Small actions can keep us mindful.
Actions have reactions, whether they happen far away or right at home, whether we see them or not.
Every spring, when the fever to plant runs high, I remember the words of Bill Duesing, founding executive director of NOFA (Northeast Organic Farmers Assoc.).
“We grow lettuce (which is 95% water) in the desert and then use oil to move it 3000 miles to our mouths.”
Beyond water and fossil fuel expenditures, there’s also exploited farmworkers, degraded aquifers, pesticide pollution, algae blooms from fertilizer runoff and erosion from harmful tilling practices to consider.
We, the taxpayers – and the farmworkers bear the true embedded costs.
In that context, I’ve come to see growing a head of lettuce is a radical act. Even in a flowerpot.
I, as one person, have little impact on agricultural, labor and environmental policies. That takes collective action.
But I do have control over the food I grow and the food I buy (first choice: local, organic).
And I have control over water policy in my own yard.
Intention: let no water leave my property.
I’m getting there.
The roof of my house is its own little watershed. The ridgeline has become my own personal Continental Divide.
After years of tinkering, the berm and dip rain garden I built in my side yard functions beautifully.
No more washouts – just more beautiful native plants that love water, don’t mind occasionally drying out and don’t need me to provide.
The dip part is a shallow stone, gravel, soil and plant-filled depression within a long, curved garden bed that sweeps across the slope and away from the house.
Rain falling on the front roof spews out of a downspout extender buried under gardens. This directs water 10′ away from the foundation.
This lets all of the water from that side of the house sink into the earth, rather than running off. Roots and water create an underground soil sponge.
Water from the smaller back roof and curtain drain was originally piped out and away.
I smashed the pipe to let it loose in my wet garden.
There’s just a gutter on the back porch roof, no downspout. It’s satisfying to see where the water goes.
Rainwater shoots out the uncapped end, splatters off a carefully placed rock and into my water-guzzling mint patch, very handy outside the back door.
One small action
Organic local lettuce takes a few rinses to get all that organic local soil out of it.
I put my greens in the basin of the lettuce spinner, fill it with water, swish it around – and then dump it.
That’s where the daily reminder that little things matter comes in.
I could use electricity to pump water out of the aquifer, dump it down the drain and then draw more water from the earth to douse my gardens.
Or I could take the time to water a plant with the gritty water, go back indoors (maybe with a sprig of back door mint to add to the salad) and do it all over again.
It’s a drop in the proverbial bucket. And sometimes I get lazy about it.
But the simple act of taking that water outdoors keeps me mindful that there is no “away.”
Water, like everything else, comes from somewhere, goes somewhere – and it’s all connected.