Feed your family. Feed it!

DandelionMasjid DarussalamSanFrancisco1_MonaCaron_0

Dandelion mural by Mona Caron.

I have been getting an ironic laugh out of the latest Scott’s Turf Builder with Plus 2 Weed Control (TM) (EDIT: the product is called Weed and Feed) commercials. The eponymous Scott tells the homeowner how “dandelions are stealing precious nutrients” from his lawn.

This is a perfect expression of how messed up our culture is. We would rather use our paltry bit of land for almost entirely useless* “grass” while dismissing amazingly nutritious, health-enhancing, tasty, medicinal plants as “weeds.” (God forbid we use that space to grow food for our families.) It’s just so…stupid. It makes me laugh and rage at the same time.

It exactly parallels what is happening to humans here in California. We are in the midst of this major drought, and far from all of us pulling together, we “little people” are expected to shoulder the burden by cutting our water use by 25% while petroleum companies, Big Ag, and Nestle can have all the water they want so they can either pollute it utterly, or sell it back to us at obscenely inflated prices under various brand names. And as for the wealthy of Southern California, well, they just use as much water as they damn well please because (1) they are evidently *completely* out of touch about how to actually conserve it and (b) they feel entitled to everything else, why not water too? But hey, they’re willing to cut back “if the state’s water situation doesn’t improve.”

Well, guess what? It’s not going to improve in our lifetimes and probably not in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.

We know grocery store vegetables and fruit taste like cardboard. We can reasonably surmise that they’re not as nutritious as they once were due to the depletion of nutrients in soils.** They’re covered in pesticides (even some of the organic ones) that we’re told are safe, but then they told us DDT was safe too. Few people are affluent enough to buy all organic, and for all the reasons listed above, even organics aren’t that great (certainly not commensurate with their price).

Not everybody, not even everybody in suburban America, has access to a garden. Some people are lucky to have a little balcony or even a windowsill. So it is, in my opinion, frankly nuts not to use your land to grow food and/or medicine, if you are lucky enough to have access to some. It is bonkers to spend your time and money seeding, feeding, mowing, and watering a lawn (which you know you don’t even like doing anyway, to the point that you’ll hire others to do it for you) when you could probably put less time over the long term into making delicious food. Lawn has never been anything other than a status symbol. “Look at all this land and water I can afford to waste! Look at how I’ve tamed nature! Look how I employ the less-wealthy to maintain it for me!”

If status and conformity are more important to you than (1) eating delicious things, (2) saving money, (3) taking charge of your health and nutrition, (4) potentially even making money (market gardening or mini-farming), (5) conserving water, (6) living more independently and self-sufficiently, and (7) sticking it to The Man (in the form of mega-corporations and consumerist, materialist ideology), if you’re into that sort of thing–then you’re probably not reading this blog anyway. Look, I am not saying that growing your own food is a stress-free, idyllic lifestyle. Anthropologists have long noted the relatively high levels of stress and worry in farmers relative to hunter-gatherers. There is a learning curve and some trial and error involved. And some initial capital is required, although probably not as much as you’d think.

What I’m really saying here is, would you rather be a dandelion–wild, un-dollarable, full of juicy vitality, tough and tenacious, thriving in any conditions?–or would you rather be a lawn?

*I will grant, it feels nice under bare feet.

**For a plan to re-nutrify your soil, I recommend The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient Dense Food by Steve Solomon.

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