Monday, May 18, 2009

Seeds of Life?

It's not often that the metaphor becomes reality, but here the last few weekends I've been working quite hard on the new kitchen garden.

During the kitchen reno, some doors were moved around, and this lovely patch outside the kitchen -- facing south -- was dug up and cornered off. This spring we brought in mushroom soil and tilled it in. Bella and I started some seeds inside (went a bit better than last year -- only managed to brutally murder some cherry tomatoes, and for some reason the rosemary self-aborted? I'm terrible with rosemary. I understand for most people rosemary is akin to a chia pet, the one thing they can keep alive by sprinkling beer on it when they open one. Not so much, me), and sowed the rest into the ground. We planted a marigold border, and finished that off with multi-colored globe amaranth seed.

Right now, it is a nicely squared off patch of dirt. If things go as they should, in a few months we should have: broccoli, carrots, beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, beets, lettuce, arugula, and a host of herbs including one entire row of basil for my Italian husband. There should -- allegedly -- be sunflowers against the back wall, and cheerful flowers in the corners.




It's very nice in theory, isn't it.

Once it was in, and I was purposefully watering with the sprayer, I tried to self-analyze (shit, am I good at that now) about how I felt about my endeavor. And that's when I realized the irony of life imitating metaphor: the first thing that popped in my head was how this felt as if I had a positive pregnancy stick in my hand. It's "implanted." In theory, it's one of those "positive" symbols. But I know nothing of gardening, right now it just looks like brown soil, and (to me) it will seem nothing short of a Biblical miracle if there is food to harvest at the end of the day from these mere seeds I've jammed in crooked rows. As I've told my neighbors, "If we get vegetables from this, it's a bonus."

(To gently reiterate and avoid any confusion: METAPHOR, LIFE-STORY-USUALLY-EMPLOYING METAPHOR, SWAPPING PLACES. THERE IS NO POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST. THERE IS A GARDEN. Kinda like bringing a metaphor to life, but without having to clean horse parts off your bat and shoes. Just thought I'd clarify.)



One of the contractors who worked on the kitchen and "consulted" on the garden swung by this week -- she's one of these types that maintains a self-sufficient farm in a yard the size of a postage stamp, replete with chickens and goats. And she was incrredibly impressed by our plot, and I gave her the line about it looking nice in theory, and wouldn't it be awesome if vegetables actually grew from those seeds?

"Why wouldn't they?" she asked. In complete seriousness.

Ha ha ha, why wouldn't they, IS SHE FUCKING KIDDING ME?!

Just because you put seeds in dirt and add water and sunshine does not mean you get a beet (or god forbid, some rosemary) in a few months. No sir-ee. I mean, why should it work? Not like I know what I'm doing. Then I read this article about lead in urban gardens, and I'm utterly convinced I will give us all brain damage should the garden actually produce something and I prepare grilled eggplant and beet salad, so this week on my to-do list is packing up some dirt to send off to the EPA for testing.

Seriously, I just wanted a little vegetable garden. Instead I got a boatload of cautious pessimism, irony, and paranoia.

Sounds about right.


(Poison Beets!)

26 comments:

Which Box said...

Lead in urban gardens. Shit. Thanks. I was managing to ignore the rat poop potential but hmmmmm.

To sort of extend the metaphor, some things will grow beautifully, and others will crap out, and pests will come in, and probably a fungus or disease or two, and there's no way of knowing in advance, or even year to year (though I can't grow tomatoes worth shit, and this year we're going another way entirely and container gardening the tomato).

Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

hairyfarmerfamily said...

I can absolutely empathise. I am currently scurrying outside every 5 minutes to scrutinise the expanse of bare earth that Absolutely Has To Be A Nice Lawn By August. I think I can hear the grass seeds lurking under the soil laughing at me. I have, it seems, black fingers. And uteri that can't grow babies very well, as it happens. Related topics, naturally.

