Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Hope in the dirt
One of my favorite things about living in this house is having a garden. The people who lived here before we did had nice taste, and put in a pretty curved bed that runs along the driveway and two quarter-moon shaped plots on each side of the patio. One of those was already planted with oregano, chives and tarragon when we moved in, another sign to me that Paul and I and this house were meant to be be. I love to cook and have always dreamed of an herb garden.
One of my first projects the spring we moved in, four years ago, was to tear out these pretty little white-flowering grasslike plants that were in the other quarter-round bed (we've since dubbed the damn things "apocalypse plants"--after the apocalpyse, there will be cockroaches and these tenacious little buggers which I am STILL yanking out of that bed, four years later). I planted basil, thyme, dill, sage and of course catnip. It all thrived, despite a wet and cool spring followed by a miserable hot summer.
I also planted every vegetable I could find in that curved bed, and enjoyed spending weekends weeding and trimming and watering and fertilizing. Home grown veggies were a revelation--I like vegetables, but I'd never experinced the deliciousness of a cucumber picked from the garden that morning and eaten hours later, after it chilled in the fridge. I never thought of cukes as especially flavorful, until I had these.
And same with tomatoes. Anyone reading who a) doesn't like tomatoes or b) thinks supermarket ones are fine, plant a tomato plant right now or befriend a gardener. It may change your life. Fresh, juicy, warm garden grown tomatoes are summer on a plate. I'd eat them sliced with toast for breakfast, in salads at dinner, layered with milky fresh mozarella and fragrant basil from the garden any time at all. I hate tomato sauce, so that pleasure was fleeting, gone by October when the last slow-to-ripen fruits were pulled fom the spent vines.
The last two years haven't been great for tomatoes. In 2004, we had great yield but I went completely off tomatoes while I was pregnant. I was alternately grossed out by and vaguely tolerant of them--and of course we'd planted a ton after enjoying them so much the previous two years. And last year, with me felled by the twin demons of a beastly hot summer and a somewhat rocky adjustment to new motherhood, my carefully planted vines refused to produce much of anything. I didn't know how to handle growing a garden and a baby at the same time. It was just too hot to plop her on a blanket in the sun while I tended my plants, she was rarely napping at all then, and my husband was working extra long hours so accomplishing annything after she went to bed was difficult.
This year is different. Suddenly, instead of a baby, I have a bright, curious toddler who loves the outdoors. She likes to dig holes with me, to help me weed (which often involves tearing up plants I wanted to keep, but hey, cheap labor), to romp with the dog while I attack a small patch of land. I've also given myself permission to realize that things are different now, that trying to manage two herb beds plus a ton of veggies plus a house, job and baby may be too much. We have tons of herbs, because that patch is small and easily maintained. But in our garden this year we planted only seven tomato plants (four Celebrity, three heirlooms), one eggplant, and zucchini seeds. It feel managable. It feels like I can handle it, like things will fall into place this summer if I just give it a little effort. It feels wonderful to be in the garden aain, and have the time spent there be sould-restoring instead of like another crushing responsibility I don't have enough time, money or help to handle.
To have my plants in the ground feels, quite simply, like hope.