Mutual Aid and Plant Sharing

Yep, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and the Republicans are continuing to dismantle the USPS and steal the election, and we’re in the middle of one of the biggest national protest movements ever in the US (and Hong Kong, and Belarus, and…), and a massive reckoning with racism. Also climate change, which means I’m in Day 2 of what is predicted to be the longest and hottest heatwave ever in the Bay Area, and also that we’re dealing with possible state-mandated rolling blackouts to deal with the energy surge, plus fire season!

What I’m saying is, I needed to find ways to help. Something that maybe could move the needle in a small way. I wanted to do something aligned with my skills, my values, and the knowledge that we desperately need a prolaterian revolution.

So I started growing plants in cardboard toilet paper rolls. I did the first round for my own garden, and kept saving the rolls for future plantings. It seemed to work well, and I was satisfied with the results. I continued to tend my own garden, literally and metaphorically.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been reading more about mutual aid. The work of Cooperation Jackson has been particularly inspiring, not to mention the many people and organizations putting together teach-ins and talks and podcasts about revolutionary topics. I have been absorbing information about the ways it can strengthen a community and make us more resilient, and more able to mobilize in the event of, say, a General Strike, or even a disaster like COVID-19.

But being a white woman who was raised comfortably middle-class, I still have this need to be told when it’s okay to do something. I have an expectation that there will be an existing effort or organization I can hitch my wagon to, so to speak. Because if it was worth doing, wouldn’t someone already be doing it? And how would I even go about starting my own Thing anyway? Is there some secret manual to organizing that I don’t know about?

It sounds silly, but it’s true! I think a lot of us are just waiting for someone else to do something or start something so we can comfortably follow. But I’ve watched so many mutual aid efforts—by individuals and organizations old and new—crop up in the last few months to fill in the yawning gaps left by our broken system. Real, actual help being given to people, whether it’s making sure elderly neighbors have groceries or protesters have food and supplies. Why couldn’t I help with the resources I have?

With all this percolating in my brain, and after my parter Cael mentioned people were looking for plant starters on Nextdoor, I realized I might actually have something worth sharing: I could give away vegetable starters. It would be a small thing, but a way to get to know other local edible gardeners and potentially introduce newbies to gardening as well. And by giving people a few vegetable starters, I could move my neighborhood a little closer to food sovereignty.

I started with six pea plants. Peas are surprisingly productive and hardy, and I found a variety that grows well in my usually very foggy neighborhood. (Thank you, Kitazawa Seed Co.!) It took them a little bit to get to a decent size, but once they were ready, I made a post on Nextdoor. They got snapped up immediately, and I got to give them out to three different neighbors.

Once they were all claimed, I updated the post and let people know I would be planting another round of starters soon—this time some peas, arugula, and bok choy. A couple people messaged me and let me know they were interested, so I planted some starters for them, plus some extra. Those starters are sitting on my windowsill now, and I water them first thing every morning.

Today, one of the people I gave a pea starter to met up with me so we could exchange seeds. They gave me lettuce seeds and got arugula and carrot seeds in return.

I don’t expect this will ever be a big thing, and I don’t really need it to be. It’s enough for now to build more connections in my community and know that a few more people will be able to eat fresh arugula and peas in a couple months. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to find other ways to reach out and thinking about other skills and knowledge I can offer. And, of course, reminding myself that if I see a need and have the resources to satisfy it, I don’t need to wait for someone else to step in first. I am capable of solving problems on my own, as we all are.

What I’ve Been Reading/Watching/Listening To Lately

A graphic with a photo of pea plants and the text: “Mutual Aid and Plant Sharing”

2017 Wrap-Up and Looking Ahead to 2018

It has now been nine months since I started this blog. My inaugural post was about the beer trap I put together to try and fight off the snails in my community garden plot. Over the course of the next few months, I wrote more about gardening, body positivity, and minimalism. I’m proud of all of the writing I did over the course of 2017. I was more consistent than I expected that I would be and found a way to discuss a broad range of topics. Every time I was running out of ideas, my gajillion lists of possible blogging topics I had squirreled away and my partner helped me figure out something to say. 2017 was a good year for this blog.

I am hoping to improve some things on this blog in 2018. I want to post more regularly and increase the quality of each post. As far as specific ideas I’d like to cover, I would love to make more posts about:

  • cooking!
  • San Francisco hiking, history, and cool places to visit
  • running a small business/flipping
  • financial health posts

I have a lot more ideas, but those four topics are parts of my daily life that I haven’t really tapped into and would like to discuss a bit more.

On a personal, non-blog-related note, I’d like to take a moment to say I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished this year. I finished up my last semester of school, graduated summa cum laude, and was offered a full-time position at a company I really like working for pretty soon after that. I’ve learned a lot of new things at work and am getting better at what I do all the time. I’ve become a better editor and a stronger communicator.

Outside of work, I’ve worked on strengthening my relationship with my partner and also becoming more comfortable being independent. Without school in the picture for the moment, my life looks a lot different and I’m still working on figuring out exactly who I am and what I want to prioritize in my life. 2017 has been the year of having enough space in my life to figure all that out.

I am hoping 2018 will be a year of finding my groove and generating a lot of forward momentum. There’s lots to do and learn and I’m ready for it.

It’s been a week since I graduated now. I’m only just now starting to feel like I’m coming up for air. I’m still trying to catch up on sleep, still trying to work out a routine for myself. It doesn’t quite feel like freedom yet, but I know it will soon.

I’m trying to figure out my work situation and finances right now and try to put myself in a position where Future Me is comfortable. I’m also trying to give Present Me a break, because Present Me seems permanently exhausted and always just on the verge of a cold. (Dear God, please don’t let it really be a cold.)

