Good Neighbors

On May 28, Kristina Bravo reported in takepart that for the first time in sixteen years, the Colorado River has reached its final destination, returning to the Gulf of California. Finally, we in the U.S., are learning how to be good neighbors. For years, we have been denying our southern neighbors their right to fresh water. We have done this by building dams and diverting the Colorado River to places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. This has prevented the river from flowing into Mexico as it once did, naturally and historically. This action violated treaties between the U.S. and Mexico, and has caused drought conditions, the loss of crops, the loss of livelihoods, poverty and many other social ills for the Mexican people.

In addition to limiting the availability of fresh water in Mexico, the U.S. also disrupts Mexican food markets in other ways. This is because the U.S. federal government subsidizes U.S. grain producers. That means that the taxpayers of the U.S. fund the grain producers, so that the prices of grain are kept artificially low. By this arrangement, commodity traders are able to flood the world markets with ‘cheap grain’, thereby displacing the farming economies in other nations, such as Mexico. These U.S. policies have negatively impacted the wellbeing of our Mexican neighbors in many ways.

The consequences of U.S. economic policies, such as these, are the impoverishment of our neighbors. Farming families in Mexico become no longer able sustain themselves, as they once did for generations.  Therefore they flock to border cities, to maquiladoras, the manufacturing facilities in the so called Free Trade Zones. They go to the maquiladoras looking for factory work. The Free Trade Zones are areas in Mexico where ‘American’ factories are set up in order to capitalize on cheap ‘foreign’ labor. Yet, these new jobs in the maquiladoras do not provide the Mexican people with an adequate compensation or means for survival.

The major labor force, in these maquiladoras, is that of young female workers, because they will work longer and harder, for less money, and with less protest than men will. This is the typical situation in any industry where the main labor force is that of women. In any industry that is mainly sustained by the labor of women, with very few men laborers, you can be fairly certain that the working conditions are such that men refuse to tolerate them. This is because young women are more willing than men to work in oppressive and exploitative conditions for poverty wages, and this is a perfect opportunity, for those with the power and desire to do so, to profit from capitalistic gain at the expense of vulnerable others.

Furthermore, the living conditions that surround the maquiladoras are meager. They are slums, without adequate housing, plumbing, electricity or fresh, clean water. This condition exists because too many displaced farming families have fled their homes hoping to find an economic means of survival elsewhere, but the jobs that they do find do not compensate them adequately so that they can improve their living conditions. It might be questioned why the displaced Mexican farmers migrate to such areas. An important consideration in this forced migration situation is asking where ‘elsewhere’ might be if one’s skills for their traditional way of life do not easily transfer to a new economy. What are the options that exist for the Mexican people in light of the affects of U.S. policy?

In order to survive, some Mexican people have risked their lives to come to the U.S. looking for work. The work that they find is generally in industries that citizens of the U.S. refuse. That is, many immigrants become migrant workers, working in dangerous conditions, harvesting crops that are grown here. Likewise, many become domestics, cleaning the homes of the privileged who can afford such luxuries..  These are professions that are essentially working in servitude.

Regardless of the work that they do find, the professions they take on are generally those of hard, backbreaking work for very little pay. This means that others benefit from their labor, while they barely survive. Because of U.S. economic policy, many Mexican people have found themselves trapped in a situation that offers them few choices and very little opportunity.

Therefore, it is clear that U.S. taxpayers subsidize the oppression, exploitation and abuse of the Mexican people, in order that we, as a country, may profit from commodity trading, and the cheap goods produced elsewhere, and also the cheap labor here for those tasks that we prefer not to do. It is good to see that our policy and actions are beginning to change. Restoring the Colorado River to more closely resemble its natural flow is a move in the right direction. Yet, restoring 1% of the river’s pre-dam flow is not enough. More still needs to be done, if we are going to become good neighbors.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Reflections on the Meaning of Peace

Yesterday was Memorial Day in the U.S. On Memorial Day each year, countless numbers of folks display their “American” flags, and they gather together at parades, picnics and other get-togethers in order to remember and honor the nation’s veterans who have passed on as the result of their service to our country and its mission of freedom and security. Generally speaking, our society instructs us that those veterans gave their lives in order to secure and spread the ideals of a peaceful democracy that we may live life free. Therefore, for the most part, many of us tend to think of ourselves as citizens of a rather benevolent nation, where values of living in peace and harmony prevail.

