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  • Donna

Cultivating Change

I had a very urban farm Saturday. Headed outside in my for-getting-dirty clothes and picked two ripe “Big Boy” tomatoes, three yellow pear-shaped grape tomatoes, and a couple of red and yellow mini bell peppers. I also took a closer look at my soybean plants and realized they were full of beans! I’ve never grown soybeans before and don’t keep good track of when I plant things, so I didn’t know if they were ready to pick. I decided to split my risk–I stripped one plant clean and left the other two alone. Who knew one plant can produce handfuls of beans? Well, real farmers probably know that, but it was news to me.

I placed my garden bounty atop the blue recycle bin, then began watering the fruit trees, flowers, and vegetable plants. So far, they’re all still alive. That’s my yardstick for success. I don’t have particularly high expectations. If I get a single nectarine, apple, cherry, yellow grapefruit, pink grapefruit, avocado, lemon, lime, or tangerine, I’ll consider my entire fruit tree growing experiment a grand success. But so far, the fact that they’re still alive a year after planting them, is all I need to be happy. I want the trees alive and the yard dead.

About six months ago, I sprayed the entire lawn with Round Up. All 0.02 acres of it. The plan? Kill and remove the Bermuda grass that stretches its thick tendrils beyond the yard into the flagstone walkway, over the curb, into mortar, and atop itself. The entire lawn comprises this survivalist species. No water? No nutrients? Poison? Bring it on. I’m a survivor.

I spent a little more than $100 to drench the yard in Round Up a couple of times. That, and withholding water throughout one of the hottest summers on record, has led to a brown dust bowl in front of the house. With occasional green arms extending from the herbicidal grave. This stuff just will not die. I’ve been digging out blocks of grass and dirt by hand using a spade for the past five months and, until yesterday, had only managed to remove about a tenth of the yard. But my elderly neighbor across the street gave me her recently deceased husband’s electric mini-tiller, and I gave that a try.

Oh. My. God.

Best invention ever. Donning a full-face respirator, I tilled the whole lawn yesterday, dispersing most of the top soil throughout West LA as dust clouds. That’s the most fertile part, LA. You’re welcome.

I finished around 5:30, stopped by the backyard coop to say hi to the chickens and collect an egg, showered, steamed the fresh soybeans for a few minutes in a pan with salt, and relaxed for the rest of the night. Urban farm life is good.

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