I do, however, think your veggie patch looks highly promising: the soil looks... forgive me... fertile. We are on clay so thick a random spadeful can be happily converted to a hippie-type pot within minutes. I envy you your soil!

Lisa b said...

Your house is so beautiful.
there is much to your metaphor. About three weeks ago I picked up tomato, green pepper and strawberry plants. I've put them in containers and IF I get anything this year I will consider growing from seed next year.
I've always thought mother nature was a bit of a bitch. I hope she is kind to both our gardens.

Sue said...

I really hope your garden grows. Sunflowers and marigolds and all those veggies -- so much potential.

I really hope it grows.

Ya Chun said...

Cool looking house!

I always tell people that gardening is an experiment. At least for us, if it doesn't yield we can still go buy food.

Lead is more of a problem if you don't wash ALL the soil off the root and leaf crops. Most of the lead won't actually translocate within the plant or into the fruit (ie tomato).

And if you've made a raised bed, you probably don't have to worry.

EarthCO does a lead test for ~$25

I try not to take my gardening as a metaphor - just gardening. Otherwise, I would be batty.

Aunt Becky said...

I think I'm currently more obsessed with my roses than anything else. Which is weird. I can't believe how weird I am.

They'll grow, Tash. And be tasty AND delicious.

loribeth said...

I don't put in much of a garden anymore -- a few petunias & impatiens & I'm done. I don't have time or patience for the constant weeding & watering that's required (IMpatiens is right). But we did try some vegetables the first few years we were here. And I was amazed & delighted that anything actually grew at all. My parents & both sets of grandparents have all been gardeners (my paternal grandmother in particular) & I was tickled pink to think that maybe I'd actually inherited a few of her green thumb genes. Good luck! There is nothing better than vegetables fresh from your own garden.

janis said...

Sorry but I keep getting distracted by your house!
I'm not planting this year. My neighbors smoke out on the porch so I think our veggies will be tainted with nicotine. They also use herbicides and I think that will also somewhat poison my plants. etc, etc, etc.
I just don't have a green thumb, heck. So I'll just watch your garden grow. And I hope the report you get from EPA will settle your mind!

k@lakly said...

I too want more pix of the house,it looks positively charming! As for the homegrown veggies I always figure I really have no way of knowing, for sure, what I am eating even if from 'organic free...' farmers so I go with the ignorance is bliss way of thinking and the idea that the healthy veggie will cancel out the unhealthy pesticide I'm consuming.
In fact, I think I might start smoking again, just for kicks...and the health benefits;)

erica said...

I staunchly refuse to let my plants become metaphorical or allegorical. [[Glares at plants]]

Part of living the life of a transient, non-property-owning person means that I grow everything in pots. This is the first year I've tried veggies (two miniature pepper plants) and I'm inordinately pleased with myself for not killing them yet. Now, of course, I'm going to worry about poisoned potting soil.

Sending much good will to your seedlings. I hope your poisonous beets are delicious (and not really poisonous).

charmedgirl said...

last year, the first spring after paige died, i dug out the seeds i bought who knows when and threw them in the dirt. when we moved to the country i wanted to be all, I GROW STUFF! being so fucked last year, i thought if nothing grew, what the fuck would i care? my baby was still dead. i literally threw in the seeds and did nothing else. NOTHING. i figured if stuff grew with no effort, it would be worth itnext time to exert some effort.

(in the meantime, cardinals made a nest in the tall bush pressed against the back of the house...i was really mad about the proximity of successful reproduction and was secretly happy when i found the chicks dead in the yard. i'm a jerk-off.)

i had a buttload of vegetables last year (amid tons of weeds). even the carrots that were 1/2 inch long last fall were actually harvested, with shock and surprise, a month ago...

there's no stopping life, and that's comforting and infuriating all at once.

ezra'smommy said...

I'm an idiot when it comes to gardening but it sure does make me happy. When things actually grow, its so very satisfying.

