Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spontaneous Generation

Abiogenesis: the hypothetical process by which living organisms develop from nonliving matter; also, the archaic theory that utilizes this process to explain the origin of life. Pieces of cheese and bread wrapped in rags and left in a dark corner, for example, were thus thought to produce mice, according to this theory, because after several weeks, there were mice in the rags. Many believed in spontaneous generation because it explained such occurrences as the appearance of maggots on decaying meat. Encyclopedia Britannica

I have mostly written around the edges of modern community development trends over the past couple of years on this blog. As a topic, it is indirectly relevant to the work we do around here--the use of small scale agriculture for parenting, and for the sheer joy of living. Planning, Zoning, and development style are city things that normally would bore me to death, but for one thing--when we built our home 8 years ago, we veered into a head-on collision with our city over those issues. In short, if you haven't seen the few other posts about it--we settled on an acre in an irrigated 20 home subdivision with AG zoning at the edge of town. The area was masterplanned, and traditionally promised, to remain the large lot, AG zoned part of the city. Then property got expensive. City Fathers soon changed their minds and a tsunami of micro-lot developments began popping up in our "Little Valley." We are now on the verge of complete developmental isolation, agriculturally speaking.

Now I know a lot of biology and medicine, but I have no academic or practical background in matters of building or developing. What I do have is a farm kid's sense of right and wrong, and the mulishness to wade into a fight. I also have the naivete to think that everyone wants to do the right thing for its own sake, so I joined my neighbors in protest. Being the loudmouth in the bunch, the city eventually put me on some committee to examine their new plans, and I spent an entire year trying to convince the city that a contiguous corridor of AG zoning and large lots would add beauty and diversity to the increasingly homogenized pleasantvilles that were flooding our city. I also tried to articulate how the activities that occur in AG zoned neighborhoods benefited the whole community. From the economic impact of AG with the complex network of business that it supports, to its aesthetics, to its role in generating good citizens--it has intrinsic value that transcends short term dollars.

"Beautiful curb and gutter, a nice community make," they argued. "Not the acre weed patches you guys live on."

"Au contrare," I defended. "Good neighbors who love the land and weeds to pull, a nice community make. Where else can the dads among us who want to give our kids chores without the possibility of parole go these days?"

Vision is a remarkable thing, and there are several types of it. Sometimes we see things that might go unnoticed because of contrast. It works that way in the visual world with colors, shapes, movement and lighting. So too with human behavior. I swear we live in Mayberry, USA. Everyone watches everyone Else's back, and just about anything will get everyone together for a barn-raising or a potluck. There is always work to do and people are usually out and about. In contrast, the newest neighborhood next to us is the most micro-lotted of them all so far (100 starter homes planned for 30 acres--mostly filled with nice young families.) But wander around that place and it feels like a ghost town! For months, I have been asking myself, "where are all the people at?" Cars go, come and disappear in garages. We do see lights on over there... It is a city thing I guess--like Boston or St Louis where I have also lived, people hide in their houses. At first, I wanted to blame the new folks for being unfriendly, but suddenly the vision struck me and I had to repent of my evil thinking. It was the contrast thing. Its not their fault. They have no reason to go outside! They have no yards, and they certainly enjoy no privacy outside. Shoot! Our yard is so big, Preston can drop trau and take a leak out there without turning a head. And no one even blinks at the Iverson's daily underwear brigade. We barely have reason to stay inside!

So, tonight, the scenery that started this rant hit me like a train. It was the contrast thing. Among the neighbors, an agreement was reached to turn the empty acre next to me into various types of produce. Iverson plans to do tomatoes, we'll probably do pickling cukes, and others will do various things. McArthur who owns the acre, Iverson and I started putting the fencing up after work that will be needed to keep the rabbits out. Like magic, kids appeared. True to the laws of Spontaneous Generation, they showed up out of no-where. They weren't recruited, but something in the freshly turned dirt spawned them. I couldn't get my camera fast enough (it was elsewhere) so I had to run grab one from a neighbor, and by the time I returned, proof of their soiled birth vanished. But I caught the mixture of dirt clod fights and benefaction they brought with them. After the work ended tonight, I came inside with the question for the ages rattling around in my head. If there's no more dirt to turn, where's the next Spontaneous Generation of kids going to come from?


Iditadad said...

Fabulous! So much wisdom, such a joyous miracle. Way to bless the community and the lives of the youngsters around you. WoW (wonderful old woman)

ApRyL :) said...

Sooo enjoyed your thoughtful ranting! :) we are still laughing about the new homes and no yards etc! It's soo true. We appreciate you and your efforts to keep it more country-fied around here. We like it that way! :)

DrGooch said...

I think some of those might have been your kids out there last night. Couple of 'em got good arms--I saw some 90 mph dirt clods out there.

Anonymous said...

Great post Doc. I always get a kick out of this blog. Keep working hard to maintain your AG rights down there. Tell your wife hi for me.