Adaptations and options for the future

I’d Rather Be Wright, II

By David Wright

I have been struggling to become less consumptive because the scientific world has been saying — no, yelling — that in order to bring the natural world back to good shape, we must consume less stuff. The word is we need to focus on some options and adaptations to confront the damage we appear to be causing to the environment. The great biophysical economists say we have to focus on the more spiritual rather than the material, possibly those close-at-hand more natural things right in front of us.

Not by my own sustainable doing, but due to a clandestine act of urban gonzo farming, meaning my grandson tossed various self-selected seeds hither and yon just for the sheer excitement of seeing what might come up, I found myself with a single gourd plant coming up among the potatoes. Initially, I thought it should be pulled because it would compete with the reds but realized it would only get going by the time the potatoes were already in the pot. Plus, what a great opportunity to explore the growing and harvesting of a plant that has been in common use worldwide from the beginning of time. Gourds were dried and used for storage containers. They take up no energy except from the sun, are durable, very light, and simply, if I was clever, make it possible for me to save energy by not buying energy-intensive glass, plastic, or metal containers. They would have no impact on the environment and might be a viable option.

Rather immediately, the single plant took “wings” and ran with the wind, so to speak. Within a week or two, but after the reds were consumed, it became apparent a superstructure of some magnitude was now in store because the vining monstrosity was heading for the woodshed. I was starting to see why this was a beloved plant in the more simple world. It was a growing machine and was now heavily encumbered with young gourds all intent on making storage containers for folks living a simpler, less consumptive life — my future objective.

The superstructure made of mostly white cedar poles began to stagger and needed some support from metal fence posts and stout rope. This imposing project was starting to look like a supply source for a good portion of the surrounding community. As sure as trout used to admire my fly presentation, the gourd loved my effort and, by October, I was in possesion of more than 25 so-called bird house gourds, the same gourd used for centuries to make containers and scooping tools.

The question then came how to deal with the still-green gourds — gourds I had not even planted but were presented to me by the green-thumbed kid. It was then it became evident that maybe he wanted to prod me into action for always talking about simplifying my life. Luckily, it turned out there are even gourd societies on the internet, so searching for my next move was not real difficult.

They had to be dried, then cleaned out, possibly decorated, and made into those sustainable bean containers. This is where the work began. It seems if there were any cracks, the bugs also moved into the new home, but the pristine, dry gourds become durable after a number of weeks of hanging about.

After thorough drying, and in truth we are talking some months (like a winter project), the gourds can be fashioned into useful and very sustainable containers. For the creative, they might be viewed as an artistic platform — as the gourd societies pointed out. At this juncture, I am poised to turn all my dried food storage containers into organic, self-sustaining, environmentally preserving items of great beauty. While in some countries they are also used for storing liquids like olive oil, water, and maybe fine liquor, it would appear that I am not ready to go there — well, maybe the liquor.

I suppose in the end this may just be a thought experiment—not that I didn’t try this, but for right now, it must be admitted that moving away from our delightful lives of plenty, maybe a world where too much is not enough, is difficult and not without its trauma. Still, it is sure looking like we need to begin thinking about some new options and adaptations as the world shifts. Not sure the clandestine gourd is a good place to start, but …

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