My garden beckons me. The soil revels in its freshly tilled glory. A brown sea of possibility.
And work. And weeds. And pests.
Ugh actually my garden doesn’t call me. It mocks me.
When I moved out to the country I dreamed of becoming a gardener like my grandma. She had a garden on her farm the size of a small field and I have fond memories of working alongside her harvesting fresh veggies and fruit. The reality is more like I just went out and ate fresh beans and strawberries whenever I wanted.
In a sense it was foreshadowing to the kind of gardener I would make. I definitely have gardening in my DNA given my family history of farming. But it must be an allele which has incomplete dominance and is therefore expressed only partially. I love flowers, watching things grow, and the idea of gardening, but I inherited no real skill or desire to do the work.
Here is an excerpt from our Christmas letter where I discuss my first attempt gardening on my hobby farm:
Last spring I fancied myself a pioneer woman and asked my sweet neighbor (a real farmer) to till me a garden that was roughly half the size of my former back yard. I had no idea what I was doing so I did what any girl who spent the last sixteen years living in the city would do. I spent a ton of money on seeds and supplies. In the end I had just as many weeds as I did veggies and discovered I was never motivated to go pick veggies and herbs for dinner. But we had fun, the kids discovered fresh garden broccoli is divine, and I had some serious bragging rights that my kids grew popcorn, pumpkins, & our own Indian Corn.
We also have a wonderfully high yielding apple tree but it was all wormy our first summer here. I was determined to enjoy the fruit this fall, even plunking down $100 for special sprays and sprayers to ward off fungus and worms. But we never made it to the part where we actually SPRAYED the tree. So once again the worms enjoyed those beautiful apples. I was secretly relieved because by that point of my summer I wasn’t feeling so pioneerish anymore to harvest and . . .what? What do you DO with all those apples anyway? It was probably better to let the worms have them.
This year I vowed things would be different. I would have restraint at the garden store. I would plan ahead. I would NOT let those worms near my apples even if I had to spray the tree with arsenic. But alas some things never change.
The other day I was admiring the beautiful blossoms on my apple tree when a memory creeped in. Someone told me you have to start spraying before the buds appear. And here I was staring … mesmerized … at the full blooms. In other words, I’m already losing the war on worms and we aren’t even out of May yet.
Then there is the shopping and buying of seeds and plants. I can’t explain what comes over me when I go into the garden center. I get awestruck and overwhelmed. Everything looks beautiful and fun and growable. I suddenly fancy myself a master gardener. I am invincible. I will grow grow grow veggies to feed my family, my friends, my community. I will even enter some veggies in the fair and win the blue ribbon. My flowers will render the garden club jealous. I will field requests for tours. Brides will beg me to hold weddings here…
In other words, I completely dissociate from reality while strolling through the aisles.
It never fails that as soon as I get home, unload my haul, and sheepishly brush off my husband’s inquiry as to how much I spent, I am filled with dread. Ugh, I have to plant all this? That sucks. I don’t want to plant all this. Can someone else do it?
Lets be honest … planting the garden is a hot, muddy, sweaty endeavor. And I’m never sure how to lay it out or how many of each plant to grow. I am a closet rule follower so I read the backs of the packages like they are gospel truth. And I always think they are lying. They suggest way too much space between plants. And does anyone REALLY thin seedlings? Where are the special directions for what to do when your kids go rogue and start tossing seeds willy nilly in the dirt?
Along with waiting for the seedlings comes hyper vigilance about weeds. Weeds remind me of my eyebrows. You can only ward off stragglers for so long. Eventually, despite your best efforts, the whole thing becomes a wild mess. I just say a little prayer over my plants and sympathize for the hard life they will have in my garden. Then I tell the plants the same thing I tell my kids: Life is rough. Deal with it.
And yes. I completely abandon picking veggies by the end of the season. It’s too stressful to keep up with everything and get it all picked before it goes to seed. We enjoy the harvest for a while but by the end of summer we’re over it. At that point the grocery store is much more manageable. And air conditioned.
Here’s the best part. Knowing the work it will take, the weeds that will grow, and my habit of running out of gas at the end of the season, this year we asked our neighbor till us an even bigger garden. Yes. You read that right. I mean why not make this thing larger?
Apparently the theme of the Haveman garden 2014 is go big or go home.
This year we invited another family to garden with us (hence the bigger garden). We were excited to share the space and the work. But having another man in the mix presented a problem I never saw coming: My husband decided he was interested in the garden project. My husband, who won’t let a vegetable pass his lips. My husband, who rolls his eyes at my gardening dreams. My husband, who has always considered gardening a girly interest. A guy wants to garden with us and suddenly I have Dave Old MacDonald along for the ride.
He approached the garden project very differently from me. He forced me to make a shopping list of my veggies. He didn’t let me wander into the flower section at the garden store. He kept me on task. It made the whole shopping experience worse because I was still distracted, but now I felt like a kid at Target.
“Hey Dave look, those are pretty. Can we get those?”
“Oooh look at those flowers. We need some of those in our garden.”
“That’s not what we are here for.”
Ugh…who invited him?
Our friends rolled in with their stash of veggie plants. And a freak amount of pepper plants of every variety. I am a little worried about the future of Grant’s GI tract with all those peppers. But into the garden they went. Along with tomatoes, broccoli, squash, zucchini, peas, beans, cabbage (which was an accident because no one actually likes cabbage), sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, lettuce and carrots. We all got scorched, dirty, and dehydrated while toiling away in the garden all afternoon. And this week I will add herbs, pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, and popcorn.
They were excited. I was excited. My husband was worried I will force him to eat cabbage. It was great.
So I kick off another year of gardening with new optimism. Maybe this year the veggies will grow. The weeds will be kept at bay. The worms will be doused in poisonous chemicals. And when its all over,we will celebrate the fall harvest with a green pepper & apple salad served on a bed of cabbage.