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Feeding Frenzy, and A Necessary Ennui (with a Stop at Cameroon, a Kudzu-Eating Sheep Event, and a Row of Food in a Verdant Back

Posted Jun 10 2012 7:15am
My older daughter and husband were off touring colleges, my younger daughter had left me on the bottom of the hill as she rides her bike where she needs to go on her own now, and I had already written my Farmer D Organics blog post (complete with video!) about what to bring to the upcoming summer solstice party ( I Call Candied Mint! ).  Time was tight, however, because I wanted to hit two stops that were precariously close in scheduled time but far in distance from each other.  And that's when I made my mistake.

I read Heifer Global Blogging Ambassador Betty Londergan's post about Cameroon.  

Oh, I had already read the thought-provoking one with laugh-out-loud moments about cane rats and snails .  I had even walked with Betty earlier in the week and something about which we talked (okay, semi-full confession, it was something from my childhood but I am simply not going to tell you about it) almost had us lying in the road with our sides splitting because we were laughing so hard. So when I saw Betty's latest post was online, I thought I'd just knock it out, get an upbeat dose of Betty to kick off the day, and then swing by my two stops--a kudzu-eating sheep and goat event organized by Trees Atlanta in a park in the toniest area of Atlanta named Buckhead.  And a county zoning meeting about urban agriculture at the Clarkston Community Center, in what's considered the most diverse square-mile in the United States.

photo courtesy of Betty Londergan and Heifer 12 x 12 2012
Titled Hunger (No Games) , it's harsh.  The women aren't smiling the way they are in most of Betty's photos.  The shot of the dried river bed is haunting.  These people are starving.  The increasingly harsh conditions are making it nearly impossible to grow food.  I had tears rolling down my cheeks by the end of it, because I know when I look around where I live, there is verdant land everywhere, and yet we fight about what or even if we are allowed to grow food and provide for our families and communities.  
The sheep event invitation said that the Ritz Carlton would be providing free breakfast.  I couldn't even imagine that at this moment.  Coffee and pastries for anyone who wants them.  Just take it and eat it.  Eat half or just a bite, why not, and throw out the rest, if you want.  No, the invitation didn't say that, of course, but I've been to enough of these things.  I've seen the cavalier way food abundance is often treated in our society, and the waste that results (this is not a negative comment about the Ritz Carlton, which I believe donated the food for this event). 
The sheep event was a veritable media feeding frenzy.  The Ritz Carlton food was gone by the time I arrived.  Members of the mass media (Channel 2 News, the AJC) were in the pen with the flock, enticing children to hold out branches so the animals would eat on cue for their film and photos.  I was off on the side when a woman asked me to take a photo of her for her blog.  Put two bloggers together at a sheep event and there's no stopping the conversation, right?  Well, it turns out Anne Boatright, who writes a blog named Lavender Ginger , is a mom like me, trying to figure it all out.  Parenting.  Life.  The works.  And for that moment, I felt something about which I like to be reminded each and every day.  I am not alone.  Her post about the event gives a great overview of the good that Trees Atlanta is doing by eradicating kudzu with these animals rather than with chemicals.
As I was leaving, I heard my name called.  "Pattie!"  And then I turned and saw one of the most life-affirming, joy-filled people I know--the beautiful and effervescent Connie Morelle, who is now the chairperson of the sustainability commission I started when where I live became the newest city in the United States.  We walked and talked and ended up sitting on a low stone wall in the shade, watching the throngs of people pushing strollers full of children (our next generation) leaving the event, and discussing how to work with where we are (literally, figuratively) to plant and nurture seeds of change.  
As we finished and tried to cross a busy road with no crosswalk or traffic light in site, the drivers from both directions stopped and let us cross, surprising (okay, shocking) me.  (On average, about 15 cars pass before one stops at a crosswalk in the city where I live, and I have never once seen a driver get a ticket for this).  It was too late to make it to the zoning meeting, but my friend Bob went and, truth be told, his input is far more valuable than mine regarding zoning (or maybe our inputs work together as I know what best practices from elsewhere have already shown what's possible and desirable, and he knows what needs to happen legally to allow them).
And then yesterday, as I was still feeling an ennui that frankly may never go away in my lifetime (and may be the impetus I always need to keep working on these issues), a little girl helped me harvest potatoes from the row in the back field beyond the community garden.  Where we hadn't been allowed to grow for over two years.  Where I had finally gotten permission to grow an 80' row with that middle school class .  Where we thought the deer would eat everything. Where they didn't.
And I felt hope.
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