I spent last week at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show getting all inspired about gardening. I bought some new plants for the garden. I got home and did a reality check. It’s too cold to go out and plant all the plants waiting on my patio. I’m not going out there to be assaulted by flying limbs from the Doug Firs. I’ll write about my garden instead.
One of the garden tips that struck a chord with me was on the use of perennial food crops. Yes! Grow veggies that don’t need to be planted every year. I’m replanting asparagus for the first time in about 10 years. Our asparagus has served us well for about six weeks in the early spring. Homegrown asparagus is nothing like store asparagus.
Of course, my prolific raspberries have kept us in fruit for years with little care. I planted ever-bearing raspberries that give me berries from June to December. No, that was not a typo. Shortly before Christmas I picked raspberries out of my garden to use in a salad. That is a long fruiting season for very little work.
Among the plants that don’t need to be planted every year, you might consider letting some kale go to seed. I haven’t planted kale for years, yet it infests my yard providing tender sweet greens in the winter. Kale harvested 20 minutes before cooking has no relationship to anything in the grocery store. It is tender and as sweet as corn.
One of my favorite greens that nobody mentioned at the garden show is the stinging nettle. Every year about this time, I can harvest enough nettle to supplement a stir fry. It has a flavor reminiscent of spinach, but is not as strong and is much easier to digest. Another wild green was mentioned. Do you know that some places sell dandelion greens for over four dollars a pound? Stop by my lawn anytime and harvest some. I don’t really care for the strong flavor of dandelion no matter how young it is harvested.
Several speakers at the garden show mentioned problems with pollinators. Apparently I wasn’t the only person who didn’t get zucchini because of a lack of bees. Remember the days of drive-by zucchini attacks—you’d get up in the morning and find five giant zucchini on your front porch. You’d clutch your toddlers to your breast in fear that the giant monsters would eat your offspring. These attacks are history. I got a few early zucchini, but then nothing. We didn’t have enough pollinators. While toddlers may be safer in the garden, we need those pollinators!
I attended a couple seminars on cooking the bounty from the garden. I liked the recipe for the Jerusalem Artichoke soup, which inspired me to plant Jerusalem Artichokes. These can be invasive so I’ll probably plant them in the repurposed children’s wading pool that I use for a planting bed. This veggie is a good alternative for those with nightshade/potato allergies. I liked the cook who suggested that veggies are best prepared with equal parts of butter to veggie.
Many of my fruits and veggies never leave the garden. I like to graze so I really admired the speaker who mentioned being a busy mom so she just sends her children out to graze in the garden. You can do this if you garden without chemicals. You can garden without chemicals if you have lots of different plants in your garden and allow for a weed patch or two. I also have chickens and ducks who do bug and slug patrol.
I wish everybody had access to fresh chemical-free vegetables. Even the organic section at the supermarket cannot come close to providing the quality of vegetables I have just outside my door. Often varieties grown commercially give up flavor for beauty or shelf life. I’ve learned of several movements to bring fresh food into the inner-city both through city gardens and through veggie-mobiles, which function like a bookmobile. I’d welcome a city dweller to come share my crop by doing some of my heavy garden chores.
Finally, I appreciated the speaker who did a history of organic gardening in the US. She noted the importance of the home grower and the small market grower as important partners in supplying our country with food.For pictures from the garden show click on the link to the left for Enchanted Forest Florals/
By Delinda L. McCann
The original Fetal Alcohol Syndrome*Family Resource Institute study called Interventions That Work was started in a retreat setting with thirty-four families living with someone with brain damage due to prenatal exposure to alcohol. Eventually the study grew to include over four thousand families.
Our procedure was simple. We asked parents and caregivers to tell us what they were doing that worked to solve school problems, behavior problems, legal issues, problems with family routines, and any other concerns that impaired the ability of the family to function, or impaired the health and safety of the family members.
We developed a large body of information that eventually became the collective family experience. We learned that youth who have brain damage and are in trouble for breaking the law do much better with a diversion plan rather than jail time. The diversion plan doesn’t let the offender off of the hook, but allows the disabled person to fulfill their obligation to society without exposing them to more of the criminal element.
We learned some techniques for working with schools. We also learned that our children with disabilities were often better served in private schools or homeschool. The students needed to be protected from bullies and take their lessons in a manner that allowed them to learn. More than one parent mentioned fluorescent lighting and toxins that come into the classroom on other student’s clothing as deciding factors when they pulled their children out of school.
Parents shared techniques for communicating with their children who had brain damage. One of the important aspects of the study was realizing that the age of the child didn’t make much difference with communication. Parents of forty year-old children still needed to keep it simple, concrete and specific.
We found a large variety of adult living situations. A few of our children who function very high have been able to marry, hold down a job and live independently with a spouse who makes decisions and manages money. Some of our children ended up living in group-homes and sheltered assisted living. My own foster daughter lives in a lock-up apartment building with family close by and assistance from a caregiver. The point was that we had to think about her housing options in a manner that most parents do not. She could not find safe housing on her own. We also learned that parents have less trouble if they make adult living options part of their normal planning and plan to get the kid out of the house sooner than later. This was especially important with young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
We had a subset of parents representing about one third of our information base who talked about problems with environmental and dietary challenges. Gluten intolerance was common and resulted in bizarre behaviors or more physical symptoms than normal. We found many other common food allergies in addition to sensitivity to environmental pollutants like car exhaust. Tobacco allergies were common enough to make going out in public challenging for our youth. When a neuro-typical person encounters an allergen they behave in predictable ways and we sympathize with their discomfort. When the person with brain damage encounters an irritant or allergy anything goes--from rage attacks, to weeping to passing out. My daughter would suddenly lose all recognition of her surroundings and pee her pants when she encountered tobacco smoke. Life is rough for those with brain damage.
