Red Shoulder Hawk

Red Shoulder Hawk

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oakland bananas

It's Bioneers' weekend. Next year, I might go, I tell myself. I'm pre-occupied growing into my own subset of Ecotopia right now. A phone call alters my weekend a little. Drea and I drive up to Merritt College to deliver car keys for a friend who's locked her set inside her car.

Christopher Shein and Kait are teaching a permaculture class, there.

It's October, on a south-facing slope of hill up behind Merritt. Students are sweating under the sun, low in the sky yet still beating fiercely down. I walk the garden, sharing it with Drea.

This is what I need, this year. Not a big conference full of people, but a bit of time with a small group of people working a hillside garden, turning marginal land into a food forest. Autumn is planting season for trees and perennials. They're experimenting with a couple of strains of cherry, and along the steepest part, grapes are going into the ground.

I step over comfrey, planted for its deep taproot, at once stabilizing the hill and drawing nutrients up. The leaves are slashed and often left in place, to decompose into food for shallow-rooting plants.

Amazingly, Christopher's banana trees are producing fruit! The hands of bananas are sparse, yet, but over time and generations, these plants could become climatized to Oakland's zone. I'm reminded that different regions used to have seed banks, and plants would tend to naturalize to the local climate, growing stronger with each generation. Much of this wealth of diversity has been lost as the giant seed hybridizing corporations have sold their seeds across a wide array of zones. It's a bit... subversive? To be growing bananas in Oakland. Or corn in Berkeley.

I can feel the rise of a new seed-breeding and banking culture. I'll go to Bioneers some time, but right now, working on my connection to the land and the people who tend it is more important.

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