Thursday, March 11, 2010

Making Lasagna In the Garden

I'm becoming ever more radicalized these days. News reports that reveal our food distribution system is increasingly irresponsible when it comes to providing our country with safe and nutritious food seem to come more often and with more of a vengeance. Remember the spinach? Then there were the beef articles in the New York Times. And the peanuts? Did you see the film, Food Inc? I'll never forget the scenes about the chicken farms.

I'm starting to behave peculiarly in the market, questioning every purchase and shopping at multiple stores to try to assure myself that I am bringing home food that won't harm my family.

This also feels a little bit like a Susan Faludie backlash moment. In the Faludi conspiracy theory it follows that women are kept powerless and unproductive as they become ever more distracted by false and minor issues set before them by the male-dominated power structure. Is some mastermind asking the question: How can we further undermine the American woman in her pursuit of a purposeful and meaningful life? How about if we make nutritious and healthy food a high-stakes game. The winners waste all their energy in endless pursuit of safe food. The losers buy whatever over processed and contaminated treakle found on the store shelves, risking salmonella poisoning, even death.

"Tis (another) unweeded garden."

This morning as the sun comes through my windows and the promise of spring is in the air. I'm thinking about my ever more ambitious vegetable garden. Last weekend, I hired a bunch of helpful neighbor friends, the highly productive middle school team consisting of Christian and Katherine Mussenden and Nathaniel Marshall (above, Patsy took their picture from the deck).

I offered them every digging and cutting tool in the shed and with care for their little hands, I outfitted them in old gardening gloves and set them to digging out the pachysandra for yet another vegetable patch. I came back an hour later to find my team covered from head to toe in mud, my tools equally caked in wet, heavy soil, and a refuse bag filled to the brim with soil and pachysandra, and weighing at least 60 pounds. The little gardeners were satisfied with their work and Christian pronounced himself to be exhausted. I paid them and sent them on their way. My back was most grateful for their labors.

Now, the plan begins. I'm going to make there what is called a lasagna garden. First I'll cover the area with cardboard and then I'll layer it with a thick cushion of uncomposted leaves. After that, I'll pile on layer after layer of detritus from my compost piles until I reach the bottom of the piles where the thick black gold resides. Into the layered lasagna will go all the kitchen waste that I've been pitching into the compost pile all winter. I'll build my lasagna garden at least two feet tall before I top it off with a rich organic soil and then for the next few weeks until the growing season begins on Mother's Day, I'll watch as the two feet of material falls gracefully back to the Earth decomposing and creating a miniature realm of bacterial goodness and rich garden soil for my eggplants and cucumbers. It's going to be a dish worthy of kings and safe and healthy for my family. The Putterer

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