Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stepping Sticks

Words and photos by Greg

The rivers that come together in this town ran high as mountain snow melted in late spring's heat. The water is retreating into its banks now but has left marks of its passing. There are missing riverside walkways and paths. And there are new piles of silt-polished driftwood in places where there weren't any before.

Early this spring we spent some time along the rivers "stick shopping" -- looking for straight-ish driftwood sticks among the tangles of dead and polished trees and branches washed up on the riverbanks. It was a handy way for us to gather a few functional sticks in a manner that didn't commercially cut down forests and which avoided the cost and waste of trimming, packing, and shipping that would be involved if we bought sticks.

We used the sticks to build arbors in the garden for the squash and bean vines to climb. We though this would be a good way vertically maximize our garden's limited space, which would allow us to grow more food. If we grow more food we hope we'll be able to cut down on the cost and waste of fertilizer, pesticides, packaging, and shipping that would be involved if we bought that food.

We're not self-sufficient pioneers wresting our living from the land. The amount of food we'll be able to grow for ourselves this year will be a fraction of the food we'll eat. But with each home-grown bite we'll be taking an important step away from a status quo that we see as increasingly inappropriate.

We'll step away from chemicals that damage the world we live in. We'll step away from a economy that thrives on private profits from common resources. We'll take a step away from leaving our next meal in the hands of an agribusiness empire which has lost sight of the ethical and the humane in a fog of profit and greed.

Our squash and bean vines are just now reaching the lower portions of the arbors. The sticks from the river are helping us take a small step toward changing the way we live our lives. One small step that may become a stumbling walk, which may become a steady stride toward positive change in the world.

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