I was helping out at the children’s gardening club at a National Trust property this week. It’s an organic vegetable garden created to give children a taste of ‘grow-your-own’ gardening, and it’s amazingly prolific. Rows of tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes, salads, soft fruit and herbs, all in raised beds. Children come along with their parents and have a go at planting seeds, spreading compost, meeting a few bugs and creepy-crawlies, and at harvest time, trying out some of the produce they’ve grown. Parents watch open-mouthed as their vegetable-hating offspring munch happily on carrots they’ve pulled up themselves.
“He/she never eats them at home!” they gasp.
This week, our first visitor was Rosie, a ‘nearly-three’ year old with a bright pink butterfly net of which she was justly proud. Invited to help harvest the courgettes, she homed in instantly on an enormous monster that took two three-year-old-sized hands to pick.
“It’s big as me!” she squealed triumphantly.
Next she moved on to the cabbages, which were sporting a fine crop of cabbage white caterpillars that needed to be removed. Rosie carefully identified each caterpillar as it went into her collecting pot.
“That’s the mummy…and that’s the daddy… and that’s the auntie…and that’s the other auntie…”
Rosie left carrying her enormous courgette, a couple of tomatoes, a handful of raspberries and a paper bag containing her caterpillar family. Her parents were delighted with the fresh vegetables. A little less so with the caterpillars.
This morning on my Facebook feed I saw a photograph of the aftermath of the Reading festival, the site strewn with literally thousands of sleeping bags and tents discarded by departing festival-goers. It’s a shocking sight. Yes, some of the equipment can be salvaged and re-used by disaster relief charities, but most of it will just end up in landfill.
How have people become so disconnected from their environment that they see nothing wrong in just dumping their unwanted gear like this? What did they think was going to happen to it? Did they think it would somehow magically dematerialise?
Did they think at all?
I hope that when little Rosie grows up, her early experiences in the vegetable garden, in putting good things into the earth and growing good things from it, will stay with her. I hope she grows up to treat the earth like a garden and not a dumping ground. I hope she always remembers to take her stuff home with her.
Maybe not the caterpillars, though.