Urbanization took over a big, open field across my street.
Where dozens of wild edible and medicinal plants grew, bees and other valuable insects foraged, and even a rabbit family once thrived, five new buildings now tower. I grieve for the wild life and the knee-high wild grasses bulldozed over, and for the three old pecan trees, and the mulberry tree. All uprooted and left to dry out before being trucked away. Below you see the field in March 2013.
Soon afterward, the field looked like this:
And it got worse later. But I didn’t photograph all the destruction of the field and the trees, and how concrete, asphalt and building litter now cover the area. It was too painful. Yes, people have to live somewhere, and I’m glad there’s room in my neighborhood for more families. Well, theoretically. I miss the open field, the winds that blew freely through my street, now blocked by new buildings shiny with tinted glass, the feeling that even though I live in a city, I was never far from nature. So where I walked home across a dirt path, now there’s this:
But wait a minute. See where the workers sheds are – the vines around the front?
I went and took a closer look.
By golly. Squash blossoms.
And hyacinth beans. Reading about hyacinth beans later, I learned that they’re toxic and must be boiled in several waters to become edible.
I even glimpsed some tomatoes. So I went around behind the construction to see if there was any more of that guerilla gardening going on.
And there is.
Using discarded construction material, the workers set up a garden. Here are more beans, squash, two kinds of tomatoes and I think a kind of pumpkin on the ground – although I’m not sure. To tell the truth, I wasn’t eager to get too close. The workers could legitimately complain that I had no business there, and they’re kind of rough guys.
Further on, where there’s no building, an allotment-style garden. Look closely, can you see green gourds hanging from the roof? With no elaborate planning, no soil enrichment, no fancy gear from the plant nursery, and no other thought than to take advantage of the unused ground, the men have sown vegetables to take home.
I was also pleased to see a thriving sabra bush that’s overgrown its limits. The prickly sabra, whose fine needles sting horribly and have to be pulled out of the skin with tweezers, makes a fine back fence for a family who lives in a house nearby. I can’t imagine anyone brave – or dumb – enough to penetrate a sabra hedge.
I’m thinking that when the building is over and the workers go on to other jobs, squash and bean and tomato seeds will still be in the ground. I hope so. Then I’ll go snooping around again, and if there are any of those gone wild, I’ll harvest them. Not because I need them. At least, not because I can’t go and buy plenty of the same vegetables. But because I need to see and gather a little of what the earth brings forth by itself.