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Antidote for the news: a garden—and harvest time

Leslie Campbell


September 3, 2020

A “ DEMAGOGUE,” states Wikipedia, “is a leader who gains popularity in a democracy by exploiting emotions, prejudice, and ignorance to arouse some against others, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation.”

Reading further, we find the “methods” of a demagogue include scapegoating, fear mongering, lying, promising the impossible, personal insults and ridicule, accusing the opposition of weakness and disloyalty, folksy posturing, gross oversimplification, and attacking the news media.

Now who does that fit to a T?

The news is unsettling these days, especially from south of the 49th. Trump manages to turn things upside down, claiming he is the candidate for law and order—all the while fanning the flames to create social unrest, with his followers turning peaceful protests into deadly ones.

Hopefully, November will usher him out, but unfortunately, I don’t think we can count on that. Even if he’s not elected, he will try to hold onto power.

On the homefront, the news is very different, yet unsettling as well. In recent weeks, Dr Henry has been reporting growing numbers of new cases of COVID-19 in BC, often 100 or more. It will likely mean further delays in reopening our economy and institutions. As I wrote in my editorial, I am particularly frustrated with not being able to see my 92-year-old mother, who is in a long-term care home, due to what I believe are overly restrictive COVID visitation rules which themselves risk our well-being.

And the news about Victoria’s homeless situation, with the encampments in Beacon Hill Park, Central Park and elsewhere is also jarring. It seems that a panoply of drugs, including fentanyl, were conveniently available from tents in Centennial Square, before 17 people were charged with drug trafficking and campers forced to move—into other local parks. Mayor Helps says the feds need to come up with more money for supportive housing for the roughly 300 who are camping in City of Victoria parks. Of course, that’s not likely to happen soon enough for most Victorians. (See the passionate letter from a reader who lives adjacent to Beacon Hill Park.) Should the City revert to enforcing its bylaw requiring campers to pack up their belongings every morning? It would be great to hear readers’ view on this—or any other ideas they have towards solutions.

As an antidote to my daily ingestion of such news, I am blessed to be able to head into the forest or to my small veggie garden here on Quadra Island. For most of my 25 years of gardening here the garden has to do without me for weeks at a time when we are in Victoria. We set up an automatic watering system and pray that it doesn’t fail during those dry days of most summers. This year it’s all different thanks to both our full-time “pandemic residency” and the wet weather in June and through mid-July.

Garlic is hands-down my best crop. I started many years ago with a few varieties including a Russian Red I originally got from garden and garlic expert Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds (he has numerous books worth checking out). The Russian Red thrived in our soil and ever since I have replanted about 120 cloves of my biggest bulbs. I’ve never had a failure and generally harvest big juicy bulbs that last us close to the entire year, even with gifting to friends and family.



2020s Russian Red garlic


Other crops supply us too—starting with greens in the spring, and continuing through the winter with root crops and squash. As with most years there are surprises, both pleasant and otherwise. This year, my giant purple cabbages count among the former. But what to do with it all? I can make some sauerkraut, but not that much. My squash this year seem small and few, but that is the only disappointment this year. Last year it was rats that posed all the challenge; they had shown up on this property two years ago. My first broccoli seedlings got eaten to soil level. With my second attempt, I tried plastic collars and netting which seemed to work for a while, but then when the heads started to form, they got chomped. As did my ripening tomatoes. And then they started gnawing at my beets—aggressively—and any potatoes near the surface.

This year, after an early planting of spinach and chard got chomped to the quick, I read up on deterrence suggestions online. One involved simply sprinkling chopped onion around as “all rodents hate onion smells.” I donated a couple of onions to the cause, and then collected our scraps from onion and garlic in a plastic bag and regularly refreshed the sprinkling. It worked! Aiding the cause, we now allow our two one-year-old cats to hang out in the fenced-in garden area regularly (we don’t allow our cats free range out of concern for the birds). That seems to be enough. The rats have moved on.

I keep a garden diary each gardening season, a helpful aid to my imperfect memory. It includes a rudimentary map of where each crop is so I can make sure to change things up the next year as is recommended for avoiding certain diseases and pests. I keep track of when I fertilized different crops, and record how different things are doing along with my guesses as to why.

As you can see, the garden gives me plenty of ways to take my mind off all those news items mentioned above, with the added bonus of feeding us. That so many others have been turned onto the gifts of gardening through the pandemic is a significant silver lining.

I welcome your response, either as a comment below or privately through the “Contact Us” button at the bottom of this page. 


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