As I battle mud and mosquitoes in this wet year, in the wallow that used to be our garden, I think faraway, crazy thoughts. I keep trying to imagine a future time when all human beings would be responsible for their basic food necessities just as they are responsible for their own bodily cleanliness and cooking meals. Could every home have a sort of foodroom adjoining the bathroom, where the basic yearly food could be produced? Ideally there would be a composting bin or two, plus a cistern or rain barrel to catch water, all geared to take no more time than a daily shower, shave, teeth brushing, and hair combing.
The first thing that would have to disappear to save space would be garden rows. Have you ever thought about how stupid rows are? Rows came into existence to accommodate machine and human traffic. Without them, a garden can produce twice the amount of plants or more. My imaginary foodroom would be elevated even more than raised beds, walled up so I could sit or stand next to it on either side and accomplish all planting and weeding comfortably by hand. Weeding would be done with a trowel from a standing or sitting position. Gone would be all the primitive backbreaking bending over that makes gardening by hand so tiresome. Once a plant produces its food, it could be pulled out and another started in its place. Elderly people could go on gardening until they were a hundred years old and never once have to get down and crawl along like I do now. Kids would be more easily cajoled into the work because you could describe it to them as merely playing in the dirt, like a sandbox. Adults who like office work would see the garden bed was just another desk.
The foodroom would be a version of today’s hoophouse, covered with a translucent roof than slides down easily to open the chamber to good mother nature and close it when good mother turns bitchy. Year-round production would be possible without deer, coons, groundhogs, whining, bloodthirsty insects, hail, windstorm, out of season frost, berry-eating boys or birds. In winter the closed roof would let in warmth to help heat the building along with the warmth from composting wastes.
Since plants would be constantly maturing and replaced by new plants or seeds very close together, about the only tillage that would be needed would be accomplished by the gardener’s hands at work. Since the soil would always be in top granular condition, stirring it could as easy as stirring applesauce. If the gardener didn’t want to soil his or her fingers, a hand-held food mixer would suffice as a tiller. I can see sensational discoveries on their way, like finding out that plants grow better with classical music rather than hip hop. Or that lettuce grows faster when accompanied by the William Tell Overture rather than Sleepy Time Gal.
For those who think a pastime is only fun when you can spend a lot of money on it, computer sensors could be installed to register moisture and nutrient content of the soil to tell when to add more. Sensors could also whistle when root crops got big enough to harvest and when peas were at their optimum taste. Monsanto could turn its genius to breeding cornstalks that produce 12 ears or more so we could grow a right smart amount of sweet corn in a very small space. Or maybe strawberries as big as watermelons.
Just think what would happen when the furniture business got wind of the new foodrooms. They would outdo themselves over who could make the most comfortable bar stool to glide alongside the plants to make eye level weeding and harvesting even more convenient. And over the mantel of the typical American fireplace would not be a muzzle loader, but a hoe.