See this glorious variegated corn? I’m so drawn to its colors, its beauty.
This is one multi-use variety we’re growing in our no-till slashmulch 3-sisters garden of corn, beans and squash. This was intended to be a “plant it and forget it” type of garden. But I just can’t forget this beauty.
Instead, I’m spending a little extra time tending and nurting this planting, drawn to want to tend this beautiful plant. And that is deep ecology.
In a very literal sense, this plant has evolved to coax gardeners like me into tending it. Just as all cultivated plants have: through their usefulness, their great flavors, their intoxicating aromas, and of course their beauty.
No doubt the synergy goes both ways. I take care of them, they take care of me. Surely, they provide me with a high-calorie carb crop that provides me with the energy I need to garden. And the rich, brilliant flavor of the corn in its milk stage keeps me near, protecting the seed crop when its at its most vulnerable. And yes, this food is medicine.
But beyond that, could this plant offer me healing and nourishment through its beauty? Does it hold me as a devoted protector with its inspiring colors? When I sit and look at it, is it building my connection with my ecosystem, teaching me to be a better steward? Healing my relationship with the earth and my community?
When I tend her, I tend the soil, I tend the myriad of beings that dwell therein. And so, I tend myself: making the habitat that supports me richer, more fertile, more abundant and healing. This is part of the magic of forest gardening.
I’m drawn to the beauty of this diverse landscape. I want to increase its health, enrich its diversity. And so I make the land better for myself, and all the beings I share it with. It has transformed me, a lowsy destructive human, from a “pest” into a beneficial.
Through forest gardening, I no longer want to “control” the landscape, go to war with it, limit its diversity. I want it to be wild, free, healthy and diverse, and I prioritize techniques that lead to that end.
“Come to me. Tend me. Give me water. Cover my soil. And I will nurture you, too. I can heal the sickness that has grown in your heart….”
Michael Hoag: Manager/teacher/gardener/author/designer/consultant.
Michael Hoag has spent over 20 years as a full-time worker in the army of Permaculture change-makers. He is founder of the Transformative Adventures Cooperative, managing director of Lillie House Permaculture, and a full-time Permaculture designer and consultant who has participated in over 300 projects. He has worked on farms of all sizes, worked with food justice organizations, colleges and universities, and environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, and PIRGIM. As a teacher trainer, he has worked as a pedagog in crafting university curricula, adult education curricula, and programs for environmental and ecological awareness, and Permaculture. He has worked at a farm credit bureau, a commodities exchange, and managed farmers markets. He has created businesses including market gardens, vermicomposting operations, and helped start and lead multiple community and non-profit organizations.
Michael has over 20 years experience teaching classes and facilitating group projects, including community garden and forest garden projects. He’s an enthusiastic researcher of traditional temperate forest garden systems and productive ecologies of the Great Lakes region. The culture, history and aesthetics of gardens and garden architecture are his great passions, and he believes beautiful, healthy landscapes grow beautiful, healthy people and cultures. He has taught and lectured for McHenry County College, Arora University, the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, the Chicago Adult Learning Resource Center, The Kalamazoo Nature Center, and gives presentations to community groups, organizations and churches. He helps organize Van-Kal Permaculture, the SoMi Permimixer, Michigan Safe Energy Future, CORE and the Kalamazoo Climate Change Coalition’s Food Group.
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