We have been rather sun-starved in the Pacific Northwest this spring, setting a record for the longest stretch of sub-75F since records have been kept. It has been sometimes disheartening, though the chicories, lettuces, peas and beets are happy. But tonight it is sunny and warm(ish) and I will not rail against the weather. It is, after all, pointless and irrational; rather like neocons screaming at the cycles of the moon.
However, there are some things I want to get off my chest. I lift weights three days a week.
I make protein smoothies. It is a big chest. Bear with me.
I was recently invited, kindly enough, to a rather celebrated landscape. It was that type of garden that lots of money can make, though this one was sincere and kindly attended to. I was entranced until we made our way towards the heated pool. It was a gloriously sunny day and perhaps too hot for my comfort zone (meaning that of 56F and raining). At this point, my host insisted on demonstrating a tres-cool-pool-side terrace heater. I walked away quickly so he would simply shut the g-damn thing off – a feat more deftly accomplished than plugging the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.
Earlier that day, I had been treated to lunch at a very nice restaurant. In their landscape, as a means of welcome, was a roaring, dramatic tempest of flames. It was too warm to sit in the sun, so we asked for shaded seating. At our table, in the shadows, we were all slow-roasted by a propane torch.
What the hell? Experts now consider outdoor heaters to be the most inefficient use of energy on the planet. Yet restaurants are welcoming customers to outdoor terraces by heating the out-of-doors. After all, we just love that toasty feeling of warmth, don’t we? Pelicans and herons drenched in oil can attest. How about getting your ass out of the chair and putting on a sweater? While you are at it, don’t bitch to me about BP.
Worse still is the embarrassingly indulgent popularization of fire-as-entertainment. I recently perused a nationally respected design publication. I should not mention it’s name, but its initials begin with Garden Design. There were no less than six large advertisements for garden-fire systems, and no less than three garden features that promoted the frivolous consumption of fossil fuels. In my book, a designer or landscape architect that has to rely on non-sustainable theatrics to make their work interesting should instead be designing padded toilet seats.
Am I without guilt? Absolutely not. We have a greenhouse that we maintain with propane during the coldest temperatures of the winter. We start our vegetable garden there, and harvest produce from it
every month of the year. I also consume electricity to circulate water through our landscape; from this system has
arisen a healthy population of frogs and a remarkably diverse spectrum of bird life. Still, I attempt to justify. These practices are consumptive and assuredly someday will be considered part and parcel to the abject disregard of energy use by our contemporaries.
Yet, the flagrant burning of fossil fuels for our sissified comfort and entertainment is as transparent and troubling as it gets. It is evocative of a flabby mind and fat bottom. It is like hanging a mirror in the garden and then wondering why birds are found dead beneath. As gardeners, we should be better.