I started a new project last week: master gardening! It's going to be an 11-week class from the Oregon State University extension service in which I learn a humongous amount about horticulture--botany, plant propagation, water and soil quality, vegetable gardening, houseplants, landscape plants, pest management and mitigating plant disease, basic entomology, sustainable weed management, stuff about pesticides and herbicides and on and on and on. It's going to be amazing.
But the best part about it isn't even the knowledge I'm sure will be forthcoming. It's the system in which that knowledge is shared, a system much like the one in which I got all that amazing naturalist training last year. It works like this: people spend a lot of time teaching you a whole bunch about something, with the understanding that then you'll put into practice what you've learned and help teach it to others. You get the training in return for future volunteering you promise to do, sort of like paying your new knowledge forward.
I'm so into this kind of thing. For one, it makes learning tangible. You learn something, then you do it; I get trained as a naturalist, then I work as a naturalist, I get gardening knowledge, then I use gardening knowledge. Also, I like the idea of service as a replacement for money. I do have to pay for this Master Gardening class, but it's half the price if you do the volunteer internship afterward. And I didn't have to pay for the naturalist training at all, at least not in terms of money. I love the idea of removing knowledge from the realm of dollars--it makes it something I can acquire through service and giving back to my community, not something that comes as a privilege of my paycheck.
I guess this is all part of a larger love of volunteering, of coming together with people in my community to create something that wasn't there before...but more about that another time:) For now, bring on the gardening!:)