Monday, February 21, 2011

The Trade Market TM

Remember that time Paris Hilton tried to trademark the phrase "that's hot"? So does everyone else, because it was ridiculous.

I read this morning in that the Dervaes Institute decided to trademark the rather common phrase "urban homesteading". This has naturally raised a few eyebrows as well as a few fists from urban homesteaders around the country. For example, (screen name) CdiWadkar said,

The Dervaes are self-serving arseholes. They should really trademark McDervaes, Urban McSteading and I'm Lovin' Shamelessness. And from now on I'm going to write Urban Homesteading with the Eff You mark at the end - Urban Homesteading (FU)

There are more eloquent reactions available, but none of them really spoke to me like this one. I think this raises a pretty important question that has been looming on the horizon for a few years. Especially for those gardeners who ally themselves with larger political movements, like low impact living, sustainable living, back-to-the-land-movements, and those who wish to separate themselves from the questionable practices of agribusiness, the question should be considered:

Can you simultaneously be an alternative agriculturalist and a businessman without turning into an agribusiness-man TM (that one's mine)?

Well, obviously there aren't a whole lot of pro-bono farmers out there, nor should their be. We all gots to get paid by our trade, right? Legal and governmental systems have been naturalizing this bottom line for thousands of years. Take, for example, feudalism, Yeomen, and cash-grain farming. There were, of course, always ways to work against these systems. Take, for example, centralized power and The Homestead Act. Central to these systems, however, is access to land, and its profitability and ownership. Good land was the key to being fat, wealthy, and upwardly mobile. With good land, one was able to provide food for themselves and for the marketplace. Furthermore, the granting of good land afforded one fealty, while the owning of good land afforded one certain freedoms.

Currently, those of us without much land, or even good land, have found ways to cope and grow food for ourselves. Raised beds, hydroponics, container gardening, community gardens, and living walls are all ingenious ways to grow food in a way that subverts traditional farming techniques, placing a premium, not on land, but on ingenuity. There are a million books, magazines, and youtube videos with how-to urban gardening techniques and projects. There is definitely a market for these diy endeavors, but what will be the consequences of selling subsistence advice? Will urban gardening be something only a few can afford to do or might it become synonymous with a certain income bracket or middle class value that alienates other populations? What are the ramifications of patenting and copy writing traditional knowledge as if it is something novel, not based on years of sharing information and trial and error? They are questions worth pondering.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

No Squirrels Were Harmed in the Making of this Garden

This post is dedicated to the Smubb I love!

We moved. Yes, after all that preparation and hard time, we moved. We moved to a lovely apartment with significantly more patio space but without a screen. Now settled into the new abode, I've started cultivating again. At the mo I have a cabbage, two broccoli stalks, and a broccoli cutting that I salvaged from dinner, soaked in water over night and replanted. Soaking the stalks was not something I've ever heard of but instinct told me it was the right move. It's actually growing! Add to that, several green bean buds, and some baby basil.

Despite the cold, my plants are doing very well. These are all varieties that do well in cold weather and they seem to be thriving so far. The only problem I've had is a crazed squirrel who has made a game of harassing me and my plants. After some exhaustive research (I read a page from a book) I learned the following:

1. Though adorable, squirrels are considered pests in the gardening world.
2. Squirrels are fond of digging.
3. They do not eat the seeds they dig up, they just like to dig.
4. A seedling can only handle being dug up about 3 times before it checks out completely.

Because we have no screen protecting our porch, the squirrel has easy access to my supple seedlings. I arrived home one afternoon and, after a quick potty break, went outside to check my plants. What I found was the evidence of an epic struggle. Green bean seeds and dirt were strewn all over the ground. I replanted them and luckily they have sprouted nicely. Squirrely had also chewed right through the string of twinkle lights I'd hung the day before. Over the next few days I was on a squirrel stakeout and my anal retentive justice vigil payed off because I caught him in the act. As I ran out, he scurried up the side of the building and onto my upstairs neighbor's balcony. I yelled after him, "I know what you did!" and he stopped to flip his bushy tail at me. A final "eff you, biotch" and a promise that he'd be back when I least expected him.

Looking online for solutions yielded some pretty unsavory results including the Squirrel Control Center with solutions like smoke bombs, traps, and ultrasonic devices. I've watched enough Bill Murray and Chevy Chase movies to know that walking this road would only lead to disaster. I decided to take the defensive rather than the offensive. I consulted some books for advice and found the plans for a chicken wire cloche in You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail. The instructions seem easy enough and, more importantly, I won't have to kill any squirrels to solve this problem because they're just too cute to shoot.

Gayla speaks out about squirrels on her own blog.

I'm currently in the planning stages for my new patio space. I've found an online Garden Planner that is really helpful and fun to use. It helps you envision your space and work with what you have while imagining what you could have Though the new space is quite a bit larger than my last space, I've decided to maintain the container garden approach and think small space maximal yield to prove that an apartment is as good a place as any to subsistence grow. The experiment continues...