Jun 102002

“Heritage” is my code for a stubborn belief that if I want to eat I have to be able to grow food (or recognize eatables when I hike in the woods). I was brought up in the house-and-garden culture, and hold that anyone who wants to be a hobby gardener deserves a little space to make the earth fruitful.

One measure of my usefulness to society is the hypothetical string-bag. Do I earn my daily bread by producing barter-value? Have I made or given something for which the farmer will gladly part with a bag of flour, a cabbage or a dozen eggs? If not, then I better start growing some food myself.

In a Bombay suburb a man grows fruits and vegetables on his terrace. He estimates it saves about ten thousand rupees on food expenses a year. If one million citizens do likewise, such a bit of pottering around after work could put ten thousand million back into the economy. And if five million, or ten million, or fifty million folks in India make use of some wastelands, the effect would be ………………………………. now never mind. The idea is already born and a surprising number of city people have started a week-end house-and-garden culture across the harbour. Spiritual Renaissance springs from a willingness, an eagerness, to share. In heritage we want to share our knowledge and experience with the small garden plot, that can produce plenty of vegetables the year round. We also want to test our ability to listen to devas and nature spirits. There will be no pesticides and we will take great care to maintain the fertility of the soil with compost and green manure.

When I shared my dream with friends in Austria we realized a pebble had been cast and the rings were already making large circles. We both tapped into construction with straw-bale sites on the web, something entirely new for either. Now I know “Heritage” will include at least one house of straw, and if it looks like the straw-bale cottage in Arthur, Nebraska, built in 1925, I should be happy. In Wyoming, straw-bale structures have consistently withstood severe weather and earthquakes.

In some little corner “Heritage” will also include a library, where our collection of gardening books and the web-pages that helped to build the project will become available to people who come to share our dream.

My eyes were opened by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird with the thousand and one tales contained in the Secret Life of Plants, like the story of Luther Burbanks. “Listen patiently, quietly and reverently to the lessons, one by one, that Mother Nature has to teach, shedding light on that which was before a mystery, so that all who will, may see and know.