Tag Archives: allotment

remembering Henny Penny

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the lobby of the Agricultural Center for Community Gardening in Jerusalem

As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s tiring listening to the political messages we keep getting from the news media. Thinking about it, and in discussions with friends, I realize that it’s not just politics. Something has changed in the way that news is offered us. Maybe it’s been a long process, starting with the more subjective approach to journalism, called the ‘new journalism’ in the 60s, and reaching the level of an hysterical rant in recent years. The way issues are presented reminds me of ‘re-education’ in China during the cultural revolution there. The news media, having taught us politically correct discussion, are now trying to move us into action. I haven’t joined facebook but every now and then, the various movements or causes that reach prominence on that social platform are reported in the news as well, and it’s not clear whether these reports are meant to point fun at the social media or whether they’re considered important concerns for all of us these days.

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the old nature museum

Of course, there are also the real world social movements, like the ‘me too’ revolution, the anti-smoking movement, and the warnings of climate change on the planet. I feel obliged to mention that I oppose the abuse of women, addiction of any sort, and have believed all my life that pollution of the environment is an affront to nature and a terrible abuse of the general public. All the same, I don’t like to be preached to constantly. And I’m disturbed when I see a large portion of the public resorting to extralegal means to influence the processes of government or the courts.

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There has been quite a bit of controversy regarding the climate warming issue. The big question seems to be not whether the planet is warming, but whether man is responsible for this change. But it should be pointed out, that even if we human beings are not responsible (and we know there have been ice ages and scorching periods on the planet before man took over), we still have the same interest in trying to prevent a world disaster, whether it be a critical change in climate or an asteroid that comes crashing into our world. DrBob sent me a very interesting article recently which suggests that there may have been some very sudden climate changes in the past as a result of a reversal of the magnetic field of the planet.

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Yet what is to be gained by scaring ourselves and our friends with extremely pessimistic forecasts regarding the future? I too have my doubts about the future. I am convinced that we are watching the dawn of a new age that will be different from anything that has come before. We can expect changes just as radical as those that came after the development of sophisticated tools by cave men. I don’t believe that we can stand in the way of such change, even if we disapprove the path that society seems to be taking. Virtual reality might be a preview to an entirely different attitude towards sensual awareness. And we have yet to see what computers can do when they’re designed by computers.

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inside of the hot house

So, in an effort to find a balanced perspective regarding our relationship to nature and the environment, I visited the Agricultural Center for Community Gardening of Jerusalem this week. What impressed me the most was the ‘hotel for insects and bugs’. I had some expectations before I visited the place, but this was something I hadn’t even imagined. A home built by humans to offer insects and bugs a little comfort in this world. Usually we are just killing them or banishing them from whatever space we seize. And this was just the sort of thing I had been wondering about… is there a positive way to deal with the phenomena that disturb us, rather than just complaining or crying about it?

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Another thing that impressed me profoundly was hearing that there are 70 community gardens in Jerusalem, including allotments and wild flower reserves. I wrote about the allotment in my neighborhood a while back. You can find it here: http://tinyurl.com/y9c673o6

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the hotel for insects and bugs

The agricultural center is manned by some very talented and schooled volunteers. They are situated right next to the nature museum. They build a lot of their facilities and furniture themselves from recycled wood, sponsor a free library, lend tools to amateurs, hold seminars and cultural get-togethers. There is the Saturday ‘garden meet’ every week featuring lectures and cultural events. A photography exhibit was still on the walls when I was there. They have a very professional looking compost facility, conduct experiments in growing plant life on water without earth, and rely on an exceptionally well designed nursery to provide plants to all the different community gardens in our city. Quite a few of the many plant species native to our region have become extinct, and the botanists and green thumbs of the agricultural center are doing their best to prevent the extinction of such endangered species today. As I wandered around the grounds, there was no end of delightful surprises and a great variety of sights and smells.

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a demonstration roof garden

There was a fascinating roof garden, with huge wooden plant pots in which you could grow your own food, even if you lived in an apartment house. I think it would be hard for anyone to visit this center without catching a bit of the excitement about what is going on and the enthusiasm of the volunteers of all ages. The attitude among the workers and visitors is one of encouragement and friendship.

for more pictures from this visit see:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/shimonz/albums/72157668282675148

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back to nature

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You know, my friends… we humans are so full of ourselves… that it often seems as if we could do without mother nature completely. You walk through a mall, surrounded by man made scenery, enlightened by soft electric lighting. A sky above that has been specially designed to produce an equilibrium of infinity and offer a hint of plastic blue skies twenty four hours a day, regardless of what the weather may be like ‘outside’. And so a person living in this twenty-first century, could be excused for thinking that we really have no need for mother earth, except as a platform on which to build our own very stylized environment. And if ever it gets too crowded here on Earth, we could always build more of the same on the moon.

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But all the same, there are those… even city dwellers, who enjoy a rapport with the earth itself. While others are satisfied to believe that tomatoes, lettuce and carrots evolve themselves from a little bang to a plastic bag somewhere in the depths of the city where foreign workers reside… not to speak of the evolution of steaks and hamburgers… there are those who cultivate a patch of earth near their home, and actually grow vegetables that can decorate the dining room table, and be consumed as healthy food. Come to think of it, that doesn’t happen so much in the city. Maybe in the outlying suburbs. But for the most part, I suppose, it happens in the country, where you can see open fields here and there, and bits of ground that are uncovered and un-sculptured… real dirt that turns into mud when it rains.

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I’m staying in a small town these days… less than an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, and even here, most of the grounds between the buildings are sculptured and designed, and nary a patch of plain old earth on which to grow cauliflowers or radishes. Of course, there are beautiful gardens, and even a forest close to the edge of town… you can take your dogs or cats for a walk through the trees. And it’s very pleasant. But I haven’t seen any signs of local agriculture. Which led me to thoughts of the allotments that are growing ever more popular in the big city.

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the closest I get to nature

To tell the truth, I’ve never had the strength or the energy to take part in such activity. But after reading the splendid blog of Claire over at Promenade Plantings (http://promenadeplantings.com/), I’ve been meaning for some time to share with her the fact that we have a Jerusalem version of her beloved allotment, only about fifteen minutes walking distance from my old home. It’s a sort of common agricultural stretch of land, in which private citizens can request and receive a patch of earth, and grow all kinds of produce, from beautiful flowers to vegetables… even trees. There are seasons when the activities are more intense, but almost all through the year, you can see a few people busy on the land, doing what people do when they love the ground.

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There are a couple of sheds, and a nice shaded pergola, as well as two tents. I’ve got no idea of what goes on in those tents… Since I’m a book worm myself, and make my home burying into large concentrations of paper, sometimes bound, and occasionally clasped together… and scrolls… and lately, spend a large portion of my waking hours staring at a computer monitor, I’ve always been shy about approaching these city farmers, and asking them about their lives and pleasures, thinking they might not have much patience for the likes of me. But I do gaze at their vegetable plots, and admire their industry. And I do like to mention, under my moustache, most inaudibly, ‘you know, I have a friend over in England who does this sort of thing… and she shares recipes with me’.

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All the pictures in this post were taken at the urban agricultural experiment close to my home, except for the potted plant… which was sitting on my table as I wrote this post. I had so many pictures of the place, that choosing these, took almost as long as writing the post… and I do wish I could show them all.

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