Better luck next year

👤Charlynn Toews 🕔Nov 26, 2014

2014 had its challenges for me. People ignored my advice to say no to tilling, no to wheat and no to cement. Allow me to elaborate.

In early spring, I was introduced to lasagna gardening. Or, I should say, re-introduced, because I had heard of it and was sort of practising it for some years, but then attended a workshop at ’Ksan community garden led by an expert, Agatha Jedrzejczyk.

She told the assembled about Patricia Lanza (author of Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!), who noticed that newspapers left undisturbed on her lawn, and rained on while she was away, had killed the grass (and weeds) underneath and attracted a host of worms. This was her ah ha! moment. Don’t dig up hard-packed soil, screen out rocks, struggle with roots, no! Instead, start with newspaper or cardboard, water it, then add layers of greens (grass clippings), browns (leaves), shredded paper or hay and compost if you have it.  Then what? You plant.

I was working this summer with some old-school gardeners as they tilled, carried out buckets of rocks, then planted, then weeded, then mulched. Phew! That’s a lot more work. It turns out tilling disturbs the carbon-capture quality of soil, and so contributes to global warming. Not to mention the petroleum products those motorized tillers guzzle and spew.

“No tilling!” I would call out across the acreage. “What?” they would say, unable to hear over the roar of their machines.

Later in summer I stumbled across a documentary called Cereal Killers. In it, Australian Donal O’Neill tries to avoid walking in the footsteps of his father, who died of heart disease, by eating a high-fat diet. He basically turns the food pyramid on its head, enjoying fat and oil (the good kinds), eating vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat and butter, and vastly limiting carbs, while also cutting out wheat. Today’s semi-dwarf wheat is read by our bodies as sugar, so a serving of “healthy” whole-wheat bread has a glycemic index of 55 to 70 (a 50-gram serving of glucose, or sugar, is 100) and a full-sized Snickers bar is just 42.

Sugar (or wheat) makes your insulin jump, causes fat to be stored around your belly and gives you an intense craving for more carbs a few hours after eating it. I cut out all wheat, most grains, most sugar and lost, as predicted, seven to 12 pounds a month, and dropped two sizes—so far.

“No wheat!” I would exclaim as well-meaning friends, co-workers and relatives offered me a cookie, a cracker, pumpkin pie, pecan tart, piece of toast. OK, I have seen fit, slim people eat bread—but I cannot do that. In fall, I led a group of volunteers building a foundation for an outdoor bake oven. I chose a dry-stack method using rock and rubble, an ancient method used by Scottish stone wall builders for a bazillion years. I built a (still-standing) dry-stack stone wall in my yard 20 years ago, where helpful neighbours pointed out it would fall down in a year or two. I should have remembered that as each volunteer walked up to the structure and said, “Cement? Rebar? Concrete?”

“No cement!” I exclaimed. “You stack and turn until the rough edges stick! The weight of the rocks above holds it in place! Then gravity is working for us 24-7!” They nodded and laughed, piling them loosely, assuming cement would eventually be applied to hold it together.

I tell you, it is exhausting to exclaim so often and with such passion.

I don’t know what I will learn next year, but perhaps I’ll have better luck convincing people of the power of “no!”