Today is Blog Action Day. The Power of We is the theme. When I think about the Power of We, and how it relates to this most pivotal year for me – creating an urban edible garden in my front yard, creating community in my neighborhood, meeting gardeners and farmers, creating an online community with my blog, entertaining people with my web series Late Bloomer – my mind immediately goes to two people in particular that have changed my life for the better this year, Mark Dubrow and Andy Sehic. They connected me to the Power of We.

Three Friends

Kaye Kittrell, Mark Dubrow and Andy Sehic in Front of my House, April 4, 2012

I remember well one chilly morning in February, when I was returning from my neighbor, Dorie’s, house around 7:30 AM (I was getting ideas for ground cover for shady areas of my yard), and Mark and Andy were standing in front of my house looking at my garden. I only had a couple of small citrus trees, herbs, nasturtium and cauliflower growing at that point. We chatted and I knew immediately these were people I wanted to get to know.

Mark and Andy have devoted themselves to a life of serving others and the planet, and they had returned from their home in Arcata, CA, to be caregivers for his ailing mother who lives three blocks away. They were out for a stroll and passed by my early attempt at converting my front yard to an edible garden. Having a large edible garden in Arcata, they had some suggestions for me, and we vowed to keep in touch. They went back up north for a few weeks and I didn’t see them again till April 4, the day of the photo above. That day, they pointed out to me that, with so little space to grow vegetables, I couldn’t afford to have a row of low-climbing camelias right along the sidewalk, as that was my best sun. I vowed to move them and I did.

But, my connection with Mark and Andy goes much deeper than my garden. They introduced me to peace activist and student of permaculture Brian Willson, who lost his legs protesting the U.S. shipment of arms to El Salvador which is accounted in his new book, Blood on the Tracks; director Tom Shadyac, and his mind-awakening documentary I Amwho, after huge Hollywood success has devoted himself to a life of serving others; and Safe Place for Youth (S.P.Y.), a charity focused on improving the lives of homeless teenagers and at-risk youth in the Los Angeles area where we are visiting tomorrow. And they continually shower me with encouragement.

I have been passionately outspoken against mountaintop coal removal in the Appalachians, where my consciousness to nature was first awakened, thanks to my dear friend Guy Zimmerman (I managed to get back to the Smoky’s last October where we camped in Cade’s Cove); I am deeply concerned about fracking, the rampant, seemingly-out-of-control rush to dig natural gas wells all over our country, which is contaminating our ground water while using it up at the same time; and especially involved in the issue of food security, and Monsanto (Cargill, ConAgra) attempting to control every aspect of our food supply system.

But, when you are a lone voice sending emails to Congress and occasionally making calls, you really aren’t accomplishing much, as Mark reminded me. But, the Power of We is how you can accomplish great things. In 2001, a small group of us protested, and won, the right right to have raw dairy on the shelves of stores in Los Angeles County. That was a small victory against a continuing wall of government pressure to shut down family farms, and not just because of raw dairy. Now, the march is on to shut down any small family farmer who is raising something that competes with Big Ag and the chemical companies.

I have known for a long time that fluoride was bad, but, was not aware just how toxic it is, and how deceitful institutions, companies and the government have been in forcing the fluoridation of our public drinking water, until Mark recently made me aware of it. When these issues all seem so overwhelming, we have to remember that there have been times in our history when the collective voices rose up and changed things. We were told cigarettes, lead in gas and paint, and asbestos were good for us. And public awareness caused change, and now that must happen with fluoride. Please share this video, The Fluoride Deceptionwith everyone. The people can make a difference, if enough of us wake up to the facts.

I am in awe and humbled by the online community I have connected to this year, and it all started with growing food in my front yard. Most people choose backyard gardening (easier to fence off to keep critters out), but, growing food in my front yard started a conversation that I would never have had in my back yard. I would have never met Mark and Andy, for example. Growing food in your front yard makes a statement to your neighbors that knowing where your food comes from is important, and should be part of the conversation when you are raising children. For, the benefit is not just that you bring a few zucchini and tomatoes and herbs in to your table instead of buying them at the market (it’s important to support farmer’s markets), it’s an amazing education to watch vegetables grow, witness friends and foes in the garden and who eats who, and what you can control with beneficial insects (and what is out of your control) and their life cycles, and if you can inspire a few neighbor children, maybe you can make a difference in their lives.

I have connected to a group of bloggers so diverse: a thoughtful young woman raising her young daughter in cloth diapers (I did that two decades ago); an American midwife specializing in water births working in China; a homesteader in Pennsylvania who is 80% self-sustained; a do-it-all mom, farmer, artist living on a farm in rural New York; a mom and farmer raising grapes and pastured pigs and chickens in Central California; a very funny writer from the U.K., daughter of a gardener, ex-pat living in Turkey who makes me laugh on a daily basis; a young woman with her first garden plot in Ireland; a wonderful chef and recipe creator that lives a few blocks away; and a mom to two special needs adopted sons living in my home state of Tennessee, in love with the natural world, who made me aware of Blog Action Day; and there are many more, interesting, caring, thriving people in the world that I have connected with, all as a result of making that one decision this year, to grow food in my front yard. They all inspire me to a better self, and I am deeply thankful for the connection. Especially Mark and Andy. Thanks for reading. – Kaye