venerdì 14 febbraio 2014

Guerrilla Gardening Techniques: the call to hoes

You're almost ready....
You have spotted an area.
You have studied it.
You got plants and equipment .

How many people do you need?

There are no precise rules, because everything depends on what you want to achieve.
If your aim is to get visibility, more you will be and better will be.
Apart from the role (desirable but impractical) of Commander in Chief (or, if you want to avoid military terminology: "foreman"), it's quite useless to divide the tasks .

In some texts it is advised to have a sentinel, ie a member of the group who, instead of digging, he should remain on guard to cry havoc if someone approaches.
Since I consider fundamental to be seen and communicate with Citizens, I do not think it is a useful thing, unless you are intrigued with the idea of secrecy.

Of course, in the presence of a huge squad (and especially if your intention is to ensure that the neighborhood knows what's going on), you should consider the necessity of someone who'll take pictures or videos.

Attention: before you offer yourself for a role like that, you have to know that probably you won't appear in any photo with a hoe in your hand.
In a sense, you will stay behind the scenes and you won't plant a flower. The only advantage is that you will go back home with undefiled shoes.

At least, that's what I've learnt when I joined a group: I decided to take on the role of reporter but in a year of activity (and after a dozen missions completed) I never took a spade in hand or buried a single seed.
If your spirit fits to "it's a nasty job, but it must be done" (intending the reporting), equip yourself with a camera or a videocamera, otherwise act as if you didn't know anything about it and get into the action armed to the teeth!

To figure out how many people you need for the attack, you have to consider a few things:

- the size of the area
- the weather of the previous days
- your tools availability.

Size of the area
It's wasteful to organize an attack in a big way, if you have to put just three cyclamens in a concrete pot which has became a kind of waste bin.
Taking care of  three pots (including the work of cleaning, hoeing and putting fresh soil) will need a person to complete the whole thing in about an hour. Not much more.

Obviously, a simultaneous attack of  ten pots by a noisy group, will attract much more attention.

Usually, a lot of passers-by peep at solo guerrillas shaking their heads, some others give him a little smile, but the most of them won't even interact with him.
I think that it is a shame, given the purpose with which I dedicate to unauthorized gardening.
Personally, I look straight into their eyes, doing my best smile, and if I realize that - almost imperceptibly - they slow down the walk, I try to start a conversation.

On the other hand, groups attract more attention of the passers-by, especially the elderly.
When there are dozens of people digging-planting-weeding, Citizens have a cautious approach and they ask you what you 're doing.

About the attack in style: highlight that the action will take a certain duration ( minimally predictable, given all the variables).
To simply say that the strike will start at 10.00am, may deter other wannabe gardeners who could participate only from noon onwards.
If the area you have decided to attack is huge, probably at some point you will need fresh forces, also because some guerrillas could go away before the end of the works (there's always a child to go to get at school or to take a dog for its daily walk).
A call like "Let's meet at 10am in John Brown Street: we plan to work until 13pm. Join us and you will find a spade already warmed for you!" could represent a stimulus for those who would not be able to meet you before.

Weather of the previous days.
If you haven't had a single drop of rain for several weeks, the ground will be compact and very hard to work, which could make it difficult to achieve the ultimate goal.
If you are few (or if you are alone) you'll do very little and probably you'll have to go back with plants still in the trunk of the car .
In case of recent rains, however, the ground will be softer and you'll spare a lot of time and energy.
Of course, if your goal is to organize a very large event which requires broad participation, probably you will launch the "call to hoes" at least a couple of weeks before, not knowing how it will behave Zeus the Thunderer in the days to come. In that case, your motto must necessarily be "We'll find out just living".

Tools availability.
It's a fact: not everyone will come equipped with shovel or hoe, so (if you are the organizer of the attack) try to provide them in excess.
If you want people to participate also to next actions, do not let them stay with idle hands.
Try to involve them and, above all, to involve them really. Don't command anyone to go throw rubbish collected or to water the plants when you're done: who joins your action, does it with the very intention of getting his hands dirty!

Finally, a little consideration about gardening in group or in solo effort.

First of all, digging with others creates relationships between people.

Suffice it to think about community gardens or those strange gardens on the roofs of the offices tended by workers during their lunch break: in those moments every hierarchical difference doesn't exist anymore.
However, when organizing a group attack, it needs to be planned  in advance to give way to people to join in.
In case of bad weather, to rearrange an assault when a lot of gardeners have gathered, may not be easy: who could join this Sunday, maybe will be committed the next one.
On the contrary, the lonely guerrilla does not need big preparations: once loaded tools and plants on the wheelbarrow, you just have to decide whether to attack today or tomorrow, or both today and tomorrow.

That doesn't mean you have to choose whether to be part of a group or acting alone.
One thing doesn't exclude the other: you could always join a group and take the decision to plant a flower without having organized a great event.
Obviously, if you want to take a solo action on behalf of the group, you should have the approval of the others: when all is said and done, you could even have completed a green assault that others don't agree.

Ultimately, whether you are alone or part of a group, what matters is to roll up your sleeves and start digging.
The green guerrilla needs everyone!

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