• Jessica

Food, Forests, and Medicinals

Discussing the importance of growing our own food at the Washington Street Garden in downtown Carbondale, 2016.

I started my first herb garden in an old military artillery box on the south facing porch of my mobile home when I was 19, in 2002. Those plants exploded and gave me culinary freshness I hadn't known in a rural, midwest town with bland tastes and too few culinary adventures. I've grown herbs ever since.

Experiments with vegetables and fruits, alongside steady and successful herb growing, proved less productive. Like most hobbies, I didn't give the real time, attention, or patience to the plants. I failed to test soils, didn't add fertilizer, didn't mulch, expected things to grow in tilled up clay soils, and usually forgot about my beds by August when humidity, heat, and busy-ness pulled me back to work indoors. For years I gardened like this, herbs thriving, vegetables pathetic.

The last few years my interest in herbalism has greatly expanded. I'm working with others to begin a small apothecary aimed at provided resources and natural remedies to those who lack access to health care and those who feel spurned by western medicine and its institutions. My volunteering / work at the Washington St Community Garden also exponentially expanded my knowledge and experience with the more technical concepts in gardening. And for the first time, on land we own and intend to turn into a lush, expansive food forest with as little lawn as possible, I tested the soil! I'm finally learning how to provide the conditions for the plants to grow and thrive.

So, this winter, when an opportunity arrived to tackle a project to plant fruit and nut trees in this small, rural, yet completely urbanized town, I jumped. I do not have a lot of tree experience, but the desire to grow food, become more sustainable and prepared in case of disaster or further economic hardships, and the drive to create a vast, shared, free apothecary has pushed me to invest my whole self into this project.

This blog is mostly for information sharing on the varieties of trees we are planting. I hope to expand it into medicinal harvest, processing, and use. And as we expand our gardening know-how and access to the communities around us, I hope to share bits and pieces of that journey here, too. Everyone should grow food. Everyone should have access to land, knowledge, and the chance to recover the practices of living sustainably with the land.

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