Tag Archives: gardening

Plant Parenthood – Growing our Gardens

By: Shanelle Haile, PhD Student in the Department of Sociology and Grad Parent Coordinator at the Sarah Doyle Center

Our home garden in Cranston, Rhode Island

Two weeks ago, I shared why gardening is a practice I continue during the COVID pandemic. I hope it inspired you to get into your own gardens and get your hands dirty!

As promised, in this follow-up post, I share a few photos of the budding plants that will be a part of my container garden this summer. Let my mistakes serve as an example to you. If you have just decided to plant seeds, it’s not too late! I lost my squash plants to frost last week, though thankfully my lettuce survived. As a backup, my daughter and I recently started planting tomato, jalapeno, and habanero seeds to add to our garden.

The first photo below is of my daughter, Hanna, stirring coffee grounds, leaves, eggshells, and grass in our makeshift compost bin. The materials in our compost bin will be mixed with soil when we move our seedlings outdoors in late May. The second photo is of Hanna dutifully watering our tomato seedlings and pepper seedlings under our grow light. She makes it a point to check on her seedlings every morning.

We aren’t the only ones working on our gardens. Many in our Brown community – students, faculty and staff— are getting their hands dirty these days. Below are photos from two students who shared photos of their lovely budding gardens with us.

These photos below are from Brown graduate student Alison Weber. Her daughter, Elanor (age 2), is pictured planting seeds in the first photo and then watering blossoming lima bean seedlings in the second photo (courtesy of Alison Weber).

These photos below were taken by Brown undergraduate student Beka Yang. They show her container garden of squash, lettuce, and bok choy in the first photo. In the second picture, Beka captures her budding Chinese kale seedlings (courtesy of Beka Yang).

The only thing more inspiring than working on my own garden is connecting with and receiving updates from others in the Brown/SDC community who are doing the same. So share your gardening adventures in the comments, or tag us on your gardening photos via Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Here’s to Spring and new beginnings…

Radical Roots: Still Planting Seeds, Still Nourishing Feminist Work

By: Shanelle Haile, PhD Student in the Department of Sociology and Grad Parent Coordinator at the Sarah Doyle Center

Our home garden in Cranston, Rhode Island

“Humility in relationship to nature’s power made survival possible” (hooks 2009:67)

This semester has been difficult. We are all wading through uncertain waters as we navigate our way out of a global health pandemic. My own fears and anxieties have worsened many times since the beginning of this crisis. I worry about the health and safety of my family, my friends, and many others more vulnerable than myself. The worry can be mentally and emotionally crippling. Someone recently asked me how I am managing to balance being a graduate student and a parent who desires to continue doing feminist work during this time?

My answer is that I get my hands dirty. By that, I mean that I literally put my hands in dirt (or soil, rather) as a way of grounding myself amidst all that is happening around me. Grounding oneself is a common therapeutic technique used to help those experiencing anxiety in anchoring themselves to the present. There may also be biological evidence that gardening is a particularly valuable grounding practice. Lowry et al. (2007) found that harmless bacteria present in soil activate serotonin and thereby act as an antidepressant. Although these findings pertain to laboratory mice, I am sure this could be true for humans as well! 

Certainly, gardening has been one of the most calming and centering activities in my daily life. It is also an activity that promotes food and environmental sustainability, community, and care. It is a radical practice, which my grandmothers and at least one of my great-grandmothers also used for anchoring themselves from uncertainty as black women living in the Jim Crow South. I recall words from bell hooks’ essay, “Earthbound on Solid Ground,” in which she reminds us that reconnecting with earth has always been a practice rooted in racial and psychological resistance,“Reclaiming our history, our relationship to nature, to farming in America, and proclaiming the humanizing restorative of living in harmony with nature so that the earth can be our witness is meaningful resistance” (hooks 2009:70). 

I will pass this history and practice to my daughter, Hanna, pictured here gathering leaves this month for composting and fertilizing our squash seedlings. There couldn’t be a better time to teach her how to get her hands dirty!

This year, the Sarah Doyle Center kicked off our Radical Roots theme to acknowledge prior feminist work and plant figurative seeds for the future. Although our spring gardening event had to be cancelled, we are still planting and cultivating figurative and literal seeds! 

Stay tuned for a future blog post in which I will share photos from my family’s budding garden as well as photos provided by others from the Brown community who continue to engage with us about their own gardening practices.

We may be physically separate, but we are still planting seeds together and still nourishing feminist work. 

“To tend the earth is always then to tend our destiny, our freedom, and our hope.” (hooks 2009:68)

We will continue to do the work. This is how. 

Image credit: Photos by Shanelle Haile


hooks, b. (2009) Belonging: A Culture of Place.Taylor and Francis

Lowry, C. A., Hollis, J. H., de Vries, A., Pan, B., Brunet, L. R., Hunt, J. R. F., Paton, J. F. R., van Kampen, E., Knight, D. M., Evans, A. K., Rook, G. A. W., & Lightman, S. L. (2007) Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic system: Potential role in regulation of emotional behavior. Neuroscience, 146(2), 756–772.