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The great circle of gardening  RSS feed

 
garden master
Posts: 4802
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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When I was a small child I heard a story about the green corn dance. In the Nations this is how we learn things, by stories and then by doing. We are not taught something until it is time to learn it or we have asked about something.
A child will not really learn something until they have an interest, this interest will be expressed by the child's retention of the teaching and by doing we learn not only the concept but the actual skill set needed.
As I was growing up the first things I learned from my Pawpaw were gardening, fishing and hunting.
Any time we got ready to begin anything we first had to make offerings of cedar and sage smoke to the spirits of the four directions, mother earth, father sky and asked wakantanka (the great mystery or spirit) to guide our efforts for success,
then we would pull smoke over us to cleanse our soul and spirit so we were pure and ready for the task at hand.

When we finished any task we again made the offerings of cedar and sage smoke and pulled smoke over ourselves at the end.
I learned that no matter what you were going to do, you first thanked the spirits and asked for their guidance then you purified your spirit so you were doing that thing for the right reasons and in the right way.
When we planted the garden spirit was invited there to watch over the beings we were putting into the soil so they would grow strong and give us their bounty.
Each seed was treated gently, as it went into the soil, it was watered with prayers for it to grow strong and healthy and as it grew we would take care of it and talk to it.
When it was time to harvest the fruits of the plant we would tell it how wonderful its babies looked and would taste and we told the plant we were sorry to cause it pain but it would go away quickly and we would still be taking care of it.
When the plants died we offered prayers as we pulled them from the soil, then we took them to the compost heap and added them to the heap as we told them that now they would be able to nourish their children in the next growing season.
The first time I cut a squash free I saw the plant bleed, I tried to stop the bleeding but the plant did that all by itself. I apologized to the plant for causing the pain but it should know that the baby would feed us that night and for that we were thankful.
When I would have a garden in other places of the world, I did it as I knew how and there were many times that others would look at me like I was crazy, but I new that everything on mother earth is alive, even if we can't see it move or breathe.

The great circle applies to all things. life is born, it thrives with proper care, it produces children and eventually dies to go back to the earth mother from which it came and then a new life is born to repeat this cycle.
In my world all things are alive, all things are sacred and thus should be treated with respect due any living thing.
When a being understands that everything is connected, that we are all related, it becomes easy to show respect to all other beings for without doing so, you can not expect to receive respect from others.

What are your thoughts about the great circle of gardening?

Redhawk
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Thanks, RedHawk. I really appreciate the idea about the timing of introducing knowledge. We don't do enough learning by doing here in the West.

While I don't name spirits, or appeal to the religion in which I was raised for intervention, I feel I aspire to do much of what you describe by my actions in the garden. These are reverential acts, each seed planted by hand, each patch of ground nourished carefully, each plant tended, and often talked to as I add support, prune, weed, or harvest.

I talk to my soil. I cheer on my compost, and I dance around when things are happening that please me. I savour the flavour of the fruit and veggies I produce, and I save the seeds that I can, compost what can't be eaten, and yes, I compost the bodies of dear departed plants, that they may nourish their progeny next season.

I feel sad after harvest, and when I put the garden to sleep for the winter, and am succored by the fact that spring will come again.

I would consider these spiritual expressions, though outside any tradition or culture.

Without taking anything away from spiritual traditions or religions, I have never felt that delving into deep animism about the spirits of the garden was necessary. I suppose that may have to do with not being raised in a spiritual tradition integrated with the natural world, but then I didn't feel the need for Catholic trappings about my garden, either. Though I suppose if one can wordlessly appeal to a higher power for beneficial conditions, I guess I have prayed, in that sense...

My point is that I think that, apart from barely conscious or wordless pleas to the Almighty to succor my garden, I think that I have felt all along that my own reverence and wonder for what I was participating in, for what I was helping to create or encouraging to be, was enough.

I cleanse myself before my gardening by divesting myself of other thoughts, worries, and cares. Having laid my garden plans, I look them over, see what tasks my garden has planned for me, and prepare for them. I go out into the garden ready to do the garden's work. I often lose myself to time in the rhythm of the garden and gardening, and I have known many days where I am surprised by how low the sun is on the horizon, and how much I have been able to accomplish. I guess this is my garden cleansing, where I notice my effect on the garden, and its effect on me.

Now that I think about it, there's also a bit of ancestral veneration going on when I garden. I got enthusiastic about growing things because of an interest in cannabis, but it's planting tomato plants in my grandmother's garden that I think about every time I work the soil.

Wow. I didn't realise I was so spiritual about my garden.

-CK
 
pollinator
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Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:We are not taught something until it is time to learn it or we have asked about something.
A child will not really learn something until they have an interest, this interest will be expressed by the child's retention of the teaching and by doing we learn not only the concept but the actual skill set needed.



I think that's an ideal way to treat the passing on of knowledge. Not forced and not restricted, but something to be shared when the time is right.

---

As for the topic, when I landscaped my employers would do a brief ceremony for a tree that was about to be cut down. For awhile my mother would give prayers to birds/deer(roadkill) on the side of the road. All this having to do with a respect for the world around us. I thought those concepts were a bit non-sensical then, but I was not as well-travelled as I am now and feel I understand it more.

I feel badly any time I have to cut down native shrubs to keep a path clean to repair fence. I also feel bad initially when harvesting and thank the plant before pulling it up, and the thought of saving the seed and replanting it next year I find is an additional way of saying "thank you". I sometimes find myself just walking around the garden or pastures, many times aimlessly while just observing nature at work and that brings on an appreciation of it's own. There are elements working together not just for their own well-being, but the well-being of the environment and other organisms around them. I feel this type of reflection is a way of paying my respects or at least a form of acknowledgement.

A comment mentioned in a "what wildcraft do you sell?" topic on permies is something that I put into practice when I go berry picking in the summer. "Remember to give back to nature when you gather from it". I bring along a few crushed cow bones or a little aged manure mixed with dirt and spread it around the area after I've picked. Like seed-saving, I feel this an additional step of showing gratitude for nature, as if I didn't do this, maybe one day there would not be enough nutrients for the shrubs to make berries for the wild-life which also depend on it.

Maybe none of this is what would be considered spiritual, but it's at least a beneficial awareness expanding experience. Appreciating observing and being a part of nature's circle while not taking it's beautiful system for granted.
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 4802
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
541
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hau Jarret,  What you describe is what spirit is all about. One of the best movies that shows spirit was Avatar, the people of the planet were based on Native Americans and other Indigenous peoples ways of life.

What is being found out now in the scientific world is that plants do communicate and that this planet is interdependent not independent another concept that we have known about for eons, but somehow those of the "Western" world tossed aside long ago.
If you look at the expanse of what was the Roman Empire, you get a good idea of all the places where the concept of independent comes from and is still practiced to exclusion of any other concept.

The way to heal the earth is to acknowledge that we are part of it, that we live with the earth not upon it. 
Humans today act more like a virus than part of the planet that allows us life.
Like a virus, we will either kill the host animal (earth) or the host animal's immune system will kill the virus.
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Only permies wouldn't find this crude, but I always make a nitrogen offering in the shrubbery, when nature calls. I am often either gardening, berry or mushroom picking, but the thought that I am positively contributing resources into a system from which I am benefitting always flits through my mind. That and the more regular carbon dioxide we exhale are physical manifestations of our thanks.

-CK
 
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