of the city, and gave up many things only to gain many more.

(Pictured above: one of four massive hanging sculptures on campus. They are paper cranes made of many smaller paper cranes.)