There’s more to this tomato trellis than initially meets the eye…
After months of digging up thick sod to make room for veggies, it was tempting to make a quick run to Home Depot to buy metal cages for tomato transplants. Shaking and beating patches of well-established grass to release the soil for veggie transplants has led to a sore knee and back, and tired legs and forearms. So, with tomato plants still in pots and beginning to flower, the urge was on to get these tomatoes planted soon!
It was automatic in my brain, to jump in my car, burn the petrol, buy some cages from the store (which of course are made from a finite source of metal from the earth and produced and transported long distances, burning more coal or gas or whatever it takes to bring this convenience to my doorstep), and make quick work of it.
It barely occurred to me that I could DIY this project. It wasn’t until Tessa and I were standing at Home Depot that we both realized that there is probably a better and more sustainable way to support our tomato vines. We went back home and I did 5 minutes of google research and found at least 5 methods for supporting tomatoes. I chose the easiest method.
As you can see in the picture, I took a tree branch that I already had laying right next to the garden bed, which I had sawed down with my electric chainsaw several weeks prior. I cut this in half in 30 seconds and I had my two end poles. I remembered that I had one extra T-post laying near the barn, so I used that as the center post. Then, I took twine and ran lines connecting each post (we probably need to add a few more lines of twine to really give our plants the support they need).
This small project turned from unsustainable to sustainable. Instead of using metal cages whose production uses up valuable finite resources, I re-used materials (t-post) and used more quickly renewable resources (wood and twine). This small project also turned from another $60 expenditure (less financially sustainable) to literally pennies (more financially sustainable). We also think that the natural look of the branches and twine is more aesthetically pleasing to to the eye than rows of metal cages.
Small decisions are made constantly throughout our day, and they may seem trivial. On the other hand, I can’t help to think that we have become very quick to “buy” what we instinctually feel we “need” in our culture. Tomatoes need support, so we automatically go to the store to buy a cage.
I believe this knee-jerk “buying stuff to solve our problems” reaction is intricately linked to advertising that bombards us on television, which is expertly crafted by psychologists to appeal to our feelings of “not good enough or not capable enough” to be and do on our own. This cycle of advertising and mindless spending produces a quick dose of dopamine in our brains that feels good for a while when we shop and purchase, yet it is a temporary medication without treating the underlying condition.
We have become somewhat disconnected from the land, using its resources for our own pleasure, convenience, and economic benefit. From the field of Ecopsychology, we hypothesize that this disconnection from the land produces an underlying feeling of unwholeness and longing. We search for “things”, people and products to help us feel whole and happy again.
Advertisers prey on this and psychologists in marketing and advertising help them, and they use it to create our current day situation, where we instictually jump in the car or hop on Amazon to buy whatever we “need”.
Yet, as we have seen with the tomato trellis, it is actually more rare that we ever “need” to buy most things. Especially on some land, with a small homestead, you can find, grow, raise, cut down, barter, and borrow from the land and neighbors. It may start with a simple tomato trellis made from renewable and re-usable resources on our own land, to show respect and connection to our land and boldly go against the grain of advertising and mindless spending; but sustainable living goes a bit deeper.
Sustainable living puts a theory into action, by re-building a connection to our land and our community. And it connects us back to our own capabilities to create things.
With my hands in the dirt and carrying a log on my back, I can actually feel the healing throughout my body and mind; where this deeper wound of disconnection that is not adequately managed by the band-aid dopamine rush of buying and spending, is replaced by awareness, appreciation, and joy with the land and my family.
Oh ya, and isn’t Aza cute in this picture!
If this idea intrigues you, try a little experiment….
Over the next week notice when you are about to buy something and consider if it is actually something you could make yourself, or use what you already have, or just somehow do differently that is more in alignment with your values? Share with us what comes up in the comments below!
For us, this moment of “consumer mindfulness” and getting off our autopilot of just buying what we need, allows us to have fun being creative, saves us money, and feels great to be living in alignment with our value of sustainability and self-sufficiency.
By IAN CHITTLE