Homesteading Heresy: On Giving Up Vegetable Gardening

Eric Rochow of Garden Fork TV and I interviewed each other for our respective podcasts yesterday. Without giving too much away, we talked about the idea of mental de-cluttering: weeding out those activities in our lives that take a lot of time, tools and expense with less than stellar results. While it’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of failed interests, perhaps it’s healthier to see that with one door closing another one opens.

I spent an hour yesterday pulling apart our last remaining raised vegetable bed. This bed had a caged top to keep the skunks from digging up seedlings. I called it “vegetable Guantanamo.” It took a lot of work to build and looked hideously ugly. Removing it was the first step in making some much needed aesthetic improvements to the our front yard. We plan on replacing it with two dwarf citrus trees: a kumquat and lemon.

I mentioned in a previous post my ambivalence about vegetable gardening. Frankly, I haven’t devoted the amount of attention the task deserves. It feels like a chore to me. Meanwhile, as shown in the picture above, vegetables happen without my intervention, in this case a cherry tomato plant that seeded itself and grew without irrigation while the tomatoes I planted, tended and watered withered and died. So while I don’t plan on growing annual vegetables in the near future, I’m certainly not going to get in the way of nature. If she grants us feral vegetables we’ll get out of the way and let them flourish. Maybe we’ll even throw some random seeds around and give nature a nudge.

If you love growing annual vegetables, go for it. But if you don’t, consider what you really want to do and focus on that. Maybe it’s embroidery, or writing or just hanging out with friends. I’m having a good time in the wood shop. I’ve also been working through the drawing lessons in Drawing From the Right Side of the Brain for the second time in twenty years, tackling some difficult books on my reading bucket list and I even sat through the entirety of the Ring of the Nibelungen. I say embrace whatever activity keeps you away from the addictive grasp of the Silicon Valley Übermenschen. Go plant some vegetables if you enjoy it but, at least in the near future, you’ll find me in produce aisle of Super King.

130 Farm Unfixed with Jessica Rath

In her work artist Jessica Rath examines, as she puts it, “how human containment of the land effects non-human species from the propagation of agricultural plants to the sensoria of bees.” She is on the faculty of the Art Center College of Design and her previous projects include works about apple breeding, co-evolutionary communication between flowering plants and their pollinators and a long term project called Farm Unfixed that we spend most of this conversation discussing. During the podcast Jessica mentions,

You can look at Jessica’s work on her website at jessicarath.com. Sign up for her newsletter to find out about upcoming projects.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

110 A Report from the 2017 National Heirloom Expo

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On the podcast this week are three interviews I recorded at the 7th annual National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, California in the first week of September 2017. The organizers of the expo, Baker Creek Seeds, hold a press conference in the midst of the fair and that gave me the chance to talk to some really interesting folks including:

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

RIP Toby Hemenway

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Update: I’m very sorry to say that I just heard that Toby Hemenway has passed. He had a talent for explaining permaculture with clarity and elegance. His book Gaia’s Garden adapted Bill Mollison’s concepts for those of us with small spaces to tend. In his last book he merged permaculture with the City Repair movement and looked at ways we can improve our communities. We desperately need voices like Hemenway’s in this moment of crisis. He will be missed. 

Someone I greatly admire, Toby Hemenway needs our help. Hemenway is a permaculturalist and a gifted author of books such as Gaia’s Garden and The Permaculture City. In 2015 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and has signed up for home hospice care. He and his wife need support to pay for living expenses and caregiving. Please consider clicking on this link and donating: https://www.youcaring.com/tobyhemenway-718641. The campaign goal has already been met, but home health care is very expensive and I’m sure that more money would help greatly.

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093 Micheal Judd on Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist

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Our guest is Michael Judd and our topic is permaculture, edible landscaping, straw bale building, mushrooms and even a permacultural approach to death. From his bio: “Michael Judd is the founder of Ecologia, edible and ecological landscape design and Project Bona Fide, an international non-profit supporting agro-ecological research.” He’s also the author of a new book, Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist. During the podcast we discuss:

  • What Michael learned from living in Latin America for 20 years
  • His circular straw bale house
  • Handling water through swales on contour
  • Dealing with homeowner’s associations
  • Pawpaws
  • Custard apples
  • InStove rocket stove
  • Cocktails
  • American persimmons
  • Mulberries and grafting mulberries
  • Jujubes
  • Growing mushrooms
  • Source for mushroom spawn: Field and Forest and Fungi Perfecti
  • A permacultural approach to death and home burial

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

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