What gardening movements are you outsourcing?

As humans we tend to choose efficient shortcuts to save energy. I ask, are we shortcutting our body's health by doing this?

I’ll admit, I have been listening to a LOT of Katy Bowman material over the last 6 months. Who is Katy Bowman you say? Well, she is a biomechanist who has published 8 books on movement, movement ecology and natural body alignment. She has founded the Nutritious Movement organisation, under which she also offers a podcast, online classes, DVD instructional videos and much more. I found her rather randomly on a quest for more information regarding ancestral movement and lifestyle. This quest came about as a result of chronic pain brought on by years of poor posture and alignment while working in the landscaping industry, and a surprisingly damaging workplace injury a few years ago.

What Katy has to say has by and far opened my mind immeasurably. Her flagship book, Move Your DNA is a great introduction to a lot of body mechanic and alignment information. However, it is Movement Matters that is the real mind churner. Movement Matters is a collection of essays on what Katy calls movement ecology. After reading some of her books and avidly listening to her podcast, I find it fascinating how her wisdom and teachings tie in surprisingly well to permaculture and ancestral health.

In it she argues that we are in reality a very sedentary culture, who has found ways to “outsource” our movement. While it appears we have a miraculously efficient society, in reality we have transferred the work that produces all that we know (food, housing, transportation, pleasure) onto others, either locally or globally, through consumer systems developed since the rise of the industrial age. These things do not simply appear. Whether it is people or machine sourced, that energy and work had to be done by someone, however we do not see this outsourcing since more often than not it’s far removed from us.

Then what does this mean for our bodies’ and minds’ health? Most people in “developed” and affluent countries suffer from chronic pain and illness, brought about by sedentarism, a disturbing attachment to processed foods and technological gadgets, and a lack of community strength and activity.

And lastly, what does this have to do with gardening? I would like to pose the question, what are YOU outsourcing in your garden work? What systems are you partaking in that require labour and materials from faraway places, and which require vast amounts of energy to produce? Perhaps start writing a list, as we’ll touch back on these answers. After we wander down this eye-opening rabbit hole, let’s then bring the conversation to a more positive path.

You may have read articles lately regarding the benefits of gardening and being out in the natural world. Gardening especially has been touted as making you more physically fit, lowering your stress levels (and blood pressure!), with the added bonus of a beautiful immediate landscape and fresh picked produce.

And why is gardening so good for you? For one, you are moving! Squatting, bending, lifting, stretching, these movements and more are all an integral part of the activity. And here’s the clincher: you’re “outsourcing” less of your overall movement. So how can we keep this awesome train rolling?

Take a look at that list you wrote down earlier. What can you do to further decrease your reliability on outside systems and faraway materials to do this gardening? Say it is that you utilise a lot of bought compost. That compost could be potentially shipped in from a great distance away and also perhaps full of unknown substances or plant material. One thing you can do is consider making your own compost on-site from your own food and garden waste.

To be frank, I have heard a lot of folks tell me that it’s just not possible for them to compost due to a number of reasons, such as high rodent numbers, lack of space, lack of time, etc. I would love to reassure those folks, that it can be done! Worm composting (aka vermicomposting) takes up minimal space, is odorless, and produces an amazingly potent garden amendment from your kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps. If time is an issue, consider a barrel roller type composter. These ingenious inventions speed up composting rather significantly with only a little effort each day. And these are just two of the many composting options available!

Now say that another item on your movement outsourcing list is using many tools or gadgets, which were likely produced at great effort with materials mined or extracted at great environmental expense. What movements are these tools replacing? While I do acknowledge that there can be a true degenerative condition behind the tool, perhaps it is worth delving into what caused the degenerative condition to begin with? Perhaps an alignment or mechanical issue? As I’m learning from Katy Bowman’s work, much of our pain and degeneration is due to incorrectly aligned or used body parts (and general lack of moving those parts!). It is then prudent to explore whether or not we can correct the issue, then work on slowly strengthening those parts so that we do not have the need to outsource that particular movement anymore.

Admittedly I am not advocating digging with your hands! Some tools are necessary in the gardening trade (i.e., shovels), however do you really need that fancy dancy weed remover or (insert anything in Lee Valley’s catalogue here)? Let’s be frank, most of it will break shortly and be thrown in the landfill! Keep the tools to the necessary minimum, and consider how rewarding it will be to develop the skills and strength to do those tasks on your own.
As a parting thought, I wish to briefly address how much I think Katy’s work echoes many ideas and principles behind ecological landscaping and permaculture. If we think about it, one of the main goals of permaculture is to close many resource-waste loops in our systems. In our modern society one of our most destructive habits is the far-reaching systems we have created, which expand the resource-waste loops to a point that requires massive energy and resource expenditures to support them. If we then focus on bringing an end to outsourcing our landscape and gardening movements, are we not then closing those wasteful loops in our system? Now that seems like a sustainable idea.

Wondering how you can bring more movement back into your gardening? Contact me to find out, or check out Katy Bowman’s published works or podcast to learn more about movement outsourcing (not affiliated in any way, I dig her stuff and want to share the knowledge!).