One of the most important pieces of information we found in our fourteen years of research is that people with brain damage due to prenatal exposure to alcohol really are mirrors of those around them. When our youth and adults are interacting with responsible people who have high standards of honesty, they will live up to those standards of responsibility and honesty. Let one pornographer, drug dealer, thief or gang recruiter near our vulnerable population they will follow their new best friend down the primrose path with no concept that this behavior is different from their family and church values. We really, really need to protect our vulnerable populations from those who would exploit them, in the same manner as we protect a three year-old.
In our discussion of violence in our communities, we need to take into account the needs of our disability community and the lessons parents have learned over the years. One of the things we learned in our attempts to apply interventions that work is that when we structure our classrooms, faith communities and social services to meet the needs of the person with brain damage, the rest of the community has their needs met as well.
As part of our national dialog, I am concerned with the President Obama’s proposal to have the Center for Disease Control research causes and interventions related to violence in our communities because they are not set up to do the type of research FAS*FRI did. Despite the fact that we had members of the FAS*FRI staff working with the CDC on the committee related to FAS issues they did not treat our study with the respect it deserved because the data came from parents rather than from university studies. We really need the dialog on violence to include those people who live with at-risk people on a daily basis and those who serve at-risk populations. I don’t see this happening, which is why online support groups for families are so important. I am hoping that our on-line communities will speak up on the role of cognitive disability in creating violence in our communities as well as the victimization of vulnerable people.
My career for the past forty-five years or so can best be described as working with at-risk youth. I’ve taught, counseled, lead, lectured and played beside children and youth who had been identified at some level as being at-risk for school failure, teen pregnancy, abuse, suicide, abusing drugs, gang involvement and whatever all the least, the last, and the lost of our communities fall into.
Many of the young people I’ve encountered have had various levels of various disabilities, primarily Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Autism. Some have other mental health issues. Many were healthy enough. They were just poor. Some of the youth were members of minorities.
My job included listening to their problems, teaching them to read, showing them a different way to view reality, and most of all, helping them feel lovable and valuable. Most of the children I lost track of years ago, but some of those who passed through my life, I was able to follow long enough to know that they stayed in school, stayed sober, did not get pregnant and had minimal adverse contact with the police.
Much of my job included working with parents. It seems I’ve said the same things over and over and over with varying degree of success. I call these sayings my mantras. “Your daughter is at high risk for sexual exploitation. Get her on birth control that works and lasts.” Another mantra is, “Women of childbearing years who use alcohol must be on a reliable form of birth control.” I have mantras that include the boys, “If your child is a danger to himself or you, you will have to remove from his environment everything that he could use to do harm, or remove him from his environment.”
I’ve sat through more Individual Education Plan meetings than I want to remember—both for my foster daughter and with other parents. I’ve heard thousands of tragic stories.
After all these years, what have I learned? I’ve learned that interventions may involve nothing more than listening. The word intervention may mean getting a diagnosis. Sometimes interventions involve drastically changing the environment of a youth. I am convinced that interventions save lives and save money. I’ve learned that we can have better outcomes for people with disabilities than a life in prisons, or addiction, or prostitution, or abuse, or premature death. We can give our at-risk youth better options than those they can find for themselves.
Over the years, I’ve watched as safe alternatives and intervention programs have disappeared from our communities while unhealthy elements continue to mushroom. I’ve watched our communities lose the war on drugs. I’ve watched the prison population expand as viable out-of-home placements for the at-risk have dwindled. I’ve watched special interest groups shout down the scientific community’s message about prevention, so despite more knowledge we have more prenatal exposure to a soup of toxins that have no business in a healthy society.
Still, I look at a long line of thousands of individuals who got the support they needed when they needed it, and their lives have had healthy outcomes. Now, I see our communities, our states and our whole country sitting at a crossroads staring in horror at the violence around us and wondering, “what happened and where do we go from here?”
The answer is to look at what has worked. Living in community works. Let’s work as a community to give our at-risk youth the support they need. This may mean that churches will need to fund chaperoned, fun, safe activities for youth. Communities will need to fund counselors who are accessible to youth. Funding is needed for outside-of-school literacy and educational opportunities. I happen to agree with our schools that they cannot do the whole job, alone.
Parents or grandparents need to be available to their children, and they must have the legal right to ground, medicate or restrain their at-risk child. Parents need to be able to earn a living wage that allows them to provide supervision for their children especially their adolescent children.
The steps I’ve outlined must be part of our national dialogue on safe communities. I’m a little sick of those who refuse to fund or take simple proactive steps toward solving our violence problems demanding their right to engage in whatever unhealthy practice they choose. We know how to identify and support the vulnerable. It is way past time to put on our gloves and get the job done.
Delinda McCann is a social psychologist, author, avid organic gardener and amateur musician.