|Charles Jonas Good (aka "Chalk), my |
great uncle and gardening inspiration.
There was something magical about things of value waiting in the dirt – like getting something for nothing. I’d get the same rush watching archeology documentaries.
My parents kept a garden for awhile when I was a kid. I burnt it to the ground once. Late one dry fall when the corn stalks were yellow I was sent to burn the trash in a barrel at the edge of the alley. I must have gotten to playing with the fire, beating the burning paper and cardboard with a stick to watch the sparks fly. Later while I was watching TV, my mom came and grabbed me by the arm and drug me to the back yard. You know that way a parent grabbed you too hard by the arm or the ear when they were mad? It was that kinda “shit’s-about-to-go-down” arm-dragging. She man-handled me across the patio and shoved me into the open of the yard so I could see the blackened garden smoldering. Looked like a bomb hit it.
I guess some sparks must of gotten loose.
I laid in bed that night with a sore arm, a sore ass, and tears running down my cheeks, considering the situation: I’ve kinda done ‘em a favor. This will be the easiest autumn garden clean-up ever. But I was alone in my glass-half-full rationalizations. My family still likes to tell the story about when Kurt burned the garden down. I nearly burned the house down a couple times, so I endure the garden story with good nature. It coulda been a lot worse.
|Asparagus making its first |
appearance this year in my garden.
One Saturday evening I picked jalapenos and carried a bowl full into the house. Baby Cal needed to be but in the bath next to the kitchen, so I set down the peppers, took off his diaper, and sat him in the bath water. As I diced the peppers in the kitchen, I could hear Cal wimpering in the bathroom. I looked ‘round the corner to find him desperately clawing at his hips, trying to peal back the pain. The residue from the skins of the peppers on my fingertip had left handprint burns on his tender toddler skin.
That was the last time that my gardening led to burns (so far).
Fast forward more than 20 years and gardening has become cheap therapy. On warm, sunny days like the ones we’ve had lately, I pull into the drive after a day in the car or at the office staring into a computer screen and drop my computer bag on the patio and wonder over into the plants, often still wearing a sport coat and dress pants. My gray tabby, Gracie follows and lays in the grass nearby, watching as I snap off a handful of asparagus, pull weeds in the garlic and onions, and pinch the early sucker-starts from the tomatoes. Gracie’s been keeping the bunnies from eating off the starts of the green beans.
Each year I can salsa, marinara sauce, bruschetta, pickled jalepenos, sriracha sauce, roasted red peppers and green beans, the ingredients all coming from my garden, including the herbs. And I water it all during dry spells with rain water gathered from the garage roof and stored in barrels. City hose water rarely touches my garden. And it’s all mulched with leaves from my yard. I put almost no leaves on the curb for the city to take. I keep them on site and let them partially decompose over the winter.
|Gracie, the garden watch cat: She may be small, but |
so is a stick of dynamite. Many a rabbit and
chipmunk have underestimated her.
Last week I carried bags of produce to family gatherings in Tipton. My cousin Pete and his wife Jen mixed a bundle of my asparagus into the mushroom risotto and a big head of my backyard romaine into a salad. The next night they steamed my broccoli. Sunday I ate my morning bagel with black raspberry jam I canned last year and later that night carried a bag of fresh cut spinach to Danny and Allison’s for the dinner salad.
|Spinach & garlic coming on strong |