Offbeat – 31 May 2013
Sometimes bureaucracy gets so out of hand that the sight of an unruly plant is enough to shut down the brains of minor functionaries in search of awards and advancement for being overzealous in a lobotomised kind of way.
My mind has been occupied with vegetables and fruit for the last couple of weeks. It’s one of those confluences of events and people that becomes noticeable if you sit back and think about things. Call it synchronicity if you will. I might as well riff on it now, before it goes away.
There’s a site Facebook which always fascinates me. The title sums it up perfectly. It’s called ‘Grow Food, Not Lawns’. Those of you who remember the terrifying droughts of the late Seventies and early Eighties, and the sure knowledge that in four days the water was going to run out, will understand why the title resonates. Lawns are awful things. Better a patch of unmanaged dust than a waste of water.
It looks like we’re back in those years again. The press cites the droughts of the early Eighties by comparison. Next year could be interesting times if the rain doesn’t show up. Sure, a shower uses less water than a bath, but a half full bucket or a basin uses even less water than a shower.
I hope the municipalities will have the foresight to launch initiatives to get rid of the patches of decorative green weeds that have sprung up again, and convert them to gravel and stones.
They have lawns in Las Vegas. Behind the casinos and the neon lights, there are vast neighbourhoods, with their lawns like obscene uniforms. Less visible, but a topic that shows up in the press from time to time, they are sucking their reservoirs dry, faster than they can find water to refill them. ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’, right? If you have a lawn, get rid of it, for goodness sake, especially if you are a Namibian, hoor jy.
One of the strands which shows up about three or four times a week on ‘Grow Food’ is the story of hapless people in the USA who convert remove lawn from their gardens to grow vegetables. The endings of these stories is inevitably that the city authorities order the people to remove their vegetable patches and put the lawn back.
That comes across about as real as the stories about UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster. These stories are however documented in a very real way, so it seems like we can’t really scoff at them. You can imagine what would happen if a municipality tried to pull a stunt like that here. Someone would open the gate to let the dogs out. More likely the complaint would be about goats and chickens anyway.
There is some muttering about a conspiracy theory involving Monsanto. Conspiracy theorists believe that Monsanto feels threatened by folks with cabbage patches in their front yards. At grass roots level, pardon the dreadful pun, people who start household vegetable gardening, threaten the hegemony of what is probably the largest purveyor on earth of highly profitable genetically modified organisms. And so, sympathetic city officials conduct putsches of raised vegetable boxes, uprooting cauliflowers and carrots and corn.
Personally, I don’t think Monsanto is that Machiavellian. Sometimes bureaucracy gets so out of hand that the sight of an unruly plant is enough to shut down the brains of minor functionaries in search of awards and advancement for being overzealous in a lobotomised kind of way.
That being said, I am not an apologist for Monsanto. Whenever I think of them, I think of the flesh eating plant in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. I’m not particularly fussy about what I put in my mouth, but artificially mutated vegetables and grains are things that I really don’t fancy swallowing.
I quite envy the people who have enough horticultural skills to raise a crop substantial enough to attract the ire of bureaucrats. My own energetic attempts produced a couple of tomatoes, some spinach leaves and a bunch of chillies that were unfortunately mild.
It looks like its back to the garden for me. Between fears about genetically modified greenery, the price of vegetables and all of that, it looks like I can’t chuck it in yet.
The real question is water. If there isn’t enough of that, then what I can do, and my learning curve will be for naught.