Tuesday 19 May 2015

When to look for new instructions

Like many people in my latitude, where we have just passed the historic frost-free date, I spent a considerable amount of this weekend gardening. Or, to be more precise, painstakingly recovering plantable soil from a riot of opportunistic other plants. Many hours of tracing the rootlets of creeping yellowcress down into the dirt (after the prior three years' methods of reducing the amount of garden bed given up to this hungry and allelopathic rhizomatous creeper) gave me ample time to wonder about how environmental knowledge feedback loops work. 

Gardening seems like a perfect domain for this line of thought: one tries many different things, with fairly stable goals, and only moderately changing environments. Quizzing my fellow gardeners as we weeded, pulled out rocks -- and learned how to build a hoop house through a skillsharing workshop led by Cherry Page and Tim Flowers with the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance (pictured assembled!) -- I realized that the different modes people bring to garden observation may be quite salient to my ongoing exploration of frameworks for orientation.

Many people seem drawn to gardening because it is a domain of knowledge passed on from others -- while others seem more excited about the direct interactions with environment. And both of these approaches seem to have strengths and weaknesses for dealing with the need to change behaviors as conditions require. Hoop houses are a great example of the way that the changing conditions may be social as much as environmental: as people share techniques for building this kind of growing season extender, the process of sharing observations and experiences may invite others into ways of noticing and adapting. What did really well that warm spring or fall that might thrive with more shelter? Which weeds seem to have less yellowcress around them? What kinds of garden orientation seem to get people to come back and keep weeding?
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