Yet, living in peace and harmony are virtues to which many of us aspire but few of us achieve. Instead, we engage much of our lives in competition and conflict. For example, when we are young, we often engage in sibling rivalry, and we begin to learn our exclusionary social tactics by grouping ourselves together in cliques at school. Additionally, we learn to compete with each other in our academics, in sports activities, and in our consumption patters – forever seeking to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ even when we are too young to know that this is what we are doing. We learn this competitive attitude and behavior when we are young, and we work to perfect it in order to “compete in the marketplace of America”, as political commentator Bill O’Reilly has so eloquently named our purpose and way of life (O’Reilly, n.d.). Our way of life, for the most part, then, consists of maintaining social exclusions, competition between individuals and between groups of people, and because of this, a great deal of social injustice results, and this leads to conflicts between people, not peace and harmony.

Personally, I have become tired and emotionally and spiritually drained from an ever increasingly competitive environment that is rife with social conflicts. Certainly, I tell myself again and again, there must be a better way. It was two years ago, when I decided to learn about ‘another way’ and decided to go to college in order to do so. It had occurred to me, at that time, that most of mainstream U.S. culture is built upon stories of competition, conflict and domination, as evidenced in our very profitable and rather violent entertainment and sports industries, for example. I wanted to learn about what I thought of at that time as the ‘hidden peace stories’ – those stories that did not have the exciting appeal of a conflict or combat (and therefore they gain little media attention) but are essential, to my way of thinking, of passing on cultural knowledge of how people can act in order to get along with one another in a peaceful and harmonious way.

At that time, it was my intention to engage in what I thought of as ‘Peace Studies’. When I told folks that it was my intention to learn ‘peace studies’ almost no one knew what I was talking about. I explained that what I had in mind was learning about interpersonal skills of conflict resolution, conflict transformation, conflict management, peace building, and peacekeeping. I did not know much about the field of Peace Studies, either. I discovered that only a few colleges and universities offer studies in peace. No wonder our ideas about peace and how to achieve it are sometimes rather ambiguous. This reinforced my idea that there was a great need for this sort of education, for both myself and for others.

Through my own research, I discovered that Peace Studies, as an academic discipline, began in the 1950’s in the aftermath of World War II. The focus at that time was on international wars and their prevention, but the field has been expanding in scope ever since it began. Currently, the approach to peace studies may take different paths depending on the lens with which the topic of peace is examined. Two common approaches include that of dealing with the politics of war and the effective means for its prevention, while another related method is concerned with the causes of social conflict and its effective management and/or resolution or transformation (What is Peace Studies, n.d.). There is a wide breadth concerning approaches to the academic field of peace studies and one’s approach may take place at the interpersonal, societal, or the international level, depending upon the focus one wishes to explore. I prefer approaching the topic of peace studies at the interpersonal level.

For certain, the concept of peace means different things to different folks. Perhaps the most common idea concerning peace is that it is a state of social harmony that is characterized by the absence of conflict, violence, or war. I used to think this way. This notion of peace is sometimes referred to as negative peace, as described by sociologist Johan Galtung, the founder of peace and conflict studies. Yet the components of negative peace are only a fraction of what peace is, because in order to achieve a sustainable state of social harmony, it is also necessary to address the reasons for social unrest that lead to conflict, violence and war.

It is important to understand that power and wealth disparity are major causes of societal unrest in the world, whether it is at the level of interpersonal relationships, larger group and community interactions, or increasingly (because of globalization) at the national and global level. Much of the power and wealth disparity that exists in the world is a result of social and economic systems that have been in place since the time of Western European wars and colonial expansion into other nations. These social and economic systems have resulted in systemic power and privilege imbalances, and are often described as racism, sexism, classism, ageism, nationalism, and many more ‘isms’, which are now deeply embedded into our society.

