Spontaneous Pears

Welcome to Chi-City…

Foraged pears from La Villita – the owner of the tree was friendly enough to let us pick a backpack full. “Pears?” he said “Sure, knock yourselves out!”

Two weeks ago the adventure began. I flew over from Scotland to Michigan and within 48 hours was heading to Chicago on the train. My mission was to meet Nancy Klehm  http://spontaneousvegetation.net/ and to see my good old friend Jacob. Check out Jake’s site for some cool grooves http://www.myspace.com/jacobwilsonmusic.

Friday was spent with Nancy in her neighborhood of La Villita on the south west side of the city.  We spent the day walking through the neighborhood, Nancy pointing out all the many gardens, fruit trees and small pockets of wild flowers tucked into people’s yards, vacant lots and little stripes of land. We found this garden (photo above) on a tiny bit of land between a fence and road loaded with corn, tomatoes and peppers.  Many would call this guerrilla gardening – a form of gardening with little organizational barriers, legality or strict “planning”.  In La Villita one has the sense that gardens and fruit trees are somehow inherent to the space and void of being self- consciously “trendy”.  The gardens growing papalo, chili peppers and corn representing the local “flavor” of the people who live in the area.  Deep-rooted traditions and ties to land, diet and health have somehow been transplanted or re-awakened in this urban environment – a bit of Latin America growing in Heart-Land of the USA.

Nancy said that many of her neighbors became curious about her when she started planting things in her yard – Nancy’s garden is an impressive edible jungle paradise. The Neighborhood Orchard and The Seed Archive, are testaments to the relationships and projects that form out of necessity – not only nutritional necessity but for finding familiar and intrinsic connections to land and identity.  Nancy gave many examples of neighbors and people in her community who have shared and swapped grower’s knowledge with her.  You can read about more of Nancy’s projects and about the orchard at: http://spontaneousvegetation.net/neighborhood-orchard.

A local church which only this year started up a vegetable garden and at the time we visited were painting lines on a newly cemented basketball/volleyball/badminton court.  Rabbit hutch and vermiculture bins – with Nancy’s guidance – are installed next the fence. Summer peaches growing in someone’s yard – the abundance and quality of the fruit rivals even the most established fruit farmer.

Leaving the city heading back to Michigan the train pulls through an hour’s worth of industrial landscape before being propelled into the farmlands of western Michigan. Heading east – head filled with ideas.

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