Peak oil is no bed of roses

Small Garden

A small garden can yield big results if you keep your mind open to its possibilities. Photo: Roman.Petruniak via Flickr.

As I gaze out my window through the dogwood tree and tulips to the small greenhouse across the street, I can’t help but imagine what it would be like living there.

It would be a dream to curl my toes in the soft, springy grass, pick some flowers before I set the table, or play with my two matching black-and-white cats Chester and Piper in the shade of the trees.

All for want of a yard

Sadly, although our house has many great things (including a closet turned into a cozy bedroom), it doesn’t have a yard. This has proved a problem for our garden-crazy mom, who’s already stuffed the two postage-stamp-sized squares of dirt in front of our house with flowers and herbs.

My mom has always encouraged my sister and me to garden. For Easter this year we each got a chocolate bunny and a basket of marigolds, mint, lavender and chamomile. After chomping down the bunnies, we spent the rest of the day squeezing our new plants into the quickly decreasing amount of gardening space.

At houses where we lived in the past, gardening was no problem because we had big yards.

In Belmont, a neighborhood of Charlottesville, which is the hometown of the University of Virginia, our front yard was covered in bridal’s veil, bee balm, cooking herbs, bulbs and hyacinth bean vine. At the very front was a plum tree from which we made jam.

Our back yard had hollyhock, day lilies, irises, pinks, a ton of sunflowers and a vegetable patch, with a tiny path leading to the fruiting cherry tree that my sister and I would climb.

Then, when we moved half an hour out of town, we had daffodils, various herbs, tomatoes and peppers. As you can tell, gardening has always been important to our family.

Small is beautiful

We’ve always tried to plant food in our garden.

In our current baby-size “garden,” we have pumpkins, squash, thyme, rosemary, chamomile, mint, dill, sage, chives, tarragon, parsley, marigolds, summer roses, pansies and sunflowers and summer vines.

There’s also a bunch of ivy and yucca plants (which my mom hates)  left by the former owners. They’re destined to be pulled up and replaced with transplants from my mom’s friends’ gardens. She wants purple coneflower and black eyed Susans to go there. And we’d like to figure out ways to do more with vertical gardening.

Bloom where you’re planted

If we can grow all of that on our tiny plots of land, imagine what we could do with an acre? I wish we had that.

When I think about what could happen after peak oil, it is scary to think about grocery stores closing and not having enough food to sustain our family. But at least we know we’ll be able to have pumpkin pie and tea!

And, we’re starting to get involved with a community garden, but that is about five blocks from our house. Not great for so-called food security, an idea I hate even thinking about.

There’s a lot about peak oil I don’t really understand, and the little bit I do can overwhelm me.

A girl can dream

My mom’s suggested I take it in in “baby steps” and stay aware of how things are now to not get overwhelmed.

Now we have plenty of food, and we’re doing more with our plots and with rainwater. My mom even talks about getting chickens and bees, but I have no idea where she’ll squeeze them in. Our back yard, all paved over with cobble stones, is only about 6 feet by 12 feet, and gets no sun. Huge for Manhattan, not so big for our little town.

Since we don’t have a yard, I sometimes feel claustrophobic in our house. One of the things I like to do to give myself space is to take a cozy blanket, spread it out on my flat, shingled roof, and either bake in the sun or stare at the stars.

My mom has told that it’s not safe to go out on the roof. But it’s really pretty. And a girl’s got to dream.

— Chloë  Cook, Transition Voice

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  1. Soraya says

    Beautiful article… I am very happy to know your mom has inspired you to want to make the most out of the limited space you have for gardening. I too, grew up where space was never an issue, in Ohio where many back yards didn’t even have fencing. My mother grew peppers, herbs, lots of lavender, tomatoes, and morning glories. I now live in the city in the southwest part of the country and space is indeed limited and I feel it. I am currently gardening in a 4 foot by 12 foot raised garden bed. Hoping for a bigger harvest this year and the coming year. Peaceful gardening!

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