These unequal systems of power and privilege easily develop into systems of domination, resulting in indirect structural violence, where some groups of people are able to profit greatly while others are left in conditions of suffering and despair. Many times, these situations of unequal power and privilege erupt into physical violence, such as what took place during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the U.S. and more recently in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I now know that if the human race is to achieve living together in peace and harmony, we must not only eliminate physical violence, but we must promote what Galtung named positive peace, by working toward a greater degree of equality and social justice for all.

Social justice recognizes a shared humanity. It also values diversity. Social justice promotes a positive and sustainable peace, by ensuring that all people have access to food and clean drinking water, security from physical harm and psychological harm, education for all, including for women and children, and other inviolable human rights. Social justice demands the consideration of human rights for all, and it works to balance competing demands for “needs, desert, and equality within and between societies”while balancing between joint responsibilities of both societies and of individuals (What is Social Justice, n.d.). Social justice addresses concepts of fairness at the macro social level by making the systems and structures of society more equitable. Therefore, in order to achieve a sustainable and lasting peace in society, it is necessary to move from unjust social systems to more just social systems, and this requires social change.

Collective action and social movements describe two methods that can be used to intentionally encourage social change. Collective action takes place in groups and describes behaviors such as a protest marches, political rallies, and the signing of petitions, for example. Mahatma Gandhi used this type of direct confrontation to or noncooperation with oppression as he worked to gain independence from the control of Great Britain for the nation of India and he called this method satyagraha or obstructive program (n.d.). When this type of group activity is purposeful, organized, and institutionalized, collective action then becomes what is known as a social movement.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960s was also led by a nonviolent obstructive program strategy. Nonviolence embraces a core belief that it is fundamentally irrational to use violence to achieve a peaceful society, and additionally it asserts that just means must be used in order to achieve a just end. Furthermore, nonviolence is a method of achieving social change by encouraging respectful dialogue and negotiation as a means for problem solving. Finally, nonviolence is a method of intentionally bringing about social justice by working to create an awareness of people’s unmet needs, and also by creating new systems and structures designed to meet those needs.

Nonviolent systems and structures are types of constructive programs ( n.d.)that are designed to replace the current unjust arrangement. They might include those that meet basic needs such as food, clean water, clothing and shelter for all. They could possibly be concerned with environmental sustainability. They might provide education and healthcare for all. They could also encompass more just economic systems that provide needed jobs and fair wages. Programs that include cultural awareness can reduce intercultural conflict while promoting the value of and the sharing of cultural knowledge. They might embrace nonviolent communication, or alternative dispute resolution programs such as mediation and conflict resolution programs. Or they may be ‘new’ ways of thinking about and addressing ‘criminal justice’ and involve strategies of restorative justice and restorative practices as an alternative to retributive justice and incarceration. Programs that encompass teaching about trauma healing (including the transformation of historical harms) and forgiveness can increase psychological wellbeing. There are many ways in which one can approach working toward a more peaceful future. Non-violent methods of constructive program, because of their intention to meet human needs and promote a more just society, are methods that are perfectly suited to promote not only social change, but also more specifically, social justice and consequently, a lasting social peace.

Over time, my ideas concerning what the notion of peace is, have been evolving to compare with the ideologies of many indigenous cultures, and that of nonviolence, constructive program, and especially in developing language skills (because the way we conceptualize our world is closely connected to our use of language) in non-violent communication. To my way of thinking, we may be best able to achieve a greater degree of social justice, and therefore peace and harmony by gaining theoretical knowledge and practical skills in the field of non-violent social change. What is most important to me is the notion of positive peace – a peace that focuses on a greater degree of social equality and justice for all. Ultimately to me, peace involves ‘right relationships’ with the Earth and with one’s neighbors including even one’s ‘enemies’.

