Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

A backyard harvest

In a large field? Or your apartment balcony? Or maybe grocery store shelves?

When I was little, my family had a little garden plot behind our garage. I'm sure none of my friends even saw it. We had some tomato plants and peppers, but the thing I remember most was the massive rosemary bush. I remember convincing my mom to get me a little 2'X8" garden box once. I was going to plant carrots. That never happened, and I sort of lost interest in any sort of gardening, but for the last month, I have had the song "Oats, Green Beans, and Barley Grow" stuck in my head. It poses an important question: Do you or I or anyone know, how oats, green beans, and barley grow? Nope. Not in any sort of detail at least. I don't think it has much to do with stamping and clapping, as the song suggests, but I thought I would do something about it.

I picked up from the library (and quickly finished- it's not a difficult read) City Farmer, by Lorraine Johnson. It is an interesting book exploring different aspects of farming in the least expected place: anywhere there is land. Usually we feel edible plants must be found outside of the city boundaries. Picture pumpkins growing in New York. It just does not seem to jive well with our concepts of urbanization. However, Johnson argues that cities are some of the best places to grow your food.
First of all, it's where the people are. Sure, those people can go to grocery stores, and there will always be some need for that, but home grown food is so much tastier, healthier, and gives us a connection to our health.
Second, there is a community. Gardening is a lot of work, and goes by much more quickly if you are doing it with friends. Schools are major part of urban development, and gardens on school land provide educational opportunities.
Possibly the most important argument for urban agriculture is the amount of land available. At first it may seem disguised, but the stats reveal a lot. About one third of Detroit is abandoned land. My favorite passage from this book is one that describes the amount of land available in Vancouver, BC. A man named Michael Levenston calculated out how much of its own food Vancouver could grow. He took the amount of land available, adjusted it (for example, not everyone is going to want a garden in their backyard, and some land is too shady), and approximated yield. What he found is that Vancouver can produce a surplus of vegetables for their population. Crazy.

Johnston suggests just plant something. Anything. It doesn't have to take up your whole yard, or even part. It could be as simple as a few potted herbs or a tomato plant. It is weird to be thinking of gardening this time of year in Nova Scotia. There is no green in sight, except for stop lights and green painted houses. Everything is a gloomy white, but soon spring will be here. It's worth a thought, though.

Picture by Lynn Szwalkiewicz. Creative Commons Copyright license, some rights reserved.
Statistics taken from City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing by Lorraine Johnson, 2010.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Coming Year: Doula Training

It used to be that when a woman got pregnant and had her baby, the "women of the village" would come and help her work through this change in life. Young women would go with their mothers, watch and learn, and then when it was their time, other women would come help them. Unfortunately, now people don't know what to do with a baby. That's where a doula comes in. They are essentially non-medical support for women during the pregnancy and postpartum period. They aren't midwives or doctors, but work with those professionals to assist the woman in her day-to-day life. Some women have a postpartum doula for a couple hours, just to answer a few questions. Some women, especially those with twins or triplets, may need more time adjusting and can have 24-hour doula support for weeks (the doulas rotate shifts).

My training was done by Rosemary Mason, who is such a sweet, energetic woman. You can tell she loves what she does and has buckets of experience behind her. There were four women in the class with me, one of whom was a birth doula already. The format was relaxed but very educational, and though I don't plan on advertising postpartum doula services (though I can certainly offer them on occasion), the material is incredibly useful for a pregnancy massage therapist to know.

The next step is my massage therapy certification. Last summer, I looked into some schools in the Houston area, and about a week ago made my final decision. Unless something unforeseeable changes, I will be studying, starting April, at the Texas School of Massage Main Campus. It means a lot of driving (if anyone knows Houston, picture Katy to Clear Lake...during rush hour... twice a day) but I do love driving. After that is some sort of pregnancy massage program. They are a little harder to get into, because of the recent increased interest, but most consist of prenatal, postnatal and labor massage classes, as well as certification to teach infant massage. There is one in Houston that includes an internship, as well as several around the country.

Like I said last time, I have really enjoyed my time here at university, but I am so very much looking forward to studying what I actually want to do.

My Coming Year: Front Page News

I stopped in a local coffee shop this morning on my way to school (a rarity for me... especially before an 8:30 class) and the Metro newspaper on the table caught my eye: "Mothers rally for midwifery" read the headline.
In Canada, midwives are covered in the government funded healthcare, which is sort of bittersweet in my opinion. Midwives=good. Government healthcare=bad. I digress... in Halifax, they seem to be lacking. Currently, the IWK [local hospital] has suspended all the midwives because of a labor shortage.

At this point you are probably wondering why on earth I am writing about midwives.

A year and a half ago, when I graduated high school I was utterly lost. Since I had grown up in the suburbs of west Houston I was supposed to go to university, but had no idea what I wanted to study or do afterwards. I like science, I like heath, I like babies, but I really did not want to be a nurse. I wrestled with such a range of jobs: linguist, statistician, and yes, even owner of a bed and breakfast. Then, through some late nights scouring the internet for ideas, it struck me: pregnancy massage therapy. Ever since then, everything has come together beautifully. I really can't explain it. Since I can remember, I have had a great sense of awe for pregnant women, and something that cannot be described in any other way but a passion to serve them. I'd just not known what to do with it until then.

Yes, I am at university studying mathematics. I do like math after all, and a degree is handy, but I have had a very interesting experience here, because unlike my fellow math students, I have no intention of having a job in this field afterwards. There are some math subjects, like analysis, that you would use constantly in employment. Others, like cryptography, you would use if you somehow got a job with the CIA. So while my fellow students are filling up their schedules with analysis, I fill up with game theory and cryptography (also useful topics, but not the kind that get you employed). I have also taken Biblical Hebrew, Nutrition, Anatomy, and History of Scotland, and I have loved it.

However, through all of this, I have been itching to start with the massage therapy. When the opportunity came up in November (three days before the class started...) to get my postpartum doula training, I jumped at it.

To be continued...