Thursday, May 22, 2008

how does your garden grow?

You can't even imagine our joy when we looked up and saw a big pile of... compost.

Go ahead. Try. I didn't think you could.

Like a lot of folks in this part of the world, we spent part of the weekend digging/working/playing in our garden. And I tell you, that pile of... compost... generously delivered from Brian's farm next door, was a welcome sight.

This summer will mark our 5th anniversary of living in this place, and our 4th year of tending this garden. It is such a rewarding experience to see how each year, slowly but surely, the garden is growing... in size, in productivity, in TOMATOES (we've finished our canned tomatoes but still have one bag of frozen ones from last year's garden... this year I think I bought 4 tomatoes all winter, compared to last year when I probably bought 4 tasteless tomatoes per week... just out of habit, and because I couldn't imagine a "salad" without it... I'm learning...)

It is such a rewarding experience not just because of what it produces for us, but also because of the deep sense that through our daily living and eating this patch of ground is actually better and healthier now than it was when we started. Somehow this year, in the midst of our growing awareness of the many ways in which our way of life damages the earth, this has touched me deeply. All those scraps from our daily life - even the grounds from our daily coffee - have been adding organic matter to the clay soil, and now when we dig we can actually feel the difference.

This year our next step was to set up some "raised beds" - some patches of ground enclosed by cement blocks that were lying around - so that we can plant our vegetables a little more densely and wander around the garden and reach into the beds and tend the plants without stepping up and down "rows" and compacting the soil.

And with that pile of richly composted manure from our neighbour's farm mixed in... mmmmm good!

And after 5 years of doing music "full-time" (at least, 5 years since I've had employment besides music) I'm finding the same thing. It's slow and patient work, tending the soil, the ordinary stuff of everyday life, and sure enough the soil still seems receptive - indeed, increasingly so - to those persistent efforts, scattered seeds, and times of vigilant waiting and rest.

And I continue to build different kinds of infrastructure - like those raised beds - that are small-scale and humble but helpful for this music ministry to be healthy and productive and sustainable over the long term. I can't wait to unveil the latest development... very soon...

And then last week I had one of those ideas (a regular occurrence) that is either utterly brilliant or incredibly stupid - I can't tell which (an even more regular occurrence).

Regular readers will know about the SmallTall Music membership system (which some - including now myself - have taken to calling my "CSM" or "Community Supported Music" initiative). Currently there are three kinds of "membership" - household membership ($30 per year), congregational/organizational membership ($100 per year), and denominational/publisher membership (variable, depending on various factors). For quite some time different people have been approaching me and saying "Bryan, we want to support your ministry with more than the $30 membership fee. Have you thought about another category of membership for those who want to give more...? Like $500 or more...?"

Well, I have thought about it. A lot. I like the idea (and a few have been doing it anyway, just because, without my having created a formal category for it). But I always get stuck on what to call it.

Premium membership? Supporting members? Gold/platinum/elite/super-elite members...?

Yuck. I resist those kinds of labels and categories... and the implication that if you can give or pay more, that your membership is worth more, or more supportive...

Sponsoring members? Could be... but I resist the resonance of "corporate sponsorship"... "Patron of the arts" members? This makes good sense for some folks... but somehow it doesn't feel like my style either...

And then it came to me... like a flash in the night... like a vision...

How about...

Composting Members.

or even better: Extra Composting Members.

All the members of SmallTall Music, the members of my CSM, are "good soil" with whom I am delighted and privileged to work and serve and dig and grow...

But there is also a place for folks like our neighbour Brian who will appear with a big pile of compost... added organic matter that enhances the soil and can be worked in and help the whole garden to grow in health and beauty and productivity...

So what do you think? "Extra Composting Members" of SmallTall Music...?

Please be honest.

Julie doesn't like it. "What?! That's not exactly flattering to your supporters, Bryan..."

When I asked Karl and Michelle (who are friends but not intimately acquainted with my music ministry, or with gardening)... let's just say they raised their eyebrows and tilted their heads and... well... crinkled their eyes and smiled a bit and...

They didn't seem to think it was such a great idea either.

But it continues to "ring true" to me.

I'd love to hear what you think.

And while you're thinking... here are a couple of photos of our garden space and how it's been evolving...

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At 7:06 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

I started writing you a response, but it got really long-winded. Are you familiar with that phrase?

Check your smalltallmusic email address and you'll see what I mean.


At 10:58 PM, Blogger Connie said...

I like composting member. Think of it as a conversation piece, although you'll have to be content with the empty stares when you don't have the time to eplain.
Having said that, I'm not sure you need another category. Why don't you just keep the memberships you have and treat the fees like suggestions?

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Charleen said...

Composting member. With an interesting paragraph explaining the headings, you could pull it off. But Connie's idea is perhaps a good one - treating fees like suggestions.

One of my qualms with the term is that grammatically it sounds like you're composting the member, or that the member is composting - when in fact, we hope the compost is fertilizing your ministry of music.

Perhaps this is not about membership. Perhaps membership comes at a standard fee, (as in a CSA) and if any-one wants to add composting fertilizer (in the form of additional donations), they are welcome.

Thus the standard becomes Compost Fertilizer: with publicity (if any) noting them under the heading: "Fertilizing Compost added by (so-and-so)"

Some thought. I do love compost, too. We're growing a garden of some substance for the first time this year. Come by and give us suggestions!

At 9:06 PM, Blogger Turmanator said...

I was looking at your CSM website, and now reading back-posts on your blog. I really like that you've found a different way of calling your supporters. When I read the page about the different memberships, it made sense to me as a genuine opportunity to support something meaningful: it didn't just sound like asking for money. You've found a way of asking for gifts from people in any form they can give.

I'll pray for your ministry, Brian. I hope your camping is going well!


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