I’m just bouncing back from my morning at Shelby Farms in Memphis. Started out with a group a bit after 10a and the Tennesse sun was HOT. The weatherman said it would be feel like 110 with the heat index. He was right. The hike was slated for 2 hours. I made it to an hour. I am not ashamed. I’m just glad I got out there.
- Rooted in the Earth at Shelby Farms
And I saw American BISON. That alone was worth the trip. I never thought growing up as an African American girl in Queens, I’d ever see bison.
Oh, and I was blow drying my hair at home. I looked at my leg and saw what looked like speck of red dirt. Oh no, it was a chigger. I was so shocked, I dropped my dryer and broke it. Creature was red on top with wiggly legs on the underbelly. Yccch.
PHOTOS BY DIANNE GLAVE
My dad had a garden in Queens, New York. It was a wild place. There were no rows. There was no rhyme or reason. Mixed in together were tomatoes, cucumbers and peas. When the vines got long, he cobbled together pieces of wood to wrap the many vines.
My family–me, my mother, and my brother–made fun of his wild vegetable garden. He laughed at us. But still we ate what he produced. Big fat tomatoes. Long huge cucumbers. So much came out of his tiny garden that he shared with family and friends. Community!
Percy at 19 (?) in Jamaica
And when the planting season was over and all the vegetables plucked from the stems and vines, he would let what remained rot back into the earth. We thought what a mess. The earth thought: Hey, I’m getting back the nutrients I parted with everytime you people ate my peas and tomatoes.
It was not until I started reading about Africans and the environment, that I realized he was gardening the African way. My dad was being organic before we knew the word organic–basically composting and replenishing the soil for the next season naturally and without chemical fertilizers.
Did he learn this method in his youth? I know he worked in a banana business with Boss, his stepfather in Jamaica. When I call home the next time, I’ll ask!
2004: Mowing His Lawn