References:

Constructive Program. (n.d.). Metta center for nonviolence. Retrieved from http://mettacenter.org/definitions/obstructive-program/

Obstructive Program. (n.d.). Metta center for nonviolence. Retrieved from http://mettacenter.org/nonviolence/satyagraha/

O’Reilly on America’s Race Problem. (n.d.). CNS News. Retrieved from http://m.cnsnews.com/video/national/oreilly-americas-race-problem#.U4QILgIpOdI.facebook

What is Peace Studies? (n.d.). University of Louisville. Retrieved from http://louisville.edu/peace/academic-programs/peace-studies

What is Social Justice? (n.d.) Appalachian State University department of government and justice studies. Retrieved from http://gjs.appstate.edu/social-justice-and-human-rights/what-social-justice

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Newton or Leibnitz?: Avoid Cultural Appropriation When Citing the Development of Calculus

“Calculus is the mathematics of change. Differential calculus, or differentiation, determines varying rates of change. Differentiation helps solve problems involving acceleration of moving objects from a flywheel to the space shuttle, as well as rates of growth and decay, optimal values, graphs of curves, and other issues. Integration is the ‘inverse’ (or opposite) of differentiation. It measures accumulations over periods of change. Integration can find volumes and lengths of curves, measure forces and work, and solve other problems. It is used in the day-to-day work of space scientists, architectural engineers, and theoretical physicists (Kowalski, 2011.).”

In the Western world, calculus was considered a mathematical breakthrough, because it dealt with continuously varying quantities, which until mid-17th century, in western mathematics, this concept had not been recognized. England’s Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and Germany’s Baron Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716) are the 17th century European mathematicians who are generally credited with inventing/discovering calculus. It is certain that both Newton and Leibnitz created calculus methods independently of one another, and they argued until their deaths about who developed calculus first (Calculus: Maths in Flux, 1999). We should recognize, however, that this important work was built upon a foundation laid by many others over the centuries. As Newton famously acknowledged, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Other contributors to the field of calculus are many. For example, the Greek Archimedes (approx. 287 – 212 BC), tackled problems of finding areas under parabolas and inside spirals, and he solved how to find the volume of the sphere, spherical segments, and the paraboloid. Archimedes also showed how to compute the slope of a line tangent to a spiral, the beginnings of differential calculus. He also used a clever ‘method of exhaustion’ to approximate the area inside a spiral. Archimedes attributed this method to Eudoxus of Cnidus (408-355BC) who used it to find the volume of a pyramid.

Additionally, in the tenth century, Thabit ibn Qurra (826-901) of southern Turkey and Abu Sahl al-Kuhi (940-1000) of northern Iran had discovered their own proofs for the volume of a paraboloid. Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham (Latinized Alhazen) (965-1040) born in Basra, Persia (now southeastern Iraq) read the work of Qurra and al-Kuhi and almost 700 years before the formulas for integrals would be known, he found the volume of a paraboloid by stacking disks.

Likewise, there were two Indian astronomer/mathematicians who are noteworthy for their contributions to calculus. Interestingly, they share the same name. Bhaskara I (n.d.), (600-680) authored the Mahabhaskariya, an eight chapter work on mathematical astronomy which included topics such as the longitudes of the planets, conjunctions of the planets with each other and with bright stars, eclipses of the sun and the moon, risings and settings, and the lunar crescent. Bhaskara II (n.d.) (1114-1185) is known for his writings in Siddhanta Shiromani, that work with differential calculus and its application to astronomical problems and computations.

