FarmTina (aka, my backyard) is surrounded by chain link fences that separate me from my neighbors' backyards. The neighbors to my right have a wall of rose bushes and a little cabana in their yard that looks like you could be getting massages under it. The people who live there dry their clothes outside as if we lived in the country. To my left is something not so good for a farm neighbor: an empty lot.
This lot is the space (well, I guess it would be the "front yard") connected to an uninhabited building. The lot is part dirt and part concrete. I say it's "not so good" for a few reasons:
- It is always full of trash that blows around the empty space and then sticks to my yard. The most popular airborne trash in our neighborhood? Condom wrappers of course.
- It provides no privacy (read: safety) for my own yard, so you can look from the street through the empty lot and have a clear view of my backyard and all the expensive things (read: grill, furniture, garden food) that are back there.
- It is like a party for weeds! I think every weed that exists in Brooklyn grows in this lot, and then blows into my yard to grow in my farm.
So, I live next to an empty lot, right? Cool. BUT... THERE'S A TWIST!!
A family that lives across the street has been using this empty space for their own guerrilla garden:
In the summers they have an amazing garden planted right into the ground (kinda gross- Brooklyn empty lot soil?) and when they harvest the food, the women put it in bundles on their head and walk across the street to bring it home.
I have mixed feelings about this squatter garden. Of course I entirely support the use of idle land and growing fresh food. It's a noble mission, and I am currently in love with Novella Carpenter, farmer and author of Farm City, who has an entire farm on an empty lot she doesn't own in Oakland, CA. By taking over forgotten land, this family can be self-sufficient and produce their own food. Plus, they seem to grow vegetables that I don't recognize, which I assume is food from their culture that is hard to find in our neighborhood.
However, they never break down the garden for winter, so by the time the next spring comes, the lot is full of rotting un-picked squash and overgrown vines that have ended up in my yard. They also don't weed the areas of the lot they're not using, so the weeds feed off the watering and fertilizer they provide and blow into my yard. What also ends up in my yard? THEIR SEEDS!! Squash blossoms grow over the fence and land in my strawberry patch! Not to mention the fact that their big plants block out my backyard sun. I pay rent for my backyard sun and they do not pay rent for their empty lot sun, so I feel like I should get sun first and then they can have the leftover sun.
Am I being selfish? I think the problem is that I don't have a relationship with this family yet, and there is a language and cultural barrier that has made it difficult. The first time I spoke to one of the men working in the space, he asked where my husband was, as if he was appalled I was unmarried. Also, I think I'm a bit jealous... if only I had that space all to myself, oh the farms I could farm! Please, feel free to tell me that I'm being greedy, and you can't own earth (until you can paint with all the colors of the wind...) and that I'm what's wrong with America.