Dennis and Dionne Newton

Dennis and Dionne Newton
Dennis & Dionne Newton

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Bosnia: On the Forefront of "Food Not Lawns"

In 1999 a group from Eugene Oregon created a social movement entitled "Food Not Lawns." This group's goal is to convince Americans to replace their finely manicured lawns with food producing organic gardens. While this makes some sense for places like Eugene, I am not sure it makes as much sense in Gilbert, Arizona. Personally, I had enough trouble keeping my lawn alive in Lenexa...not sure I really wanted to spend my days tending to tomatoes and strawberries. Would have needed to fly my mother and her green thumb in once a week!

What appears to be necessity rather than first world guilt, Sarajevo is on the forefront of the "Food Not Lawns" movement. As we have walked around our town, we have noticed many yards that have been converted into food producing gardens.

A yard with large food producing garden. 

Our next door neighbor, for example, has a wonderful garden which he tends to every day. He is an older gentleman who clearly takes a tremendous amount of pride in his garden (reminds me of our neighbor, Danny, who works harder on his lawn than anyone I have ever met).

Our next door neighbor's yard. Much of the food has been harvested. His tomatoes are enormous!
Those that do not grow full gardens typically plant fruit trees, grape vines, and other food producing plants.

There are fruit trees everywhere. Like in the Philippines, there are many in public areas where I have seen people picking and eating fruit freely.
Grapes have been one of my pleasant surprises here in Bosnia. I love grape juice. In the U.S. it is nearly impossible to find fresh grape juice anymore. "Grape juice cocktail" yes. Actual grape juice no. I suspect this has to do with the worldwide growth of the wine industry and the premium on grapes. It seems that everywhere I go in the U.S. their is a small homegrown winery. For a non-wine drinking grape juice connoisseur, I have had to forgo one of life's little pleasures. Two things make Bosnia different for me. #1 Grapes grow abundantly here. #2 The Federation is predominantly Muslim with their traditions forbidding alcohol (it doesn't mean that the country is alcohol free, mind you, this is Europe!). So imagine my surprise when we were at a Muslim household and he offered us a cup of his mother's homemade grape juice; a grape syrup she makes during harvest season which they mix with water. It takes his mother days to make this syrup and she is only able to do so during harvest season. This was the clue that I needed. I started looking for grape juice and found a number of different forms. I just bought a "wine like" bottle of this syrup and look forward to drinking it all fall.

Grape vines growing along someone's driveway.
Behind our house is a large fertile hill which I suspect has turned into a community garden. We see older ladies every day working the garden. I just saw a whole team of men come in and harvest 10 bags of fruits. There is a greenhouse, rows of corn, and precious few fences.

The view of our "mountain" park that is behind our house. The thing on the left is a haystack.
Not only in the hill used to grow food, grazing animals are brought to the hill to feed as well. I was walking at the "arboretum" the other day and saw this woman shepherding a group of sheep. She was just on the mountain for the day and have not seen sheep up there since. (These sheep were some of the lucky ones...we just had a Muslim holiday here which was quite hard on the country's sheep!).
The other day a shepherd brought her sheep to the mountain to feed. And today somebody was herding some goats up there.
Harvest season means more than just food. Cold snowy winters require preparation. All around us people are storing up wood for their fireplaces. They both heat their houses and cook using this wood. 

Everywhere we go people are out cutting and stacking wood.
Those not growing food on their lawns enjoy growing flowers. Dionne is in heaven looking at all of the flower gardens. She has been wanting to plant some orchids but realizes that the "season of death" is coming so it is not a good time to do so. But she has big plans for this upcoming spring.

Even this late in the season, the flowers remain in bloom.
Roses grow especially well here. Everywhere we go we see the beautiful red of roses still in bloom.

To help wtih the homesickness, we have been pleased to discover another plant that grows well here. The seeds come with less salt so they are not quite as addictive (or bad for you).

It is not quite Grinter Farm.
Even those who live in old Soviet era housing (this building is a little nicer looking than some of the Tito apartments) do a wonderful job of decorating their balconies with flowers. 

We have been surprised how nice most apartments are inside.
The landscaping of their lawns and gardens is also creative. Nothing is Costco or Home Depot standard ware...lots of unique character to everything that we have seen.

This appears to be a cool little playhouse
While I appreciate the order and cleanliness of the U.S. suburbs I have lived in all of my life, there is also a sense of conformity which pervades our neighborhoods. HOA's worry too much about the one house that becomes the "blight" on the landscape (and thus destroy property values...everything comes down to money in the U.S.). The net effect is that much of the charm and quirkiness of human passion is lost.

How many different shrubs can you have in place?
Because our homes are our passions. The lawns of those with a passion for good food should reflect that. The lawns with a passion for gardening should reflect that. Lawns should be reflective of our personalities. What is the cost? We may have to live with the person who has a passion for rusted out used cars. What I have seen here, however, is that there is some collective pride in Bosnian's personal space. Unfortunately, that pride does not extend to the collective space since Bosnians routinely throw their garbage everywhere! But that is a post for another day.
Gorgeous front gate of a home in a small neighborhood

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