Dacha Gardens, There Is A Garden In The Mind

Implying that one’s mind and happiness are fulfilled in the garden. There is a Garden in the Mind is a recent book with many philosophical thoughts on the central psychological relationship between humans and Nature. Sine qua non, without which there is nothing. A common thread in this book’s narrative is the iconic or visionary French bio-intensive gardening (whatever that means!) guru Alan Chadwick. More on ecotopia.com

To paraphrase the U. S. Declaration of Independence, man is endowed with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty, the pursuit of gardening and happiness. As Voltaire wrote, “il faut cultiver son jardin.” Again the same metaphor and explicit method for happiness and coping with adversity. Did Candide suffer from PTSD?

Russians for historic, tradition and cultural reasons seem to have a better grip on this than most Europeans and North Americans as explained in detail in the graduate school thesis below:

‘However, no matter how hard orthodox economists try to punch down the dough of food
gardening back into the bowl of economic theory, the dough keeps rising and spilling over the edge. The neo-economics approach is too restrictive and we need to consider many important benefits as real as, but less “tangible” than sacks of potatoes. We need “a wider view.”’


My comment: In the wider perspective of ethology, the science of animal (including human) behavior and social organization, the benefit is not weighed and measured in estimated dollar value but in welfare and happiness derived from species-typical and evolutionary-determined activities, behavior and diet.

‘Besides, Schumacher (1975) criticized the separation of the economic concepts of
“production” and “consumption.” Such separation is artificial, and there are entire societies that even do not have concepts of “work” separate from “leisure” (Liedloff 1975). While conventional economics maintains that only the “consumer” derives “utility” or “pleasure” from the economic system, Schumacher observed that with creative labor involving both one’s hands and brains in the benefit of one’s family, the production process itself can be as satisfying as consumption of any “product.” After all, what matters is not the levels of “production” or “consumption” per se, but the enjoyment humans derive from both, while assuring health of the environment and equitable social practices.’

‘By way of example, let me cite a recent article that examined the connection of dacha
gardening with labor markets (Southworth 2006). That paper focuses “on the economic
rationality of the household, not cultural factors” and treats the dacha “as a labor-market
institution” (p. 452). In building the model, the author defines all dacha plots on which potatoes were grown as “subsistence dachas,” while those without potato plantings as “luxury dachas” (geared primarily towards recreation) — only to find that “growing potatoes per se is not a function of income at all” (p. 469). The author uses his statistical models to calculate, among other variables, “profitability [in monetary terms] of household agriculture,” to make a “cost-benefit analysis of growing vegetables” and even to figure out “rates of return” on gardening costs (p. 465), while at the same time excluding from the analysis the amount of labor households expend on gardening. Southworth concludes that “the attachment of the average urban household to the means of subsistence [i.e., food gardening] limits the ability of the market to allocate the most common sort of labor needed to fuel an economic recovery based on the production of goods and services rather than on oil and natural resources alone” (p. 473) without even considering a possibility of economic recovery through food gardening itself (after all, food gardening is a form of “production of goods,” too — and a very efficient form at that).’

‘Can we ignore the fact that a century ago Alexander Chaianov was already arguing that the laws of Western economics and capitalist farming had little applicability, if any at all, to the economy of Russian peasant households? How would the separation of dacha into “subsistence” and “luxury” classes on the basis of the presence of potato plantings hold up in view of the extensive evidence that even the highest elite commonly participate in potato planting and even, as in the case of the Nobel-prize winner Boris Pasternak, talk about it as a means for “spiritual salvation” (Sergay 2005)?’

