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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

From Russia

I am working in Russia this week and a coworker here was telling me about the summer at his dacha. Here in Russia as well as the other former soviet republics and even in other countries of the world, many people who live in the city have dachas in countryside. Here, city is for city folk and country is for farmers. There is no suburbia. When you live in the city you live in an apartment, town house or condo. You have no yard.
But those who can afford it rent or buy a small plot of land, usually less than 15,000 square feet (1/4 acre) in the country near the city. They will usually build a small dwelling called a dacha that is about 250 square feet. The rest of the space is used for gardening. They are very productive gardens. They grow fruit trees, bush berries, vegetables, and flowers. Their dacha is next to dozens of other dachas that also have fruit, vegetable and flower gardens. It is a Garden of Eden. The city folk spend the week in the city working. On weekends, they go to their dachas to tend the gardens.
It is a different mentality than we have in the U.S. They don’t want to commute. They want to live in the city. But they also want to have a little space in the country for gardening. Many of them would think our suburban lifestyle is silly. Why live so far from work and WHY MOW A LAWN!? Why not use that land for growing a productive garden!? Their dachas are usually very cute but most impressive is their gardens. It is not just a hobby. They want to grow their own food for health and economic reasons. It is a way of life.
Americans certainly would not want to give up our suburban life style. But think how we could improve our lives if we could give up our checkerboard mowed lawns and have our own little Garden of Eden around our home. The Mormon Prophet Brigham Young said to his followers who were pioneering a whole new ecosystem in the Great Basin of western North America “The soil, the air, the water are all pure and healthy. Do not suffer them to become polluted. Strive to preserve the elements from being contaminated. Keep your valleys pure, keep your towns pure, keep your hearts pure, and labor as hard as you can. Adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations.” I don’t think he had in mind checkerboard lawns. I love this quote and it is part of the vision for my life.
Dale Maurice Johnson


Zachary and Jennifer said...

Very Interesting! It is neat to learn about backyard farming in another culture.


jennifer said...

I was enchanted by similar gardens I saw from the roadside on a short trip in Eastern Europe. I think it must take a lot of commitment to garden this way -- or at least a lot of scheduling! My husband and I once rented a garden plot through a college-run program. When out of sight, gardening is often out of mind. We found it hard to make it there to work. That's why I'm all the more impressed with those who are so dedicated to gardening this way. I should be more grateful for my yard!

jennifer said...

I also wanted to share some more words of Brigham Young. A friend of mine planted flowers, bulbs and vegetables wherever she lived, even though frequent moves in the early years of her marriage often prevented her from seeing blooms or enjoying a harvest. She was undeterred. This is a paraphrase of Brigham Young's words that she took to heart: "If we acted like we were going to live someplace forever, there would never be slums."

Nora Mair said...

Interesting...What a split--to miss out on it when they're working during the week. We MOW our lawn so our kids have a place to play.

Dale said...

You have a good point Nora Mair

Anonymous said...

Where in Russia? We just got back from a 2.5 year assignment in Sakhalin. That dacha looks very familiar!