Thom Hawkins: On the Land Again
Every spring the grizzled old man drove his two-horse team down our St. Paul street to the vacant lot he would plow to start his vegetable garden. After the first freeze in the fall, he would abandon the lot, leaving behind frostbitten vegetables. Then my little gang of hoodlums would invade, gleefully bombarding each other with spoiled carrots, cabbages, celery, melons, squash and tomatoes. Eventually we limped home, proud walking salads.
In Kansas I went to the stables everyday to feed and groom Thunder, then ride the plains. Sometimes I would stop to visit with farmers working the land. One farmer out in his field refused to talk to me until I took my sunglasses off. “I don’t trust a man I can’t look in the eye.”
In San Francisco there was no room to grow anything, but when we moved to Berkeley, I started my first serious vegetable garden. I cultivated the driveway, blocking the garage. Fresh organic food is more important than cars. My four-year old son was a natural gardener. Today he has his own backyard organic food forest in Glendale, teaching his two sons how to grow.
Now, at age 81, I’m on the land again at Throop’s permaculture garden, getting the love that was missing, waiting for the rain."
The house in Santa Barbara had a great yard for growing almost anything, and neighbors had large vegetable patches. We often found bags of fresh produce on our back doorstep. Our giant old avocado tree provided plenty of alligator pears for the neighborhood.
A tiny cottage in Willows became our second home for a few years. In the Sacramento Valley sun, our organic garden thrived on the quarter acre of rich alluvial soil: tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, eggplant, squash, Chinese bitter melon, Chinese winter melon, cilantro, onions, potatoes. Elderly neighbors cared for the garden whenever we were back in Berkeley pretending to be urbanites. We gave them half the crop, and when we were on the land, they let us gather fresh eggs from their henhouse every morning.
In 1972 my wife and I bought a 1906 Berkeley farmhouse near campus. We grew snow peas and lettuce, and stewarded several fruit trees--apricot, lime, loquat, lemon, fig, persimmon, plum and avocado. In 2007 the marriage ended and the drought set in. Now, at age 81, I’m on the land again at Throop’s permaculture garden, getting the love that was missing, waiting for the rain. You can find me gardening at Throop most Sunday mornings.