Friday, May 24, 2013
It’s spring! The garden is a mess!
Time to get out the gloves and knee-pads, put on the old clothes and get out there and clean it all up. Welcome all the new little flowers, smell the grass, listen to the birds, plant the peas and lettuce and spinach, and — the only good thing about global warming so far — get it all done before the black flies show up.
Maybe this year, if you are very lucky, you may see a spotted salamander or hear an eastern wood-pewee.
Put out the rain barrels, clean out the birdhouses, repair the raised beds, prune all the winter damage and even make up a few jobs just to stay outside and put your face in the sun. With a little sunscreen, it’s good for you.
If you didn’t finish your winter woodworking project, so what? It will wait until next winter. Just leave it and go outside!
The calendar determines a lot of what we do in the garden. The changes come more or less regularly, and most of the time (well, depending on the year), the results depend at least partly on our own efforts. Put ground limestone on the lawn and it responds. Water, and stuff grows better. Weed, and the flowers are happier.
A lot also depends on all the things you did in prior seasons. You built up the soil, you made welcoming habitat for friendly birds and insects, you experimented with what plant varieties like your microclimate.
And then, there are the unpredictable factors such as the weather that nobody controls.
Still, most years, your gardening efforts are rewarded. Stuff comes up. Stuff blooms. Some of it you can even eat.
The rest of the world is more complex. These days, since the Great Recession, it often seems a little bit broken.
But — here’s my thought — when things are broken and there are no more rules, you can do what you invent. Make it up. Create new things. Look for like-minded people to team up with. See what develops. Go in the direction of the change you want to see. It’s kind of like civic gardening.
I see this happening in Franklin County, in particular, and western Maine, more generally. Grass-roots organizations such as the Western Mountains Alliance, the Greater Franklin Development Corp., and the Franklin County Agricultural Task Force are not only doing their own work within their sectors, they also are teaming up with RSU 9, University of Maine Farmington, the Franklin Community Health Network, the Franklin County Community College Network, and many other non-profits, businesses and individuals to identify and work on major issues that need to be solved for the good of all.
We’re calling this a “network of networks.” We could call it a community gardening project, too.
We each look at the assets we bring to the table and see how we can mobilize them. We educate each other about what each group does, and see where there are common interests.
Transportation, broadband access, land-use inventories and policies, educational aspiration, entrepreneurship and regional branding and marketing are some of the cross-network topics that the group has so far identified. We’re at the beginning stages of civic gardening, seeing what may flourish in our microclimate, finding the responsive topics, discovering friends and helpers.
The Franklin Community Health Network has just conducted an educational briefing for us about broadband access. It inspired a lot of creative thoughts. Some of them will bloom.
Our group, which always welcomes new interested folks — new civic gardeners — will doubtless find other ways to dig, plant and encourage new things to grow.
It’s spring! We’re getting out in the garden!
Theodora J. Kalikow is president of the University of Maine at Farmington. She can be reached at email@example.com