We grow food in our back yard. The Sunken Gardens of Moncure is the name we gave to the old swimming pool Lyle filled in with dirt in 2009 and that Bob fenced in the following year. We have a compost pile, wood pile, fruit trees, two cars, one run on biodiesel, and a few milk crates with recycling. You can see where this is heading. In general, we are doing our best to achieve a small footprint. We lean heavily in the direction of sustainability, self-sufficiency and resiliency.
A little further away, Jason and Haruka grow a lot of organic food on several acres of greenhouse and fenced-in beds. Tomorrow they co-host the first stop of this year’s Trail Crawl with Rachel and Scott who heat their home primarily with wood. Again, we congratulate ourselves for having such groovy activities in our back yard. Down the road, Lyle and Tami are growing fruit and chestnuts and using a big solar array to defray their power demand on the grid.
However, just a mile and a half west of our backyard, 3M is mining rock for gravel, operating a granule manufacturing facility on 2100 acres. Viewed from Google Earth, their operation looks like strip mining a stone’s throw from our little organic homestead. We are dwarfed by an eyesore which we rarely consider to be in our neighborhood.
One evening the four of us, Bob, Jason, Haruka and myself were driving home after dark and were startled by the lights from 3M. It seemed so close, just the other side of a thin tree line. A giant operation right under our noses. I think of this at night when I hear the rumbling of their crushers and picture the lights, the people on night shift, the endless chewing up of the earth. And yet, we depend on the gravel to keep our driveway from turning into a mud hole.
Ten miles down the road, Shearon Harris makes nuclear power. A couple of years ago they had an unplanned shut down upon discovering a 1/4″ crack inside the reactor pressure vessel head. They test the evacuation sirens monthly. But we depend on the grid to power our heat and air conditioning, our computers, lights and refrigerator, a grid powered by nuclear power and mountain top removal coal. So, again, we are complicit.
All of this reminds me of a hike I went on with a group of friends about thirty years ago. The idea was to climb to the peak and begin our descent before the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in, but with such a large group we found ourselves above treeline when the first storm hit. Someone had brought a tarp and another a bottle of wine. We huddled underneath the tarp, passing the bottle and listening to the thunder. Somehow we managed to feel safe in our huddle while outside an electrical storm raged.
The same applies to our life here in our bubble of perceived self-sufficiency. We know there are unsustainable practices going on all around us and that we benefit from them. But most of the time, we choose to enjoy the camaraderie of a robust neighborhood and the simple pleasures of eating food we grow in our backyard. Trail Crawl, here we come!