Transition Laguna Beach met in our backyard over the weekend, for a monthly gathering that reminds me of a barn raising. We call it a garden installation, but I’m renaming it in honor of the Amish, who call this kind of community event a frolic. Here’s how our garden frolic works:
1. Everyone is Welcome (no demographic boundaries here): From teenagers to seniors, everyone digs in and gets their hands dirty. Even the ones who wrinkle their noses at the smell of soil amendments and compost ultimately enjoy the experience.
2. Everyone Contributes: From professional landscape architects to neighbors seeking inspiration for their first vegetable gardens, everyone has something valuable to offer. After helping with three installations, group members are eligible for a garden installation of their own
3. Everyone Learns: “Experts” and novices alike poll community members for answers to questions as they work, underscoring the point that there are no right or wrong answers, every garden is different and anything experimental is worth a try. Time will tell if our New Zealand spinach (for hot and dry climates), late-season melon and corn and transplanted citrus thrive where they were planted.
4. Everyone Laughs: We work hard and have fun. Conversation breaks contribute to the community-building experience.
5. Everyone Eats: We throw the best potlucks ever, with mainly vegetarian dishes we’ve pulled together from the bounty of our gardens. In the summer we’re rich in homegrown cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce and squash. We eat dessert because we’ve earned it (see recipe below).
6. Everyone Benefits: Because our gardens produce more food than we can eat, we share with neighbors and other community groups. Our volunteers have installed or improved gardens at a local homeless shelter, church (which provides food for the larger community) and schools, and has conducted workshops on raising chickens and bees, composting, alternative energy, water reclamation and other practical ways to live more sustainably. Getting involved with a community group like Transition Laguna helps demonstrate what the great anthropologist Margaret Mead (who made the study of human societies her life’s work) so eloquently said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
As thanks to Transition Laguna for giving me reason to frolic, here’s my favorite summer berry dessert recipe. Enjoy and share!
Garden Frolic Crumble
Spray or grease a deep casserole dish with vegetable oil and fill with 6 cups fresh blueberries, blackberries or a mixture of whatever berries you have. Squeeze the juice of one fresh lemon over fruit. In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon and a dash of salt. Add 2 sticks cold unsalted butter cut in small pieces and mash until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of berries and cook uncovered in a 350 degree oven until berries are bubbly and topping is crisp (about 30-45 minutes).