Many folks think that these uncertain times call for ownership, or at least legal access or permission to use, large and small tracts of land. While this is true, to assure an abundant supply of food for yourself and family, there are many, many folks who simply cannot move to rural land due to job concerns, access to healthcare facilities, or merely due to lack of funds. These people are for all intents and purposes are restricted to urban or at best, suburban lots and gardens.
It goes without saying but, the dream of off-grid homesteading is the ideal and should be the ultimate goal of all concerned with the direction of the world today. That said, we are all hampered by the resources at hand. While I write this article for those who are often neglected in the popular articles and how-to videos of the day, I want to encourage all of you, whether resource rich, or dirt-poor, (pardon the intentioned pun), to never give up the dream of independent self-sufficiency on the land… keep your eyes on the prize.
In many limited access areas there is a phenomenon of what is referred to today as guerrilla gardening. Some people think that the term can refer to two aspects of gardening, but predominantly it refers to the act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to utilize, such as an abandoned site, an area that is not being cared for, or private property. The land that is guerrilla gardened is usually abandoned or perceived to be neglected by its legal owner. That land is used by guerrilla gardeners to raise plants, frequently focusing on food crops or plants intended for aesthetic purposes. While I don’t intend to get into the moral aspects of such utilization of property, suffice it to say that Catholic Moral Teaching makes a distinction between stealing out of malice and avarice and stealing for survival. To illustrate if a father steals a loaf of bread in order to feed his hungry and destitute family, the act is inherently wrong but the circumstances add a mitigating factor that potentially can change the nature of the “sin” of stealing. Again, I will not get into the moral aspects of this as it would call for an article(s) in itself and is a complete area of study in itself.
The essential aspect of guerrilla gardening is largely taking advantage of abandon or wasteland and making it productive; in urban areas many readers may have seen tiny “vest-pocket” plots of abandon land situated between tenement buildings. In some other urban and even suburban areas, there may be community garden co-ops, which would otherwise be non-productive land that is either lent or amicably commandeered, sometimes with the owner’s permission, sometimes not, for use of a community or neighborhood garden with each participant assigned a small plot. Indeed many legal owners see an advantage in this, as this takes care of the problems of maintenance and illegal dumping of garbage, for which the owner would otherwise be responsible to remedy. Often these family garden plots mean all the difference in eating healthily and not eating at all; or creating reliance on unhealthy commercial, but cheap, foodstuffs. Indeed, resourceful people often get all their family vegetable needs from such gardens and need only buy meat and meat products from the supermarkets to supplement the larder.
Guerrilla gardens also have the advantage of providing hands-on training in all aspects of gardening and some community gardens also include light animal husbandry such as hens and rabbits, thus teaching animal care. Co-op gardening, including guerrilla gardening, also promotes barter as one family may have a bounty of beets and another a surplus of squash in which case, trade-offs usually occur.
Overall, guerrilla gardening is a win-win situation in most cases. I reiterate that I’m not talking about adverse possession of the land, which is a point of law, where the intent is to usurp legal ownership, but merely use of land for productive purposes that might otherwise go to waste. A form of adverse possession is commonly called Squatter’s Rights. Clearly, with limited exception, adverse possession is an aggressive and unfair hijacking of legal title.
A second, though less recognized form, of guerrilla gardening is a phenomenon of the Prepper Movement now so bandied about by the media. Essentially those who practice this form of guerrilla gardening operate on the premise that our society is on the brink of social and economic collapse so broad and deep that when it happens, it is inevitable, they believe, that waves of brigands and marauders from the cities will inundate the suburban and rural areas. This period is known as WROL, that is, without rule of law. Therefore these hordes will plunder whatever resources they can, including that which the prepper had put back for the predictable rainy day. Indeed, these inner city raiders are known as the “Golden Horde”, a throwback to the Mongol Invasion of Europe in earlier centuries. In order to thwart this they, the preppers, integrate their gardens into woodland and scrub areas where they are camouflaged by native trees, shrubs, and grasses making them harder to find and raid. Accurate or not these preppers take this quite seriously and there is a die-hard community of them to be found on the Internet. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to this Golden Horde mentality, I believe there is some merit to their concerns. Many segments of modern Western Society have an entitlement mindset where the dole is their right. A macro-example of this is the economic troubles of Greece, where the dole is not only a right but depended on by a large portion of the people across broad segments of all social classes.
Clearly, any collapse in our day will be a different animal than the Great Depression of the 1930’s in that people were more moral and social minded. They also trusted the leadership and withstood many hardships without complaint. Certainly, that is not the prevailing attitude of the masses of people across the world today. It is clear then that the prepper’s guerilla gardening is not as offbeat as it initially may sound.
SO there you have it, Guerrilla Gardening 101. Now, remember as things are continually reaching an ever increasing crescendo we must not neglect the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart. This is especially true this week as we are on the threshold to Pope Francis’ visit to the UN and the US. I believe there will be unprecedented events taking place at these meetings which will be echoed by the Bishop’s Synod on the Family next month. Please pray for our Holy Mother Church and our Catholic families as earth-shattering events affecting both are immanent and do not bode well.
Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.