Free soup for everyone creates need for garden volunteers


Maybe you’ve heard of Chris Hyde, known locally as Souperman. Last fall, he had an idea: “Make good soup for everybody, and something special will happen.”

Nearly every day, he makes a huge pot of soup, decants it into 16-ounce cardboard containers, and puts them on a shelf on his front porch. Then he gets on Facebook and lets people know what the soup du jour is and that it’s ready. People come, and leave grateful. All kinds of people come – it’s for everyone. Some take soup for their neighbors as well as themselves.

Many return with gifts of vegetables or gift cards to grocery stores. One built a new front porch with a railing for Hyde’s front steps. Another donated a refrigerator, and a local electrician showed up to provide wiring for it on the back porch.

Now Hyde is collaborating with another talented volunteer to create a cookbook. He’s also working on a manual on how to do what he’s doing to respond to people all over the country who learned about his project from a KOMO-TV feature that got over two million views.

A community of generosity and reciprocity has flowered. Hyde’s project has become a gentle but powerful antidote to post-pandemic division, isolation and loneliness. It’s a pretty good bet that if projects like this were a feature of every community in the United States, no one would have made a movie (or be worried about) a possible second civil war.

Next, he plans to start a big garden to grow fresh herbs and vegetables for soup. Naturally, that will take more volunteers who want to be a part of the circle of giving and receiving. If you’d like to be one of those volunteers, you can contact Hyde at soupersundayolympia@gmail.com.

Peace and happiness v. guilt and anxiety

Last week I met a woman who was anxious and feeling guilty about the non-native plants in her yard. It wasn’t hard to understand why.

These last few years there’s been an explosion of advice to grow native plants to benefit insect pollinators like native bees, and to make our gardens contribute to biodiversity and a healthy earth.

These are very important ideas and goals, but they are not rules. No environmental police will come to arrest us if we are out of compliance. And while the value of being mindful of our environmental impact is important, it’s not the only value that matters.

Most of us also value our own cultural and family garden traditions. We’re not going to pull up a lilac bush or a patch of asters like the ones our grandmas grew just because they’re not native.

And not all plants have to be native to benefit pollinators. Asters, lavender and lots of other non-natives are pollinator favorites.

Here’s another value that matters: Humans are part of the natural world. We’re a species too, some native, some not.  And our species needs gardens that bring us peace and happiness, not guilt and anxiety.

Peaceful, happy people make the world a better place. And that’s really good for the environment.

Jill Severn writes from her home in Olympia, where she grows vegetables, flowers, and a small flock of chickens. She loves conversation among gardeners. Start one by emailing her at  jill@theJOLTnews.com


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  • Drutty

    What a wonderful man, who daily provides for all! What a role model for all!

    Saturday, April 13 Report this

  • GinnyAnn

    We have very few native plants left in our environment now, so trying to return our yards to pre-colonial times would be a futile effort. However, biodiversity is important to all of us. Having a neighborhood of nothing but lawns and laurel bushes would be dull for any foraging species, as well as for our sense of beauty. We can't rip out all those acres of invasive Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberries that cover our state, but we can plant a diversity of nurturing species in our gardens that benefit wildlife and pollinators. All our gardens don't have to be native species to be glorious havens for pollinators and beneficial critters, as you say. Just watch the bees on the lilac bushes and roses. My yard is glorious with tulips that originally came from Turkey, by way of Holland, I think. People have been transplanting species since the beginning of being human, so plants have travelled across the planet already. Relax and enjoy the show.

    Tuesday, April 16 Report this