Although there is evidence of all of this work (and more) in calculus in the ancient world, with records as early as Eudoxus of Cnidus (408-355BC), it is interesting to note that it is generally understood that centuries later, during the 1600’s and in Europe, an important ‘breakthrough’ in mathematics was occurring. This breakthrough was that European mathematicians began to use the algebraic structure of real numbers and they were imposing on it the notion of geometrical ‘closeness’. This is considered the birth of Analysis, a new field of mathematics at that time, which includes calculus. This is when the French philosopher, mathematician and writer, René Descartes developed the Cartesian plane (analytic geometry). It is claimed that this is what paved the way for the development of calculus in Europe. Yet, it is clear that many of the foundations of calculus were known well before Newton and Leibnitz. Therefore, it should be stated the history of the development of calculus, as we know it today, is the result of a long evolution of mathematical thinking, not a revolution in mathematical thinking, though Newton and Leibnitz are certainly the central figures to be credited. Newton and Leibniz were the first to state, understand, and effectively use the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.

Considering the controversial origins of calculus, another more recent argument has arisen. That is, Dr. C. K. Raju presented a paper, The Infinitesimal Calculus: How and Why it Was Imported into Europe , at the International Conference on Indian History, Civilization and Geopolitics (ICIH 2009) that was held at New Delhi (How Jesuits Took Calculus, n.d.). This paper claimed that development of calculus is not a European invention but rather it is an Indian invention that had been appropriated by Europeans. The claim is that in the 1600’s, Jesuit priests took trigonometric tables and planetary models from the Kerala mathematicians of the Aryabhata school to Europe to assist with Europe’s foremost problem, that of navigation. The problem of navigation was that at that time, the European calendar was off by 10 days, and this led to inaccurate measurements of latitude. By using calculation methods described by the Indian astronomer/mathematicians Bhaskara I and Bhaskara II, the navigation problem was solved. It is believed that the Indian mathematics was the source from which both Newton and Leibnitz drew their insights. They did not attribute where they obtained their knowledge, but instead credited the discovery of their new calculating methods to themselves.

Therefore, in light of this more detailed understanding of the development of calculus, we can state that both Newton and Leibniz added to a vast body of knowledge in the areas of both differential and integral calculus that began long before them. The problems that are studied in calculus: areas, volumes, related rates, position/velocity/acceleration, infinite series, and differential equations had been solved before Newton and Leibniz, but the expression of these solutions was awkward and slow. Newton and Leibniz were the first to state, understand, and effectively use the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. The field of calculus continues to evolve and develop today. Calculus is useful in solving problems in physics, biology, chemistry, economics, business, and other disciplines. On the Western front, the calculus quarrel between Newton and Leibnitz encouraged both men to publish their work so that later mathematicians could apply and expand it. The calculus quarrel illustrates the importance of publishing scientific work, and how important discoveries should be shared and also why they should be properly credited.

In conclusion, the Western world, calculus was considered a mathematical breakthrough. Mathematicians including René Descartes, Sir Isaac Newton, and Baron Gottfried Wilhelm are all are commonly given credit for its development. Yet, it should be recognized that this important work was built upon a foundation laid by many people in many lands and over many centuries. Contributors to the field of calculus outside of Western Europe of the Middle Ages included the Greek mathematician, Archimedes (approx. 287 – 212 BC); the Turkish, Thabit ibn Qurra (826-901); Abu Sahl al-Kuhi (940-1000), Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham (Latinized Alhazen) (965-1040) and Qurra and al-Kuhi (each from regions that we know today as Iran); Bhaskara I (600-680) and Bhaskara II (1114-1185), both from India; and Eudoxus of Cnidus (today’s Turkey) (408-355BC), who all contributed to the foundations and development of calculus. Therefore, it is clear that the development of calculus, as we know it today, is the result of many contributions to a long evolution of mathematical thinking, adding to and building upon the knowledge of many individuals and cultures.

References:

“Bhaskara I.” http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Bhaskara_I.html (accessed November 27, 2012).

“Bhaskara.” http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Mathematicians/Bhaskara_II.html (accessed November 27, 2012).

Calculus: Maths in flux. (1999, December 25). The Economist, 353(8151), 99.

Calculus, A P, and D Bressoud. “Calculus Before Newton and Leibniz: Part I, II, III.

