Lately I’ve been reading gardening books. It’s funny, because my relationship with gardening books is sort of like my relationship with parenting books. When I was a new parent, all of the information seemed really intimidating and I just wanted to make sure I got everything right. Desperate for some sort of instruction guide to the intimidating endeavor of nurturing a tiny human being through various developmental stages, I attempted to uncover some sort of set methodology to apply in any given situation.
With gardening, as with parenting, I quickly discovered that my preferred way of doing things tends to drift towards benign neglect. This makes reading gardening books especially amusing. All of those overly-specific instructions about planning and executing the perfect vegetable garden actually deterred me for years from even attempting. And it’s only now – a year since I began gardening in earnest – that I can glean what I want from those books without feeling inadequate about my haphazard, crooked garden beds lined with cardboard boxes and sometimes surrounded and infiltrated by weeds.
And I know not everyone has the means to experiment, especially when expensive soil is in play as the cost of experimentation. My investment in my haphazardness has been chalked up in my budget as an education expense. Also entertainment. And fitness. And I’m thankful I have room in my budget to afford it.
Even still, I wonder how many people just let their entire yard go to waste because they never realize that they don’t have to stake and string and double-dig and properly fertilize and balance and amend and take the temperature of your soil to get started with a garden. Like, you can LITERALLY just dig a hole in your yard, throw some seeds in there, cover them with dirt and tend to the emerging seedling and VOILA – you are a gardener.
I am ahead of myself on beds, and behind on planning. I have tomato seedlings and some pepper seedlings. I learned the hard way that the markers I used to mark the seedlings weren’t permanent and therefore I have like a FLAT of ?? seedlings. I’m pretty sure I can tell the difference between the tomatoes and the peppers, but I don’t have any idea of what variety of each they are. SURPRISE!
I have my little grow-lamp situation set up in the window of Buddha the Grouch’s room, since he’s away at college. It glows at night, and I keep waiting for the cops to bust down my door and raid my tomato plants.
The above are the remnants of summer’s tomatoes and peppers, which never really produced anything, finally coming to fruit in early February.
Today I cleared a space for a cucumber bed when it’s time to plant cucumbers. I might put cukes, tomatoes, peppers, and beans alternating all along the fence…and then just continue to fill up beds as they are emptied of their current bounty. Gradually – here and there. Piece by piece. Bit by bit, it all fits together and becomes an accidental plan.
As a parent of young children, I was always searching for a rhythm. It shifted regularly, but on occasion I would find it, and things would be harmonious for a time before a new developmental phase would hit and I would have to pivot and shift. This still happens as the kids get older, but not as frequently. This is what I’m learning about my garden, and perhaps myself. I like rhythm, but I also like chaos and freeform. And, while I understand the reason efficiency is stressed in these gardening books I’m reading…and tools that need to be oiled, maintained, sharpened…bought…today I took my old spade and re-loosened the soil that my friend tilled up for me last autumn. I loosely lifted a 5×3 bed. First, with spade – then, sitting & running my bare hands through the soil, breaking up clumps and removing as many weeds as possible before covering with cardboard and bags of soil/fertilizer that I will add when I’m ready to start planting the bed.
Today when I brought my little seedlings out to transplant them, water them, rearrange them…I felt very much like I had delicate, precious cargo. I was worried I might forget them outside and kill them all. My precious babies who had come up under grow lights, with gentle eat from mats beneath. It was my first ever real “starting from seed” attempt that actually resulted in what might actually be viable seedlings. And it’s looking like I’ll have about a 50% success rate that time. Room for improvement, for sure. I’ve learned some things. But in the end I should still have plenty of seedlings, and probably plenty to spare.
Me – talking to my tomato plants: OK little ones…grow grow grow
George (the dog) – sits in front of me, cocking his head from side to side while I’m talking.
Me – to George: What? I can talk to plants! I talk to YOU!