(A photo unable to copy, however note that Pasternak is Russian word for the plant parsnip in English)
‘Figure 9: Boris Pasternak digging a potato patch at his dacha in Peredelkino, near
Moscow, in the summer of 1958. Photo from the Biblioteka poeta edition of Paternak’s
works, published in Moscow and Leningrad by Sovetskii pisatel’, 1965’

‘A related danger arises when different terms are used to refer to the same practice. For
example, a thousand years ago Russian families were growing their own food. A hundred
years ago Russian families were growing their own food. Today, Russian families still
grow their own food in small-scale operations almost identical to the peasant practices of
the 19th century or these of the even more distant past. However, since the term “dacha
gardening” became widespread only in the second half of the 20th century, many researchers tend to see the self-provisioning practice as something new. Indeed, even in his Summerfolk: A history of the dacha, Lovell (2003) presents what is more a history of the word term “dacha,” than a history of the practice that today happens to bear this name.’

‘The enslavement of Slavs: 10th to 19th century
When foreign warriors, calling themselves “princes,” arrived with their armed retinues of
foreign mercenaries in the 9th century, they were faced with the formidable task of subduing the vast expanses of pagan Rus’, a land that had known neither authority nor authority imposed religion ever before.
The path to successful colonization that the princes followed was strikingly similar to the
approach that would be advocated by Albert Schweitzer for Africa almost a millennium later:
• impose taxes and promote trade — so as to augment the rulers’ wealth and power
and to compel the natives to work more than they normally would;
• destroy family ties and subvert subsistence economies — to break down natives’
social cohesion, to compel them to produce beyond their subsistence needs a surplus 79
that can be extracted through taxation or trade, and to turn them into a labor force
available for use outside their households; and
• impose a new religion and eradicate old customs, traditions, beliefs, and worldviews
— so as to make the natives unfree, even in their minds, and ready to accept
the new order and their new status of slaves rather than free men.’

‘Table 41. Number of gardening households producing certain crops and other products
during the 2006 agricultural season.

Item-Households-Percent of gardeners

Vegetables (incl. potatoes)
Carrots 876 94%
Onions 846 91%
Cucumbers 830 89%
Garlic 824 89%
Beets 803 86%
Potatoes 800 86%
Tomatoes 675 73%
Squash 666 72%
Radishes 649 70%
Horseradish 492 53%
Peas 447 48%
Pepper 418 45%
Black radish 381 41%
Pumpkin 359 39%
Red beans 279 30%
Black beans and other beans 223 24%
Turnips (repa) 204 22%
Sunflower 187 20%
Eggplant 151 16%
Jerusalem artichokes 64 7%
Rutabaga 63 7%
Turnips 27 3%
Other vegetables 15 2%
Dill 768 83%
Parsley 487 52%
Sorrel 426 46%
Coriander 113 12%
Other greens 1 0%
Fruit, berries and nuts
Currants 766 82%
Apples 726 78%
Raspberries 670 72%
Gooseberries 637 68%
Plums 594 64%187
Cherries 539 58%
Wild strawberries 516 55%
Strawberries 491 53%
Pears 469 50%
Black rowanberries 294 32%
Rowanberries 229 25%
Sea-buckthorn 215 23%
Guelder rose 189 20%
Blackthorn 99 11%
Honeysuckle 94 10%
Rosehips 93 10%
Blackberries 84 9%
Garden serviceberries 83 9%
Magnolia vine (Schisandra chinensis) 38 4%
Currants/gooseberry hybrid 17 2%
Hazelnuts 11 1%
Other berries and fruit trees and shrubs 0 0%
Ornamental and non-food crops
Flowers 691 74%
Lilac 222 24%
Lawn 135 15%
Hay 10 1%
Other non-food crops, trees, shrubs 26 3%
Cereals (grains)
Rye 12 1%
Wheat 6 1%
Buckwheat 3 0%
Other cereal crops 3 0%
Animals, birds and bees
Chickens 137 15%
Pigs 58 6%
Cows 32 3%
Goats 25 3%
Bees 21 2%
Rabbits 19 2%
Ducks 17 2%
Sheep 11 1%
Turkeys 9 1%
Other animals & birds 1 0%’


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