Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Why do I do it?

I don't know why I garden. I must get some perverse pleasure out of making myself miserable: working like a dog, sweating like a pig, and breaking my back, all to grow a few fresh fruits and vegetables.

Now you ask me, "are those things really that much better than what you buy in the supermarket that it's worth all that?" I'll answer, but first, a story about some advice that I perhaps should have followed:

Back when we first moved into our current house, I had big plans and I discussed them with Jess. One of those plans was to plant a garden. In the Midwest, my parents had always gardened; their gardens were always large and filled with every kind of vegetable. Jess' dad used to garden when Jess was younger, so he had fond memories of it, too. I convinced him that we needed to plant a garden when we moved in. In any event, we had moved into the house and I had chosen the spot for the garden. Now we needed a tiller to turn over the ground and break it up finely. We went out and bought one, a nice Troy-Bilt. We were ready to go.

We paid a visit to Jess' mom's house after leaving the equipment shop.

Jess: "Guess what we bought today?!"
Mom: "What?"
Jess: "A tiller! We're going to have a garden, and so we needed a tiller."
Mom (looking both surprised and confused): "A tiller?"
Jess: "A tiller. Marc knew what kind to get, and we got one."
Mom (looking over her glasses, to me): "You know, there are people who can do that for you. You pay them, they do it for you."
Me: "Yes, but I like doing it myself, and this way I can grow tomatoes, beans, and peas that taste a lot better than what can be bought at the store."
Mom (again, to me): You know, there are people who will do that for you, too. It's called a farmstand. There's one right down the street."

Over the years, I spent a lot of time in that garden. The first year was the best, but then it got tougher and tougher. Much time was spent slaving away to get a small harvest of whatever I happened to be growing. One year too wet, the next too dry. But I continued. Mom didn't know how devoted I was to gardening. I don't think Jess did either.

Last year, I decided to scale back and do one thing: strawberries. I planted twenty plants, ten plants in two rows, set atop two "hills." Of course, the first year, there's no harvest. You pull off the flowers and let the plants send off runners so that they multiply. And multiply they did. I had ninety healthy little strawberry plants this year. Ninety plants that wound up producing more than a quart of berries a day at the height of the season. I made strawberry ice cream. I made jam - 48 jars of it. I froze berries. I was so sick of strawberries at the end of the season that I decided that was it - no more strawberries. But at the end of the season, we were so busy with other things that I left the berry patch to go wild, thinking that some weekend soon I would dig it up. But it didn't happen. Until this week, when I decided I must dig it up so that it would be ready to take grass in the spring, or wherever I get to it. But over the summer, those plants had multiplied again...and tonight I had to dig up more than 400 plants. It was hell. And the whole time I was cutting plants out with the hoe, I kept thinking about the day we told Mom we bought the tiller and what she had said to me.

Mom was so smart. She's left us now, but I'll be taking her very sage advice next year when we move into her house. The farmstand will do just fine. It's certainly better than the supermarket, and cheaper and easier than gardening. I know Jess will like that I'm spending less time outside and more with him. And I think Mom would like it that I'm taking it a little easier at her house.


At 10:56 PM, October 18, 2004, Blogger Jess said...

Yes, I think she'd like that very much, honey.

At 9:11 AM, October 20, 2004, Blogger Brechi said...

i like farm stands too. the tomatoes are so juicy! lol

At 11:13 PM, October 20, 2004, Blogger Harlis Dinwiddie said...

Rock garden!!!!!! (But, of course, you can't eat those.)

Marc: you probably remember that country song with the line, "There's only two things money can't buy. That's true love and home-grown tomatoes."

At 11:35 PM, October 20, 2004, Blogger Marc said...

Thanks Michael, yes, I do know that song!!

At 1:20 PM, October 22, 2004, Blogger OnlyInTheSouthEnd said...

Plant pretty things next year. Low maintenance, and oh so nice to look at.


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