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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.

purple flower

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.

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Take It On – the Architecture2030.org challenge
6 Apples in Heaven
Factoid Fridays: Carrots
The Awesome Mom Club

10 Responses to “Never Build on Your Food Supply”

  1. Betsy Wuebker Says:

    Hi Patricia – I’ve often thought that only the most radically addicted gardeners would ever attempt the practice in Minnesota climate. But…I’m wrong, more and more are adding to the ranks of urban gardeners here in Minneapolis. In the western suburbs there are community gardens, people are researching rain gardens for run-off conservation and to keep our waterways and lakes/ponds cleaner, and of course, growing more of their own food – or supporting subscription-based farming to add to their tables.

    All of this is exciting to Pete and me, as we both have been avid gardeners throughout our lives, learning from our parents (and in his case, grandparents). My dad was an organic gardener in the late 50’s-early 60’s, way before his time, and my fondest memories involve helping him plant seeds and till in the two houses we lived in.

    Currently we have a 50 x 20 (approximately, maybe it’s bigger?) vegetable garden. Our biggest challenge is weed abatement and we have tried many methods, the best so far has been landscape cloth between rows. I’ve been advocating for square patches rather than rows within the garden fence, and I’d like to try combining vegetables such as squash/pumpkins with others in more natural fashion to keep the weeds out. Some of my great ideas fall on deaf ears!

    So I keep to my specialty – flowers and ornamentals. Projects completed in our two years of marriage include an exciting oasis between our drive and the neighbors. Formerly a patch of grass that no one liked mowing, we created a berm with free compost and dirt, and lots of composted manure, added stone retainers and a path for the mailman, and I went to town. My birthday present for this area last year was an Eastern redbud tree.

    I’ve also started on the perimeter in the back and have a nice perennial undulating border with lilacs and dogwoods. And we have converted the shady areas under our maples into giant circles of hosta.

    Pete supports all my efforts as they lead to less lawn to mow. Now that our house has been re-sided, this year is my year to work on foundation landscaping. Pete made me my beloved white window boxes and with the addition of new shutters, our house is back to looking like the Cape Cod cottage it started out to be.

    Gardening not only creates joy at the table, but joy in the heart. Back to the seed catalogs! Thanks, Patricia!

    Betsy Wuebkers last blog post..REQUIEM FOR RYAN

  2. Dot Says:

    Sounds like a good motto for nations as well as individuals. Not soemthing I can do — no way to get to the community garden, and too much shade to grow food on my condo patio. I’m not sure whether buying an indoor growing system with lights is energy-saving or energy-wasting.

    Dots last blog post..The Presidential Inauguration

  3. patricia Says:

    Betsy,
    Your yard and house sound wonderful and quite beautiful indeed.

    And you certainly have been busy. We have not been able to use landscape cloth in the actual garden beds because it kills the seed.
    but we are gradually using it in the orchard area to cut grass moving. Yes gardening is a joy all the way around. I found that the children did not take food for granted either. Though now all of the elementary schools here have gardens for the lunch program and my kids thought doing that at school and at home was a waste of learning time at school.

  4. patricia Says:

    Dot,
    I will just suggestion one idea…we have to put our salad barrels in a shady spot, because our growing season is so short and the greens just bolt to bitter with sunshine…they like the barrels to keep their roots warm but not the leaves. Tomatoes would be very hard…but the barrel gardens are quite fun…

    Indoor growing systems do not seem to be very energy efficient but I do grow my own sprouts inside and watercress. Basil plant is lovely indoors and out. I do load up on organics when they are in season and store them or dry them.

    I think it is a significant motto for everyone these days.

  5. Davina Says:

    Hi Patricia.
    Funny you should post this today. I was downtown and noticed that a busy corner of an intersection has recently been designated as a community garden. Now, this is a busy corner of downtown Vancouver. I was happy to see that they weren’t building yet another condo.

    When I was living on the farm as a little girl I LOVED working in the vegetable garden. During the summer I would wake early before the dew had even gone, and head out to the garden to do some weeding. It was so peaceful to be there in the stillness, with the sun still newly risen and the birds singing. Sigh. And then there were the fresh veggies to eat too. I miss it!

    Davinas last blog post..Self Help Me

  6. patricia Says:

    Davina,
    Though my parents always had a garden and my Grandparents, being of the depression, I did not take to well to gardening. It was always a necessity and not a joy. It is still a necessity but I changed my attitude about it – I just quietly do it my way and I don’t worry about having to fit into someone else’s patch.

    I just love that so many garden patches are appearing downtown in spaces and on green roof tops. Oh there are some exciting changes in the air.

    Sorry I did not see you for some reason? I am having to moderate each comment again? And with my computer still going up and down, they get stuck?
    I need to find a forum!
    Good job on substitute teacher at Barbara’s http://bloggingwithoutablog.com/blogging-support-forums-do-your-homework-first/

  7. Davina Says:

    Hi Patricia. Oh, no worries. Some of my comments have been going into moderation too, on my blog and on other blogs. I’ve just been so busy and haven’t had the time to investigate.

    I really enjoyed subbing for Barbara. I hope the info was helpful to everyone.

    Davinas last blog post..Self Help Me

  8. patricia Says:

    Davina,
    today I had no phone and no computer for most of the day, now I am only connecting to the server on the web not in my mail programs. This computer IT stuff is very funky – new system starting the 28th and new phone company too…I can hardly wait

    You did a great job on Barbara’s site. Bravo!

  9. Jannie Funster Says:

    Yes, we do all need to find our way back to The Garden, or gardens.

    Your place sounds like heaven. Garden of Eden? And eating?

    xo

    Jannie Funsters last blog post..And the ukulele song winner is…

  10. patricia Says:

    Jannie
    If heaven is too much work most of the time, then yep this is heaven!

    But it is a place of good eatin’