Walks with Penny: community vegetable gardens

Penny is my copper colored, big eared, even bigger hearted, itty bitty dog! She earned her name because of her copper color and in America we have a copper coin called a penny. If you find one on the street, it is said to a ‘lucky penny’. I rescued Penny from the streets of Zhengzhou, the city I first resided in when I came to teach in China. Well truth be told, two men, one from London and the other from the Ukraine (also ESL teachers) found Penny newly born, discarded in a heap of trash on the street. These two big hearted fellows rescued Penny, found a box for her, nursed her with formula and a bottle, until they just couldn’t manage it and then she became mine to love and care for. Though the real deal is, Penny is my faithful companion and takes good care of me and rough houses with her sister, MaoMao our long-haired white cat with one blue eye and one gold eye! Penny and I walk at least a couple times daily and we have discovered some fun things about our city. Today, we took some snapshots of incredible vegetable gardens in and around our community neighborhood.

I come from a long line of gardeners and have a love of all things gardening from herb gardens, to veg gardens, to cut flower gardens, indoor and outdoor gardens, raised bed gardens, and I’ve made it a point to seek out and visit the gardens of every city I have visited domestically in my home country and round the world. Apartment living in China, I have missed greatly an area (a patio, a balcony, deep silled windows) in which to establish a garden and the chance to get my hands in the dirt. I have found and been gifted by my students, some herbs and so I am beginning a humble herb garden on my kitchen window sills in my flat!

But, my attempt is nothing compared with what the old timers here in China can do with a found and otherwise unused patch of earth! I am amazed at the ingenuity and drive of these people who can take a construction dump site, or a narrow stretch of earth beside a road, or a hillside and make it into a garden! I see these from the train when taking the rail between cities, and this morning Penny and I sought these out round where we live.

 

These gardens seem to be created and tended by the elders in communities. I see these folks weeding, watering, and harvesting everything from baby bok choy, to corn, to peppers, green onions, pole beans, squashes of all types (many hung on shade giving trellises under which other veg are growing. And though I get the feel that these garden plots are for personal harvest, I do see many of these elders selling the produce on the road sidesl The other good thing is these gardeners use found objects such as rocks or discarded lumber to delineate their garden plots, they use dried bamboo poles for the trellises. One can spot large pieces of plastic building signage used to cover the soil as insulation for seedlings – great practice of recycling and reusing. I also spotted large plastic pots wrapped with string and hung on the end of heavy bamboo poles filled with water and carried on the shoulders of the gardeners for watering the garden!

The parks and gardens in every city I have enjoyed visiting here in China, are home to incredibly beautiful spaces. These spaces are most always public so everyone can enjoy them. I like these spaces too, but this morning on my walk with Penny, I was deeply inspired by these humble, yet functional gardens and their caretakers who daily work the soil. Maybe, just maybe, if I make a friend with one of these gardeners, I can join in on this community garden and get a plot of my own!

 

Are you ready to experience China’s beautiful gardens?

Teach, travel and train with EF English First

 


Susan is an American woman living a dream — a dream to live and work in community in different countries! Two years in to her journey, she is learning more about herself, more about the world, and building bridges through common language as an ESL teacher with EF Kids and Teens in Taizhou, Zheijiang, China.You can read more about Susan’s experiences as an ESL teacher and her life here in China at www.facebook.com/LilyVees/.  #Livin’aDreamInChina!