“How Jesuits Took Calculus from India to Europe.” http://indianrealist.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/how-jesuits-took-calculus-from-india-to-europe/ (accessed May 2e, 2014).

Kowalski, K. M. (2011, July-August). A quarrel: Who invented calculus? Odyssey, 20(6), 17+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.library.esc.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA267032619&v=2.1&u=esc&it=r&p=ITOF&sw=w

Raju C. K.. “The Infinitesimal Calculus: How and Why it Was Imported into Europe (Abstract).” Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti House, New Delhi 110 011 & Centre for Studies in Civilizations, 36 Tuglaquabad Institutional Area, New Delhi 110 062. http://www.indianscience.org/essays/31-%20E–Infinitesimal%20Calculus.PDF (accessed May 2e, 2014).

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Our First Ooooby (Out of Our Own Back Yard) Meal for the Season

Today, we had our first Ooooby meal for the season – Korean Garlic Chive Pancakes.

Even before rhubarb, even before asparagus, garlic chives appear in my garden. Garlic chives, aka: Chinese chives, Oriental garlic, and Chinese leek.  In case you are unfamiliar with garlic chives, you might like to know that they are a plant that is much like regular onion chives.  But, as the name suggests, garlic chives’ flavor is rather garlicky, yet less so than regular fresh garlic. Garlic chives can be used in much the same way as onion chives, as a seasoning or as a garnish. Yet, because garlic chives are larger and more robust plants, they may be used as a vegetable, too.  

Garlic chives pancakes is a simple and inexpensive meal.  There are many variations, but the basics are: an egg, a little salt, a bit of hot pepper, some flour and water to make a thin batter, and a big handful of garlic chives, of course.  Fry the batter in a little oil and serve with dipping sauce. My boys love this meal.

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Garlic Chives Pancakes

Beat:  1 egg.

Stir in:  1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups flour (all purpose wheat flour or rice flour will do).

Add:  1 1/2 cups cold water and mix to a thin batter consistency.

Stir in:  cut garlic chives and cut green and/or red chili and/or julienne carrot for color,  if you wish.

Fry: in a little hot oil until batter is cooked through.

Serve:  with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

Mix together:  2 tablespoons each soy sauce, vinegar (rice wine vinegar is nice), and water.

Stir in a minced fresh garlic clove and some minced chili pepper.

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Garlic chives, allium tuberosum, is a hardy perennial.  That means that once they are planted, they do not need replanting, because they come back on their own each spring. They grow in much the same way as regular onion chives, except that the leaves are flat instead of tubular. Garlic chives will grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.  They grow to about 1 to 1 1/2  feet high, and have a fragrant, creamy white flower that attracts pollinators to the garden.

If you wish to grow your own garlic chives, start them by seed or propagate them by bulb. They enjoy well-drained soil and either full sun or partial shade.  They can spread aggressively if allowed to go to seed, so to control spreading, deadhead the flowers after blooming.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Feeding the Soil, Which in Turn Feeds the Plants That Feed Us

Fort Edward Community Garden Sign copy

Today, Josh and I prepared the raised bed at our community garden. When we arrived at our little plot of land, the bed was bare, and had a few weeds growing. So, we pulled up the weeds, raked out some trash and dug down a bit to see what the soil was like. We did not see any evidence of worms or other small life forms. Yet, we know that alive and healthy soil is full of worms and other small critters. So we set out to fix that.

Josh and I went home to get some worms from our worm bin and some supplies in order to make them comfortable in their soon-to-be new home.  When we returned, we dug a little trench down the center of the bed, and put in some red wigglers and many, many worm eggs. Then we covered them over with soil. Worms do not like sunshine!  Next, we watered the soil. Worms do like moisture.  Finally, we put on a layer of leaves to cover over the soil, and provide the worms with something to eat until the compost arrives.

