Severe scarcity is a harsh reality for more and more Americans. The stories from the depression don’t seem so far away anymore. Folks without healthcare have been coping without – and suffering the lack of care. Jobs available, if they can be attained, are often in very low paying positions with tough physical demands and no health insurance. Someone with a known health condition has to be very careful about the balance of exhaustion/physical ailments and the cost of attending to those ailments while trying to keep the job. It is a vicious cruel cycle that did not happen by accident, it is all part of the Republican plan to disempower American workers so that they will grovel and beg to simply keep their families alive. Mitt Romney is a big fan of this sort of slash and burn method that leaves workers jobless and on the edge of survival.
Denise Morrison, a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma is one of these Americans. She has health conditions and has been unemployed. In order to eat and have some medicine, she planted her yard full of edible plants. She read the rules governing the shape of a yard and followed them – anything over 12″ high must be edible – every plant is producing something edible (more on lawns in a bit). For those international readers that aren’t familiar with the lawn police, in America, if the city or neighborhood does not like how tall you’ve allowed the grass to grow around your house, you can be fined and the local govt. may decide to cut your lawn for you then send you a (ridiculously expensive) bill. Denise checked the rules before she bought the house, and then proceeded to create an edible garden all the way around the property including medicinal plants for her health issues, produce, fruit and nut trees, herbs for cooking. She had over 100 varieties of plants she was using. Denise’s story and video is here.
Someone in the neighborhood complained about the look of her yard and the ordinance enforcers came around to ask her to cut it down. She made several attempts to explain her situation and how all of her plants were edible and so should be within the code as was written. The ordinance folks decided to cut it down even though a judge postponed judgement on the situation until months later. The sequence of legal shufflings are not crystal clear, but what was clear is her dependence on her plants for life and livelihood. Ms. Morrison is now suing the city of Tulsa.
Americans should not have to secure an attorney to insure that they can feed themselves with their own garden.
The gap between rich and poor is widening and for the poorest, there has been a quickening as the lack of structure takes its toll, and the hope for a change in the system plummets. Illnesses have progressed, stores have been used up, dreams have vanished. Millions of people are thinking only of the most basic necessities to stay alive – food, water, shelter, medicine. Sometimes this free fall from lower income to abject poverty gets messy. People don’t look their best when they’re sick and hungry, perhaps their yards get messier due to …lots of things: growing food, lack of fuel or money to pay for upkeep, lack of time or energy to complete non survival tasks like manicuring a garden.
This “ugliness” may be upsetting to view for some that are not poverty stricken, but we will see much more of it. In the case of Ms. Morrison, she actually had proof (pictures/plant use knowledge) that her garden is quite beautiful and productive. Perhaps it wasn’t beautiful to the neighbor that complained, but for some of us, the sight of a neighbor spraying toxins is hideous – and it actually hurts more than the dandelions. It could also be seen as obscene to use fuel to cut grass more often than twice a month – due to shortages and pollution. Why was Ms. Morrison treated this way for simply growing a garden? The enforcers of this country must realize how many people are living on the edge. Dotting i’s and crossing t’s should not mean going hungry.
Lawns, incidentally, are a holdover from feudal times when only the most well to do could afford such a luxury for playing games. It required a “lawn boy” that wielded a scythe and emphasized the fact that there was so much land owned that food productivity could be left for the servants in the gardens while the pretty lawn was on display. In American, we often think of each house like a castle – “a man’s home is his castle” – and definitely have an obsession with keeping up with the Joneses (or really showing up the Joneses). Here’s an excerpt from an article about the usefulness of lawns by newsreview:
In the cool, rainy climate of England, natural grass lawns took root. Over time, the plants surrounded the vast lands of the super-rich—the only ones who could afford the scythe-wielding servants or the livestock herds that would trim down the growth.
European immigrants brought grass seeds to the United States, where expansive lawns remained a status symbol for the well-to-do up until the turn of the 18th century. Scottish immigrants brought the games of bowling and golf (ever notice all the parts of the country called “Bowling Green”?), which required large plots of playable turf.
Then several factors converged to bring green grasses to the masses.
As industrialized 19th-century cities grew, beautification programs began including plans for parks with public lawns. New York’s Central Park architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who would go on to design park projects across the country, soon designed suburbs that included grass lawns for each home. The invention of the lawn mower and the garden hose helped average Americans handle the tasks of cutting and watering.
The bottom line: These forces combined to bring us a crop that doesn’t grow here naturally—and that requires gallons of toxic weed killers and gasoline for upkeep.
From this author’s perspective in Sacramento, CA, there is drought and it is ridiculous to know that half of a household’s water is spent on watering the lawn – or as the author puts it, the dog’s toilet.
The times, they are a-changin’. Ask someone who lived through the depression, they might be able to share some stories. Ask them how they survived. Food is key.