Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beginnings are Diversions

Today I'm feeling guilty, mostly because I've been away from thinking about my next book for several weeks, focusing on students and promoting my garden coaching endeavor. Sometimes it's a very fine line between doing things you love, and doing things for the sake of not doing something larger you also love (and maybe more). I hate the word "thing" though. Is garden coaching a diversion? Is it the flavor du jour? Writing is at the core of my identity and gauges my self worth, yet I lead an exclusionary, solitary life, not networking in all the circles that matter, almost alienating myself from my tribe. I've done that my whole life. Somehow, the tribe of gardens seems more real, more alive. Maybe it's the flowers--so immediate, so real, so pungent, so awash in life not their own. It's obvious how plants live their lives, and how they interact with the world, what meaning they have and give. Writers? Writing? Shadows only. Gardens are sentences filled with images and metaphors, waiting to be stories and books.

On Sunday my wife and I were at Earth Day, which was estimated to have 3,500 folks over five hours. It was the first time we publicly marketed my native prairie garden coaching business, and in 30mph winds it got a bit hairy. What I will remember most are what native plants and ecosystems can teach us that we have forgotten, especially since about, oh, 1950.

1) Wasps are beneficial insects. They pollinate. They kill pests. Wasps are not an enemy unless you grab a nest and stick it in your mouth. We need wasps.

2) And we need bees. I was selling a few small divisions--mountain mint (an insect and wasp mecca), goldenrod, sunflower, coneflower, blue sage--and many folks asked which got butterflies. All of them I said. Which got bees and wasps? All of them. I sold native bee houses made of bundled joe pye weed stalks and those went fast. I think we have a a strange fear and fascination with insects, some are good, some are bad. Whatever might hurt us is bad. But if the monarch butterfly--devoid of milkweed stands in the wild--were to perceptibly vanish, I'd be hurt to the core. Insects also feed baby songbirds, whose numbers are similarly dwindling in the face of a spray first suburban and rural existence, along with sprawl of both.

3) Kids can be smart. Whoa. One girl came by and told us about all the countries she's been to, all the nature she's seen. She couldn't have been much over 10 or 11. Another girl came back twice and just wanted to hang out and ask questions about plants and butterflies and anything. Go kids. Go nature.

My wife made the necklace she's wearing. Aren't we so Earth Day? (no)
We sold $1 plants (some divided, some grown in basement), seed packets (Salvia azurea 'Nekan' and Aster laevis), bee houses, and $5 books and photos from my garden / Etsy store. 

We'll be in the public spotlight one more time, this Saturday at Spring Affair. I'll try to scare together a few more bee house bundles. So far, my desire for an acreage where I grow native plants (perhaps in rows) and in a greenhouse has been flamed. I want a tent at the farmer's market pushing natives, showing folks how we need them, how awesome they are. Of course, Earth Day was preaching to the choir. Still, have to get your feet wet somewhere. Hopefully in a pond filled with bass on 100 acres. Still waiting for someone to gift me that. Ahem.


Corner Gardener Sue said...

We didn't stay long because we had other things to do that day. Plus, the cigarette smoke was bothering me. Did you see the clown with the balloons? I resisted the temptation to ask her if they are biodegradable.

I ended up going to the talk on native plants at Pioneers Park, hoping to meet other gardeners to maybe do an exchange with. I was late because we had gone to our grandson's soccer game. I asked several people if they grew natives, and only one couple said they did. It sounds like we pretty much grow the same things. I checked off about 80 percent of the plants on their list as ones I already grow.

Oh, Becky said that people with small yards should not grow grey headed coneflowers. Oops! I have 6 clumps of them. Two of them, I've had around 5 years.

I hope you are mustering up some business. I like that photo, by the way!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Sue, I think a lot of things there were not biodegradable. I'm glad you went over to pioneers. I'm shocked to hear most others don't plant with natives. My goodness. Let's convert people! I have grey-headed coneflower too, so what? Boo on Becky. Sure, it self sows, but yank out the seedling. Too many insects like it. And it's gorgeous. Birds also enjoy seeds in winter.

Desert Dweller said...

What a nice couple...good plains folk!

Seriously, sounds like a great kick-off / public debut. And all 3 points you made...bravo. Some children are smarter than some adults, in their observance of everything from the land to the smallest insects.

As far as "preaching to the choir", I think there are some non-believers and new converst in all such groups, at least that's what I see. Way to go!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Good plains folk. Right. If you say so! You're right about the choir--sure did have some surprising conversations "I love butterflies" and all they planted was butterfly bush.

Kylee Baumle said...

I love this. I hope you're wildly successful! Good on ya!

Unknown said...

such a sweet photo! I am 62 years old, and I have a photo of myself and my sweetheart at the first Earth Day in 1970, collecting pesticides (you could still buy DDT in those days, I think Rachel Carson was still on everyone's lips) for disposal, in front of Safeway. I think plants and seed packets are so 2012. Best of success with your endeavors.

Benjamin Vogt said...

LN--That's crazy! Are seed packets so 2012 as in good thing? :)

Unknown said...

Totally a good thing. As in, do something positive (and green) -- plant seeds instead of having to nudge people to think about cleaning up toxins. Not that there aren't still plenty of toxins, old and new, to be cleaned up. But I would rather see people DOING something than protesting or fixing. And what I see happening in my local area, not really a very good place to grow food crops due to climate, is more and more folks doing it anyway. The locavore movement is a good thing. And here too I see people who are not interested in growing food, looking to native plants for landscaping choices. It's all good!