Never Build on Your Food Supply
“Never Build on Your Food Supply,” was the first statement in the keynote address for my initial attendance at a Regional Architectural conference thirty three years ago. It was the opening to Dr. Scott’s remarks to the conference and he followed this by saying it was one of the most ancient sayings in China that he had learned on his trip.
I have never forgotten that statement, it has clung close to me for these past years.
Dr. Scott was the department head of the Architecture and Engineering School at Washington State University. He was a friend of my partner’s and a very skilled teacher.
We did not build on our food supply. Rather the first passive solar house we built left the productive soil vacant for a huge container garden and amazing orchard space. The house was tucked up hill, which put all the service needs of a house in the back yard, out of sight, and often out of the weather. We grew with minimum effort about 50% of the fresh food our growing family needed. There was no shortage of flowers so the front yard was art to behold.
We added a green house to the side of the house and this provided heat in the winter and food in a very small space that opened onto the dining room. This was an excellent heat source for the rest of the house.
Our renovated house does not get as much sunlight and we must be careful to savor the growing spaces among the flowers. Our food budget drops considerably as each veggie and fruit comes into season, but most folks who passerby do not see the fruits and veggies of our labors for the lovely flowers and blossoms.
Folks do notice the deer fencing and the bee houses and what looks like a bird feeder, but is primarily for the squirrels and birds to leave the baby seeds alone and not to leave the roses bloomless.
I remember a TIME magazine article from 28 years ago which was about what the future would bring. There was lots of speculation about how computers would shine in the future. Then there was the information that a fresh salad would become one of the most expensive items on a restaurant menu – often in the range of $12.00.
We learned how to cold frame and grow container salad gardens close to the kitchen door which we planted on two week intervals and keeps us in salad for a much longer season each year.
Just as everyone helps clean this house, because they are living here, everyone helps work in the garden and bring food fuel to the table. This enhances our care of one another.
We need the massive fir trees to drink the 500 gallons of water a day and we need to grow what foods are available to us and our growing season. We mulch with weeds and the fall leaves. We grow a green crop of Crimson Clover which makes the raised beds look like green velvet all winter. It is also a vitamin source for the soil, and all our kitchen waste goes in to the compost bin/worm box (keeps the possums out) until it is dug in- in the spring.
My Mother lived in an apartment once with public garden beds down the road and once on the third floor with a balcony. She had a container salad garden and always her tomatoes.
These are not radical ideas. Except that when someone is allergic to grass it is wonderful not to have to mow! We spend one long day or weekend on care of the gardens twice a year and in between about an hour a day.
I notice that all the younger people buying houses in our neighborhood are doing the same kind of planting and gardening. We are within walking distance of the Farmer’s Market too.
It is a very satisfying way to be careful of the earth and our bodies. It just feels good all over.
I see that so much of our orchards and farms along side of the Interstate have gone to strip malls and stores. I think we have failed to take heed, I also think that factory farms have failed to grow nutritious foods. I think China has forgotten the message too.
So what do you think of the wisdom of “don’t build on your food supply? Let’s make a list of all the ways we could make this philosophy work for us in our future and of course for our children? There are other ways to use this philosophy in our own lives without growing a garden – how do you do it?
Let’s create a resource guide of how to act upon this philosophy in our living today for a future Time Magazine reference. I look forward to your comments.