On the positive side, I’ve had a lot more time to do things I feel like doing. I’m already halfway through the latest season of House of Cards (it’s killing me, y’all) and I finally got to do some of the main quests in Dragon Age: Inquisition, which I have been playing for 2+ years now! It feels really good to get home and actually relax. No worries about assignment deadlines or applications or papers or projects. My Me Time feels like real Me Time and not time stolen away from me doing productive things. It’s incredible. I spent my Saturday playing Don’t Starve Together and getting my teeth cleaned, which is an ideal Saturday.

Oh, I also started reading Farm City by Novella Carpenter. It’s my latest public transit read and I’m really enjoying it. Definitely an light, easy read that’s right up my alley. Urban gardening? Squat gardening on land that wouldn’t be used otherwise? Creating community with gardening?? Wonderful. I have some issues with some of the implications in the novel re: gentrification, but there’s a lot of stuff that makes it a worthwhile read for me. Definitely check it out.

Also, speaking of reading: I haven’t finished it yet, but I read most of The Abyss Surrounds Us for work and absolutely loved it. It’s a combination of a future and futuristic world that isn’t necessarily any more dystopic than the present world, but still extremely different, kaiju, futuristic pirates, and lesbians. I wish it had come out when I was younger, but I was really glad I got the pleasure of reading it now.

All of this to say: things are not perfect, but they are good, and they feel like they are going to get better.

Just gonna put this here…

Mostly just so that when I get out of Finals Hell in a few weeks I have a little road map for myself and how I wanna spend my summer. Freedom from academia is so close, y’all, and I’m dying to taste it.

I’ve really been wrestling with whether or not I want to go to grad school right away. There’s a part of me that feels like I should–particularly the part that has already applied and been accepted to two different programs, the part of me that listens to my mom, the part of me that has been excitedly telling family and friends about the possibility of going to school in Ireland in the fall–but there’s a much bigger part of me that is just… tired. I really don’t feel like I could give grad school my all right now. I am academically exhausted. Grad school is definitely something I want to do. I really want to get my Masters and maybe someday even my PhD. I absolutely love school and I don’t think I’ll be able to just have my BA and be done with it. There’s a lot of people telling me “if you don’t do it now, you’ll never do it” but they’re all people who don’t really get pleasure out of school and got a degree to have one. I went to college mostly just because where else was I going to be able to spend four years talking about literature and honing my writing, my research skills, and my ability to read and think critically?

It’s a lot to think about.

But regardless of whether I go back this fall or not, I do want to have some stuff for myself to do and look forward to. I want to spend more time at the library this summer. I have a lot of books on hand that I would like to read/finish, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s come out over the last four years that I’ve missed because I’ve been too busy reading books for class. It’ll be really good to just walk through the stacks and find some cool stuff this summer. I wanna catch up on Walking Dead comics and read more Thomas Harris books.

I also want to spend more time outside. I haven’t been to the beach in years, and the last time I went it was because I was an emotional wreck and seeking solace from sunshine and ocean sounds. I’m ready to go when I’m having a good day. I definitely want to take advantage of Falling Fruit and see what I can find in the parks and slightly more nature-(re)claimed areas of the city. I wanna learn a lot more about plants (yay, more library time!), particularly wild plants. If I end up staying, I might even see if they’ll give me my old garden plot back at Brooks. That spot was amazing and gave me so much space to work with and I’d love to get to use it again, especially since I’d have more time on my hands.

I also want to try and get the apartment in better order. I reorganized the kitchen a while back, but it’s time to do it again, and also scrub the insides of the cabinets, which have this gross film of honey all over them. I wanna get organizers for the spices (we have SO MANY SPICES and we use them all on a pretty regular basis, but it’s so hard to find stuff because it’s all jumbled together) and some can racks.

Also want to prepare an emergency kit/bug-out bag. This is San Francisco and earthquakes happen. I’ve only experienced one while I’ve been here–which I slept through completely–but we are long overdue for a big one and I want to be ready for it when it comes.

And, of course, I want to start looking for work. What that work ends up being depends a lot on whether or not I’ll be staying here or not, but I am looking forward to finding something that suits me. I’ve worked through college so it’ll be a weird experience to be able to walk into places and ask for a little more because I have a degree. I’m so used to having to accept whatever they give me, but now I feel like I have a teeny bit more leverage for negotiation.

I’m excited and tired and really ready to get my life started.

Beer Trap: The Latest Weapon in the Snail War

Finally got back to the garden after a week of heavy rain. We just planted some new plant babies recently (dragon carrots, tomatoes, a few different kinds of lettuces, and kale) and I was really excited to see how they were doing. More specifically, I was excited to see whether the beer trap we’d set before the rain started had worked and actually captured some slugs.

It did.

And it was freakin gross.

If you’ve never heard of a beer trap but are curious about how they work, I’d recommend looking here (x). It’s a WikiHow article, but it’s pretty informative. Basically, you stick a shallow, smooth container filled with cheap beer into a snail- and slug-infested garden. The slimeballs can’t resist the scent of the yeast and crawl into the container and drown themselves in cheap, yeasty alcohol.

I’ll spare you photos (I couldn’t bring myself to take any to be honest), but it was… nasty. But! The beer trap worked! Some plant babies still got nommed on, but as far as I could tell that was caterpillars or other pests rather than the snails we usually deal with. I’m going to have to research other forms of pest control since we do our best to keep our garden organic and free of pesticides and other contaminants. I’m happy with the trap for the moment. I’m still trying out other natural alternatives to pesticides, like spreading crushed eggshells all over the surface of the garden (snails hate that) or lining the edge of the raised bed with copper, but since the beer trap is a pretty cheap, simple solution, I’m not about to try and fix what isn’t broken.