I have such fond memories of this time of year – back when SXSW interactive was actually cool and not just a way to market your brand and monetize your ideas. Every year I would look forward to attending the Interactive conferences and seeing all of my original nerdsters. Talking about social justice in the blogosphere and diversity in the twiitersphere. Hell, I remember when Twitter broke during SXSW and we all stared, transfixed, in front of the map of tweets coming from around the world. Back when my Twitter feed was small enough to witness the arrival and departure of my out of town friends by their increasingly, then decreasingly frenzied reports of their comings and goings in short 140-character bursts. (or, before then, when check-ins on 4-square…or even before THEN – that other app that preceded 4-square that I forgot the name of.)
The last time I went to SXSW interactive, I just wasn’t feeling it. Most of the panels were thinly-veiled 30-minute advertisements for products that pissed me off, and everything still looked way too white and way too male to me – and no one really seemed to care about that anymore. I got thrown out of the conference that year for mic checking Stratfor’s George Freidman with other members of Occupy Austin, and headed down to a free show sponsored by Occupy…
The following year, I was laid off from my job right before SXSW. I went to a few events out of nostalgia, thinking I would try to stay in the non-profit realm, but I was too jaded by having been ousted unexpectedly from a job where I had been told for many years I was a member of a “family.” (I wish employers wouldn’t say that shit. A job is not a family. It never will be.)
Since then, I’ve laid low. I did a solo road trip to Colorado a couple of years ago. I was planning a vacation this year, but canceled plans because Buddha the Grouch is coming home during the break for the first time since he went away to school (and possibly the last time for awhile, as he might stay in Vermont over the summer.)
This year, I intend to stick close to home. I have time off, and I plan to spend that time in the garden. I’ve also promised PROMISED myself I will finish the Chicago issue or Oyster Lexicon while on vacation and have it printed up by the end of the month at the latest. I actually hope to get it printed and everything while I’m off work, but I really only have 3 days off, so…that’s a bit ambitious. All of the pieces are there, I just need to put them together, and that might take time.
It has taken me FOREVER to get this post done, so I’m trying to wrap it up here. So much for my plan to start posting weekly! Ugh! I hate it when I don’t live up to my goals. But I’ll keep trying.
I have tons of photos of the garden that I need to take once it stops raining. My fava beans are beaning up, and I’m getting more and more actual real straight carrots, which is super encouraging. It’s nice when you fail at something and then succeed. It’s true that success breeds success…mostly because so often failure means quitting. I’m glad I haven’t quit yet. I have so much more to learn.
But first, I have some serious weed-eating to do. Everything uncultivated is going completely insane with this rain.
My plans for the spring/summer garden are to plant my tomato and pepper seedlings in two of the raised beds. I think I can intersperse the tomatoes with the garlic and put the peppers in the bed that currently holds a gigantic borage plant covered in pretty blue flowers. The other three beds will hold squash, Melons, and random herbs and edible flowers. I’ll throw carrots and radishes in between other plants and plant a bunch of cucumbers and beans along the fenceline – one row of vining plants in the back, and a row of bush plants in front.
I’m also going to dig up a new bed next to the house for a small three-sisters garden. Corn with squash and beans. I wasn’t planning to grow corn this year or make ANOTHER new bed, but I ended up with a packet of corn seeds after what appears to have been a drunken shopping frenzy at various seed sites (the funny thing is, I can’t remember the last time I was drunk…but I’m just gonna go ahead and use that as an excuse anyway.) So, why the hell not. The worst thing that will happen is I will loosen up some dirt so I can plant more stuff next season. My intention is to add at least 2 garden plots a year, while maintaining and building the plots I have. Starting in ground and gradually raising everything up. I really need to pick up my soil-making game so I don’t go broke doing this…dirt’s EXPENSIVE.
Yesterday, I was on the phone with a customer, and he asked how I was doing. I told him “I can’t complain” and I meant it and he knew I meant it. He told me that was a really nice thing to hear – people seem to complain all of the time these days. Granted – I have my days, but in reality…I have very little to complain about, and many fond memories of any one of several eras of Salad Days to reflect upon when things get rough. ❤