A good friend of mine, and organic gardener, Moira Ryan, who we dearly miss, always advised, “Nowhere in nature, does bare soil exist”.  That is to say, when soil is left bare, the life in it is destroyed and then the soil disappears. Many folks may not think of soil as alive, but it is. Amazingly, there is more life living in healthy soil, than can ever live on top of it. Healthy soil will be alive with worms, other small critters, micorrhizae, and all sorts of microbes that I have come to think of as ‘the micro-herd’.   All of this life is desirable and we should encourage it and support it. This is the reason that when we garden, we try to disturb the soil as little as possible and this is why we keep it covered.

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Once we finished preparing the bed and covering the soil, we then stepped back to see how nice it looked. We thought to ourselves that perhaps we might lose our leaf mulch if there was a big wind. That would not be a nice thing to happen to our neighbors, finding our leaves all over. So we topped it all off with some cardboard boxes. To hold them in place we used a few pieces of wood. A good rain would sure help the soil and the soil critters a great deal right now. We intend to keep the leaves and cardboard in place in order to retain soil moisture and to also keep the weeds down.  An extra bonus of the mulching is that it will all eventually break down into new and healthy soil.

It is so nice to have fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables, but gardening, to us, is about much more than just growing food. This project will be a part of Josh’s homeschool curriculum.  He can learn about horticulture and community building while working on this project. Furthermore, because the small act of gardening puts one in touch with nature, it is natural that he will be learning about environmental issues, too.  In this way, our summertime fresh-food project will be a hobby that produces, rather than a hobby of consumption.  Our little garden plot will produce fresh fruits and vegetables, some healthy outdoor exercise, plus an educational opportunity in the sciences, social studies, and in creation care.  This is truly a More-with-Less adventure.

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On Mother’s Day, my dear son and I plan to return to our little garden plot in order to install some fencing for trellis, and perhaps plant a few cold weather crops, too.

When we were done working today, Josh said, “This is fun!”

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Growing Community

I’ve been busy preparing for the gardening season.  Last fall, my family had the old trees in our front yard cut down.  This was done for safety reasons, but also to allow more sunshine into our yard.  We will be planting more and more of our yard, each year, to fruits and vegetables. This year, we added 12 more blueberry bushes, so that now we have a total of 15. We also planted 4 pear trees. We had the branches of our trees chipped and shredded and left in a huge pile in our lawn. I’ll be spreading that over my growing beds this year to act as mulch.

The reason I am mulching, in this way, is because it is very good for the soil and for my plants, too. Mulch helps to smother the weeds, so that there are less of them. It also keeps the moisture from evaporating from the soil, so less watering is necessary. Because the soil then stays soft and moist, when there are weeds, it takes less effort to remove them. Plus, as the mulch decomposes, it adds organic matter to the soil, so very crucial for the wellbeing of the microbes, fungi and other critters that are an important component of healthy, living soil. Mulch, therefore, provides a healthy environment, full of nutrients that my plants need, while at the same time, saving me effort in the long run.  Furthermore, I spend less money on and use less resources such as water, and I have no need for pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers.  This way of gardening is truly an example of living more-with-less.

Fort Edward Community Garden Sign copy

Image Source:  http://www.fortedwardchamber.org/community.garden/

Yesterday, I joined the Fort Edward Community Garden. The Fort Edward Community Garden was begun last year through the vision and effort of the Village Baptist Church, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and others in the community. Its purpose is to provide a place for community members to come together to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and also to support the Fort Edward Community Food Pantry. The garden is located at the corner of Canal and East Streets. I was glad to have met some really nice folks who are also interested in gardening and growing their own food, and supporting the local community and economy.Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace copy

Image Source:  http://www.wcldc.org/news/page/2/

I understand that before the summer is over, there is to be a farmer’s market, Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace, in the village, too. It is planned that there will be market space for vendors both inside and outside of the 200-year-old storage building that sits behind the Fort Edward Town Hall. Plans for renovation, through volunteer effort, are currently under way. In addition to building renovations, the sight is planned to have sidewalks, lighting, and public restrooms. The Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace is being designed with heating and cooling so that it can be a four-season marketplace, serving the community by offering us local products year round. How exciting!

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