Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Anarchism and Community Gardening

I wrote this to go in a zine for an event I talked at. The talk went really well and I will expand and work on this piece including a heap of stuff which came up in questions etc

Anarchism and Community gardening

Around the world food prices are going up as employment rates are going down and rich western countries are beginning to experience shortages in some staples. What we are seeing at the moment though is only the beginning of a very long period of energy descent as more and more global consumers compete for a limited amount of oil. As our economy and food supply is built upon the continuous use of cheap oil the effects of rising prices will have a dramatic effect on the way we live. I think that as living standards fall in the west we will see greater opportunities for anarchist organising

To me anarchism is a rejection of all coercive forms of Authority and a move towards greater individual and communal autonomy. I see gardening and community gardening as a powerful tool for practicing non coercive community organising, challenging our current notions of private property and meeting some our needs. Setting up and running a garden is far easier than attempting to start a worker run workplace but allows for many of the skills to be used and provides some the same benefits.

Community gardening provides a way for us to work together voluntarily and share the harvest. It also allows us some control over one of the larger parts of our lives how we get the food we need to survive. Instead of buying and eating foods which reinforce corporate control we can grow and eat food which builds community resiliency and health. By using space which would normally be seen as private or unproductive we can challenge current notions around private property and what public space can be used for. By involving the community in this we give ourselves a tool to spread our philosophy and to build support for other campaigns.

Most of our campaigns have little real effect on our day to day lives or the lives of people living in our communities. I think this is one of the major reasons for burnout as our successes do not directly affect us and the problems we are fighting are always at a bigger scale than we can directly change. Add to this the fact that much of the work we do is around violent struggle and I think its obvious why more people don't become involved. To become a threat to those in power we must become relevant to those around us. The solutions we offer must appear achievable and more attractive than the consumerist dream offered in our society.

Of course a few community gardens alone wont bring down capitalism but it could be an important way for us to put our beliefs into practice and to show our communities that there are many different ways of organising our lives. If nothing else more gardens would give us healthy free food and an opportunity to build something positive.

So how do we do it?

The easiest place to start gardening is in your yard, if you have grass cover it with paper for a few months add some compost and put some veggies in. If you have concretes you can easily grow herbs like rosemary and thyme as well as most veggies in pots. Once you have some practical experience growing food it will be much easier to do it in a larger scale. Auckland only has a couple of community gardens and none of these are producing very much food at the moment so I think we urgently need more. Auckland City Council policy is encouraging of community gardens so it is possible that we could get official approval to start up gardens. The other faster and probably more empowering way would be to identify space either owned by individuals or institutions that isn't going to be developed urgently and then starting gardens there.

Whatever form of gardening we get involved in I think it must be tied strongly to the community it is in if we are serious about building autonomous communities. Having local support is also incredibly important if the possibility exists that we may be evicted from whatever land we end up using.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What I've been up too

After my gardening blitz two weeks ago there hasnt been that much too do in the garden. That combined with threee large storms over the past week has meant that conditions havnt been that conducive to gardening.

Yesterday was the first day in a while without heavy rain so I got out and repaired the hothouse which blew apart, none of the plastic broke so i just nailed it back on. Some of my bananas had also blown over so I cut a few down and chopped them up for the compost pile. A neighbour had helped himself to a stem hanging over his side of the fence with bunches of bananas on. He offered to return it but this is exactly the sort of thing I want to see and which will in the long run help to build community

I've also been taking cuttings from herbs, pepino etc heres a how to guide I wrote recently

Taking cuttings

Taking cuttings is a quick and easy way to grow plants if you are gardening on a budget. Cuttings Simply prepare a tray or container about 7 - 10 cm deep full of pumice (can be bought from a gardening store). Take a cutting from the plant which you wish to grow this cutting should be around 5 – 10cm long but its worthwhile to try multiple lengths when you take the cuttings. Next strip the bottom 5 – 7 cm of leaves and dip in rooting hormone or Willow water. The rooting hormone isn’t really nessacary but increases the number of successful cuttings

Place the cuttings into the tray a few cm apart and water the tray very well. Cover the tray with a plastic bag to increase humidity and mist and water the pumice once or twice a day. Take the bag off for about half an hour a day so the plants can get carbon dioxide. The tray should be in a place which gets reliable sun like a north facing window or in a hot house.

Once you see new growth on the cutting carefully remove the cutting and some pumice. If white roots have begun growing though the medium its time to replant into potting mix and water once a day with your other seedlings.

Softwood cuttings (plants with green stems) should be taken in spring or summer. Hardwoods with brown stems like figs or grapes can be taken in late autumn or late winter. These times are not fixed and if you have a warm sunny area and keep the medium moist then you can take cuttings over a longer period.

Plants which its easy to take cuttings from inclue: Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme, Fig, pepino, grape.

Willow water

This can be used instead of rooting hormone.

To make it cut up a small stem of a willow plant and chop into 10 cm lengths. Put these lengths into a jam jar and leave for 24 hours. This contains the same rooting hormone found in commercial rooting hormone. This water can also be used to water the pumice to encourage strong root growth.