Today’s passage from The Dawn of Everything covers new thinking about gardening and the gardeners of the distant past.

What if we shifted the emphasis away from agriculture and domestication to, say, botany or even gardening? At once we find ourselves closer to the realities of Neolithic ecology, which seem little concerned with taming wild nature or squeezing as many calories as possible from a handful of seed grasses. What it really seems to have been about is creating garden plots – artificial, often temporary habitats – in which the ecological scales were tipped in favour of preferred species.

Theirs was not a science of domination and classification, but one of bending and coaxing, nurturing and cajoling, or even tricking the forces of nature, to increase the likelihood of securing a favourable outcome. Their ‘laboratory’ was the real world of plants and animals, whose innate tendencies they exploited through close observation and experimentation.

…we have to imagine a world without laboratories; or rather, a world in which laboratories are potentially everywhere and anywhere.

pages 238-239, The Dawn of Everything
Garden nine-patch

In my own garden, there is still a lot of laborious “agriculture” going on. It’s not quite as carefree as they describe the earliest gardens. But we’re tipping the balance toward working more with nature. Taking advantage of self-seeding plants. Attracting pollinators. Moving favorite perennials around when they outgrow their spaces. Leaving root systems in the ground to rot instead of pulling them up during harvest. Scarlet runner beans instead of plastic hummingbird feeders. Something to think about.

I’m also thinking about the garden as inspiration for the nine-patch. The combinations of colors and shapes. I found I had 36 three-inch squares in my stack – enough for four nine-patches. Next step was to try to arrange them in a pleasing manner – or as Graeber/Wengrow put it “to secure a favourable outcome.” These squares are destined to become part of the garden quilt, I think.

First arrangement (little one included because it was there)
Tweaked a little. More tweaking to come.

10 Responses

  1. love this passage very much…partly because it eases my judgement of my ify Gardening. Which is on granite, which can be some of what i hope,
    but also, in it’s natural Self, cannot. So…we , me and Garden go about it….bending coaxing nurturing cajoling. and if there is tricking, it is
    of me. Thank you so much for bringing your reading here and sharing….and for telling the Story of your own Garden, both botanical and
    cloth….i always so much love your choices of fabric, the colors, the Good Company of them, on with the others…
    Thank you

    • Catherine says:

      I have always been oriented to lazy gardening, but this passage pushes me even further. I’m not even really dedicated to rows (but don’t tell my partner that). I really love the squares, how simple they are, and how fun to put them together. Thank you for being Good Company here!

  2. Liz A says:

    I love your cabbages, which look like blowsy flowers (blowsy being a word my mom used to say … meaning full to overflowing, like a overlarge blouse) … and the teeny zucchini (how good those will taste!)

    lovely nine-patches, especially the one with the embedded four-patch … they are endlessly fascinating and I’m wondering if you have a “favorite” patch size (mine is 1.75″)

    • Catherine says:

      I really love a good red cabbage in the garden and this is a good year for them. The colors and shapes – yum. Not that into zucchini, but I have several ways of cooking them that I like, so I have one.

      Interesting about the favorite patch size – not really. I’m stuck on 3″ right now. I’ve done 1.5, but never tried 1.75. I’ll cut a template that size so I have it available. It’s amazing how interested I can become in assembling the nine-patches from a random stack of squares.

  3. jude says:

    Lazy gardening never really turns out that way, I cannot believe how much energy it takes, even just helping things grow. Of course this year with no rain it has been very stressful.
    I love your 9s. 1.75 was the size I used for the Holding Pattern quilt, cut at first because it was the size of a lot of small leftovers I had. It is a nice in between.

    • Catherine says:

      Gardening is a lot of work no doubt about it. I just have to hope each year I learn a few more tricks to make it easier. Mine could have used a lot more water than I gave it this year. I will try 1.75. I do try to match the size to the leftovers I have.

  4. Nancy says:

    Gosh your garden/cloth 9-patches are glorious! How do you make the collage pic (program?)? I could make these endlessly. ????
    I made a chocolate-zucchini cake for one of my son’s early birthdays! Yum!

    • Catherine says:

      Chocolate zucchini cake is one of my favorite recipes! I usually make it in a loaf pan but decided to try a layer cake for my partner’s birthday. It came out great! The app I use for collage is on my phone – Adobe Photoshop Express. It uses photos from my phone and there are a lot of options. I should use it more, it’s very handy.

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