Building a Better Bloke

The progression of responsibility

Posted in Domestication, Life skills by Sam de Brito on February 23, 2010

By Craig Lennox

I’ve decided to start a vegetable garden, and I’m not quite sure why.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and my girlfriend returned from a shopping excursion with packets of seeds, a chili plant, potting mix and fertiliser.

We had discussed the idea the night before, at which time I claimed that I didn’t think I could be bothered. However, upon being informed of her purchases that afternoon I put down my weighty Dickens tome and started pushing fistfuls of potting mix into biodegradable seeding tubs …

We planted some seeds, re-potted a few seedlings, enjoyed the hour or so of work, then sat back and reveled in our achievements. For the past week I’ve been watering daily to ensure my seeds “remain damp” and keep the seedlings from wilting in near-forty degree heat.

So how did my initial indifference become dedication?

It may be that growing veggies is one of the “things” to do these days. With every second person now a wannabe chef and foodie thanks to MasterChef, it seems appropriate that home-grown “fresh produce” also gains popularity for both cooking and to show-off to your friends value.

Most of us would have flicked straight past Peter Cundall and Gardening Australia during the twenty-or-so years he was on, but if we see Jamie Oliver poking around in a dirt patch and seeming like down-to-earth kinda guy, we’re all outside planting leeks in minutes.

Continuing with the “good guy” theme, growing your own veggies also does something for the planet.

Growing your food at home means it hasn’t been refrigerated and transported from the other side of the country or the world to your local supermarket, which is much less energy intensive.

It also means there are less chemicals involved; no pesticides or herbicides, artificial ripeners or preservatives, which means less of those chemicals in the ground or water supply, and less of them in you as well.

Growing vegetables may also be part of a “progression of responsibility” that is becoming more apparent to me at the moment.

I’ve spent some time living alone, working full-time and supporting myself, but very soon I’m going to be living with my girlfriend. The responsibilities, like bringing in money, paying bills, buying food and looking after ourselves, are going to be split. Someone is going to be relying on me.

And so are the vegetables.

The vegetable garden is our surrogate child, in its earliest, most primitive form. If we can’t keep some basil, chili and zucchini plants alive by sticking them in the ground, throwing some fertiliser around and watering them once a day, then how can we move onto the next surrogate, an easy-to-maintain pet?

And if our hermit crab then dies, then we’re definitely not ready to get a rabbit, and definitely not ready to invest in a companion that will require training and regular walking.

So you can see that only when we have managed to nurture zucchini plants, a hermit crab, a rabbit and a dog can we then take the significantly larger step into becoming parents of another human being.

And only after successfully raising a child will I again attempt home-brewing beer. I tried that once a few years ago, and on the fourth failed brew decided it is impossible to produce a decent beer in a plastic bucket.

Is this progression all in my imagination? Something I’ve made up to justify my urge to nurture basil?

The ascending staircase from house to garden to dog to child does seem common.

Or maybe it’s just something to do?

You choose a few plants, decide what to put them in and how to protect them from the sun, and a week later you’re rewarded with little green shoots poking out of the dirt. Your work has been rewarded, so you persevere.

And sometimes I just need a break from Bleak House.

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7 Responses

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  1. Miles said, on February 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Re: energy intensity, I suggest reading the links mentioned in this blog post for a good understanding of the energy involved in growing or sourcing food locally compared to mass production. Mass produced food has surprising economies of scale meaning it’s not nearly as bad as one might think.

    It’s more about local food production rather than home grown food, but you still need to be in energy from your body that has been converted from elsewhere, fertilizer, the seeds, potting mix, etc, all came from somewhere…

    It’s an interesting and complex problem.

  2. Miles said, on February 23, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    That should say “put in energy”, not “be in energy”. Whoops 🙂

  3. untangled said, on February 23, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Interesting that just hours ago I started my patio tomatos, and some miniature pumpkin. I will also be trying my hand at heirloom tomatos (Black, Pink, Red, and Yellow Brandywine.) A first for me. It’s fun and important to try different things.

    Milestone birthday, Craig? Growth is good!

  4. Eric um-Bist said, on February 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Tried reading Dickens a couple of times but never got past a page or two. Is it worth perserving with: do you adjust to the ancient cadences and suddenly appreciate the art of it?

  5. capn said, on March 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    buckets of love for this little article.

    I like the sentiment, the writing, and most of all, the ascendancy of baby after brewing!


  6. Mikey said, on March 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Yes Eric, Dickens is worth it. My favourite author. Although Bleak House was a challenge. My favourite is Tale of two cities, love it!

  7. leanne numore said, on May 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Progression of responsibility – I finally outgrew the bar scene.

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