Hope's Mama said...

yes, i couldn't help but think of the irony when 90 per cent of my tomato plants dropped dead right when i was about to pick dozens and dozens of ripe tomatoes. we had a week of 40+ degree heat (which is damn hot in your world, about 117 or something crazy like that) and my nine tomato plants all flaked it. the smell of rotting tomato in my backyard for days on end after that wasn't pleasant. hoping to have better luck with the winter veggies i currently have planted. and of course that other little thing i have growing at the moment.....

Natalie said...

OMG Poison Beets had me busting up. I'm alwasy convinced nothing is going to grow and that I manage to kill everything. Gardening, while sometimes rewarding, can hold a whole lot of anxiety.

Mrs. Spit said...

I have to confess, I thought the same thing as your contractor - dirt, water, soil, seeds. How could they not grow? Oh, sure, sometimes the carrots don't come up, and there was the year that the zuchini didn't grow, but really - something always comes up.

And then, then I remembered last year. Where inspite of 30 years of gardening, I was convinced that nothing would grow.

Takes your breath away.

CLC said...

It will grow! I planted my first garden last year and I couldn't give tomatoes away fast enough. Most of them eventually rotted on the plant because I didn't know what to do with them (I ate so many I grew tired of them!). Keep us post via pix with the progress!

niobe said...

Oh, my garden always grows. But the harvest is almost entirely consumed by squirrels, skunks and rats, leaving me nothing but the gnawed-off stems. Hey, look! Another metaphor!

Bon said...

we have some poison radishes and lettuces sprouting here too. which are pretty much Dave & Oscar's job to care for, as i generally subscribe to your theory of growing things. my bet is on the slugs eating 'em, at the moment.

but some small part of me that feels almost incapacitated by utter lack of skillz and belief still does kinda hope.

btw, that's your HOUSE? wow. i feel about 12. it's so...grown up. ie. gorgeous.

Coggy said...

Your house does look cool, as does your veggie plot.
I have about the same luck with seeds at times. I've ended up growing mine in little pots before planting out because too often I have been disappointed waiting for them to appear in the ground.

The metaphor... *sigh* that's the curse of being intelligent, things often seem to mock. Still waiting for pics of you kitchen reno!

Julia said...

I made such a stink last year about being able to keep a little marigold alive in a cup. And then all the kind peoplez of the internets egged me on to replant the sucker into a bigger pot. You can do it, they said. I did it. And then the sucker died. A-ha...

I want to know what the EPA says. Those beets look promising...

Aurelia said...

Well, like niobe all my veggies always get eaten by animals, so I moved to flowers and trees and that generally works but not always so well.

Look, you can make anything a metaphor, I know I have. In the end, it's just life, and it's just a garden.

As for lead, I know when some of our yards were tested, they came up negative, totally clean and some of the ones nearby came up overloaded with the stuff, and what are you going to do? Reality is that you have likely turned over the soil a lot and amended it, and so you will be fine.

Michele said...

i kill every plant i touch... after a while, i pretty much gave up! on that note, yours looks lovely! cant wait to see it overflowing!

luna said...

wishing you abundant bounty. that is awesome.

Val said...

Heh heh - like Niobe & Aurelia, most non-toxic vegetation around here gets nibbled up by domestic as well as non-domestic species...
[last year the goats climbed up on the porch & demolished the tomato plants just as they were nearing fruition!] that reminds me to go water this year's attempts, NOW...

MsPrufrock said...

When I come to PA this summer I will *probably* move into your house, and I will also *probably* partake of your delicious vegetables and herbs. Just so you know.

Lani said...

I know i'm late to this post but it was really funny i had to comment. my garden right now is my LIFE! everytime i see a sprout i am shocked and excited and thrilled. everything is doing great except no spinach seems to be growing...

i wrote a whole post about my precious garden and how its really the only thing i have to nurture right now. it consumes me.

we all know the rain is important for the gardens, i'm all for that, but here on the east coast, it hasn't stopped for like weeks! i'm over it, we need the sun stat!

anyway, your garden looks awesome, can't wait to see how it progresses. by now you have something popping up right?
xo