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I've been neglecting my garden for the past 3 weeks or so.  With all the craziness that comes with the end of the school year, an anniversary, a leisurely hike up Mt. Washington, and the celebration of America's independence, I found all sorts of convenient excuses not to weed.  But this week, with no traveling or celebrations on the horizon, I ran out of excuses and was finally forced to face the jungle that had become my vegetable patch.  I spent the better part of two afternoons thinning carrots, redirecting aggressive pumpkins, and crying out in agony every time I pulled out one of the thorny greens that has effectively invaded the garden. This was all much to Ethan's amusement, of course.  He snapped this picture above of me in my truest form: grubby, rubbing the sweat out of my eyes, and rocking a pair of Jose Cuervo sunglasses I got for free at Margarita's on Cinco de Mayo. 

This multi-day undertaking led to a series of emotions and events, including hesitant killing, single-minded endurance, quiet epiphanies, and mild heartache.  Who knew a little 12' X 24' garden could produce all that?
Remember when I decided not to kill the gopher that ate my peas last week? Well, upon facing the tangled row of lush carrot tops a couple of days ago, I discovered that I can't even kill a carrot, for heaven's sake. I squatted right down with my face near the dirt to contemplate the scrawny roots growing much too closely together. I knew they couldn't all stay; they were much too crowded and if I let them all keep growing, none of them would get big enough to actually eat.  I know because I wimped out on thinning last year, and that's what happened. But how could I decide which one got to live and which eight or nine around it would be chucked aside, withering in the sun until chopped up by the lawnmower? 

I chose the ones which seemed to be the sturdiest to survive. At first, I hesitantly pulled out a single carrot, pale and minuscule in the bright sunlight. I examined it for a moment, then felt so sad about pulling it up that I brushed the dirt off and ate it in a single bite. It was so small I could have swallowed it whole and not even noticed.  I continued about my working, growing bolder with every carrot I uprooted.  Aha! Up came three in one handful.  Oh my! That was satisfying. Before I knew it I had thinned the entire row and was moving on to the rainbow carrots beside it. Scanning over my handiwork, I smiled at the carrots still in the ground, for they stood tall and strong and looked like they could actually get some sunlight now. 

And suddenly, I got a zest for pulling stuff up.  Once I had thinned, I could weed. And weed I did. I tackled it with such single-minded ambition that I didn't pause even for a snack break.  For all the flack that weeding catches for being tedious, I found some plusses.  First of all, it is extremely satisfying to compare a section that you haven't weeded to a section that you have.  Secondly, it's therapeutic to do all that pulling.  Some people run to relieve tension, some people shop.  Others choose more toxic alternatives.  But for me? Weeding, please. It's cheaper. Plus you get a sweet farmer's tan. 


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There are other benefits to all that hard work, too. Take, for example, this glorious, perfect tomatillo. I mean, doesn't that amaze you? I found it busting out of its husk and picked it today to use for homemade guacamole.  Look at the tiny veins laced all over the husk, and the complete smooth greenness of the fruit. I look at that and just can't help be amazed by God's attention to detail.  Just when I thought I couldn't be any more amazed by the growth I was finding in my garden, I found this:
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A single pea pod.  It had clung to life even after all the pea plants had been chowed down by some critter.  When I found the remains of the pea plants last week, in my frustration I had wanted to pull what was left of them out of the ground and chuck them aside.  But, mid-pull, I noticed that some of them still seemed to be alive.  As upset as I was, I still decided to let them stay, to see if anything would grow after all.  And, while I was down on my hands and knees pulling weeds in the row beside them this week, I saw this lone pea. 

I actually rejoiced. A pea! I cried to Ethan, jumping up and down and pointing to the wreckage.  I found a pea!! 

Looking at the other plants, we noticed that other blossoms were beginning to unfold.  Other peas would grow. What a testament to God's faithfulness.  Just when I thought all was lost, He showed me new life.  And He does that with people, too - not just peas.  

Not all my vegetables are bouncing back, though.  The cauliflower, which was also eaten by a critter last week, had begun to grow again and it seemed likely that it would survive.  But yesterday, I went out to look at it closer and found that it was teeming with piles of grayish-green insect eggs.  Last night Ethan and I had dinner with a friend who is a farmer and I inquired about the mysterious eggs.  "Cabbage worms," he told me regretfully.  "You better spray it or they aren't going to be any good. They'll get your broccoli too." 


SPRAY IT? I thought.  FAT CHANCE! It's not that I insist on eating only organic food, but when it comes to my own garden, I like to think of it as a little chemical-free safe haven for veggies to grow.  I didn't even use fertilizer.  But this afternoon, when I went out to check on the situation, vinegar solution ready, I found this ickiness: 
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Sludgy eggs which had multiplied and a green worm writhing from the center.  Ten points if you can spy the worm in this picture.  Anyway, I was horrified.  Vinegar solution wasn't gonna cut it.  And I felt slightly emotional, knowing the sad fate of the cauliflower if I did nothing to save it.  For all you parents out there - how do your poor, sweet hearts handle the pain of seeing a child get hurt or walk the wrong path? I can't even accept the imminent harm of a cauliflower plant. If only it was so easy for parents as to spray their children with organic insect control!  Guess I better grow some thicker skin before mommyhood...

So, in the end, Operation Take-Back-The-Garden turned out to be quite the learning experience. And the moral of the story? Don't wait three weeks to weed your garden. 
 


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    Deidre is a small-town Maine girl with a hearty appetite. Read more on the About Me page.

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