Where to begin

EcoCircles is about creating sustainable habits in our backyards. But what does it truly mean to be sustainable? As I'm washing dishes, I reflect on the soap I am using and the running water. Or, there's the soap and shampoo I use when I shower. There are so many ways we are connected into a consumer model of society, the choice to be more sustainable seems like an endless battle. So, where do we start.

I read about food forests this winter and so this year we started planting a garden with fruit and nut trees, various kinds of berries, grapes, herbs, some perennial vegetables. And, there's flowers planted throughout, many that are intentionally included for their ability to attract beneficial insects and nature. Others have been included for the sheer joy of their beauty, such as that chocolate cosmos I finally succumbed to in the nursery.

We planted sunflower seeds for the chickens, however, they have been shared with the squirrels and birds. I read to cut them when the backs were yellow, but few made it that far before many of the seeds were gone. I don't mind sharing with nature. In fact, I have been amazed at how quickly nature has returned to our yard. Last year we cut down the various fruit trees that were espalliered against the fence and house. They weren't healthy and had never produced well with the restrained lifestyle. This spring, two of our neighbors cut down a total of five trees from their yards. For weeks, there was silence. But then the work we were doing to build our food forest began to yield results. And, this fall, the sounds of nature are almost constant. It reminds me of the movie, "If You Build It, They Will Come" except in this case, it's nature rather than baseball fans.

I would call our first efforts a success, though I'm still unsure how much food we will actually derive from the "food forest". One of the challenges has been to find perennial vegetable seeds or starts. It's amazing how connected our food culture is to annual vegetables. I think part of the challenge is to start thinking of eating in new ways, learning to use what we've considered as weeds in the past. We're not there yet but at least I'm pondering how we could move in that direction.

Of course, each step forward brings to mind the next steps. And, how can we grow something more that feeds us or provides other of our needs such as body care items, medicines, or clothing. So much to learn and sometimes, it seems so little time to learn it.

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