The Five Essentials

dedication (3)As one gets older (and I am 56 years in this world) you start to wonder what your purpose is on this planet. The usual reaction is to reflect back on your accomplishments and come to the realization that most of these are rather ephemeral – meaning that while they probably provided you with some momentary pleasure, in the long term they will have very little or no impact on the world that you will inevitably leave behind. This is particularly true if you have children and I consider raising three daughters with my wife, Pauline, to be one of our greatest achievements. Truth be told, they did more to make me a better person than I did to fashion them into the caring adults they are today – but of course we never realize that through those busy parenting years. Having people you really care about, such as children, lays bare all the frivolous wants of modern society, showing them to be what they really are, unnecessary. In this world there are really only five essentials for us to exist…air to breathe, clean water to drink, food, shelter from the elements and some sort of love or companionship (in whatever form that may take). During my career as a gardener I have written two books and hundreds of articles, taught innumerable courses and seminars, designed and installed more gardens than I care to remember and yet all of that work seems insignificant when compared to my latest endeavor. I decided 1eagle2 (2)three years ago to write a book that mattered, a tome about food and our potential to grow it regardless of our means. What inspired me were the young families coming to the garden centre where I work looking for edibles to grow in pots on balconies and decks – or the only spaces they have to farm  in their tiny condominiums and townhouses. Of course, it was never about subsistence given the minuscule growing areas, but simply a means of connecting with the very basic precept that all food comes from living things. It might be a dwarf fruit tree, a tomato, a containerized herb garden – it really doesn’t matter – because what is gained is a profound respect for the planet that provides us with this biosphere of life potential. Even my oldest two daughters, Nicole and Rochelle, who share a community garden plot behind their townhouse, have discovered the basic joy of making soup from Sorrel grown in their own tiny space or spicy homemade pesto from scapes they cut from a single row of garlic. And while their food is delicious, the more important gains that I see is the profound and growing respect they have for the world around them – a planet that I had hoped would not be left on the tipping point of environmental collapse simply for the pollution caused by the trappings of a ‘modern’ society. Case in point, my daughter Rochelle and I were out for a hike on the north side of the Fraser river today. In a matter of two hours we saw dozens of bald eagles and red-tailed hawks, most of which were enjoying the spoils of the tail end of the Chum and Chinook salmon run. And yet just across the river, a mining operation had blasted half a mountainside away (all the way down to the river’s edge) just to produce the gravel used to support the out-of-control housing development that the Fraser Valley is experiencing right now much of it driven by speculators, not local people buying much-needed houses. This in turn means young families have few affordable housing options, be it renting or attempting to purchase an outrageously priced coverlowres1townhouse or condominium. Of course, the more obvious impact is that missing half a mountain, which is never coming back – nor are the trees, shrubs and understory plants that used to filter the rainwater before it entered the Fraser River, let alone the obliterated animal habitat. So much waste for so little gain in terms of serving all humanity and the other species that we share this planet with. So I will start with a seed, a little book to empower the next generation of gardeners with a respect of edible plants and their potential to grow them in harmony with nature. Consider Extraordinary Ornamental Edibles – 100 Perennials, Trees, Shrubs and Vines for Canadian Gardens to be my first push against the madness that we call first world living…with more to come.

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One Response to The Five Essentials

  1. Janis Mack says:

    So glad you are back to posting! Missed your way with words.

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