Okay. Faithful readers of these posts know that I struggle in my garden as a cloistered nun struggles within her faith. You know about my encounters with insects and larvae and slimy, pulsating things that cause wreck and ruin. And you also know that I refuse to treat my plants with chemicals because we all know what happens when you upset the natural balance of the Earth by introducing Union Carbide’s latest wonder drug into the environment.
This year, with determination and confidence, I decided to plant some vegetables and herbs for a ravioli garden. Small as the yard is, my space is limited, but I proudly put in two tomatoes, a pepper, and rows of herb seeds: arugula, bieta, basil, and borragine. It took me most of an afternoon to ready the soil; it was hot, and the sweat beaded on my forehead as the sun arced across the sky. Birds chirped lethargically, heat-exhausted; the air was still. Somewhere, a dog barked.
It took me the rest of the afternoon to recover. You’d think that I’d been working an acre on my hands and knees, but my actual tilled area doesn’t even come close, being as roomy as, perhaps, a dozen large manila envelopes laid side by side.
I should mention that I don’t really eat that many vegetables; I eat more than I did, but I was a child who was raised on pasta and hot dogs. To me, vegetables were corn, peas, carrots, and maybe cauliflower if it was doused in cheese sauce. Tomatoes were okay as long as they were pulverized, simmered in olive oil, and transformed into sauce. Broccoli? Maybe… but things like lettuce and cabbage and spinach repulsed me. Now I love most all those once-hated vegetables, probably because my taste buds are withering and dying as I age. I won’t go so far as to experiment with anything that is popular east of Europe, because most of those delicacies look like they have faces and limbs. And, in the final analysis, what do you eat while watching a movie at home? Ice cream or a bowl of pearl onions? I rest my case.
All that said, the ambitious vegetable garden pictured above is, therefore, not my own. It was tilled and platted by Jon, a friend who lives out in the far reaches of Osceola County. His extensive acreage allows him as much room as he wants for his vegetable project, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. I call that determination, and BOY was I impressed when I saw it! Perfectly-aligned posts await climbing beans… soft green leaves poking above the soil conjure up pictures of sweet, sun-ripened fruits… perfect for wrapping with prosciutto!
See that circle in the middle? Two types of corn are coming up there; the rest of the perfectly-plotted surrounding areas will yield melons, radishes, beans, okra, peppers, squash, tomatoes, and the like. The view you see was taken from his third floor deck, and I was amazed when I saw it from above. I didn’t even want to tell him about my two tomatoes, one pepper, and tiny rows of herbs. Ironically, our natural challenges will be similar, though I believe that the critters coming to investigate his plants will be somewhat larger and bolder than the menagerie I can expect to have to put up with. In readiness, I doused my plot with ground black pepper, thinking that the squirrels might begin sneezing once they start snuffling around; this may goad them toward leaving. Or, they’ll actually appreciate the pepper and then attach themselves to my screened porch and demand salt for their meal, and Worcestershire sauce. Who can say with animals? The smaller and more nervous animals are, the more unpredictable. And I know our yard has seen its share of possums, cats, and snakes. A possum one year took up residence withing a bank of blue sky vine, its nest lined with Publix plastic bags that it had gotten from recycling bins. And we’ve had our share of field rats.
As small as my garden is, and as large as Jon’s is, we’re both aware of the rewards to come. It makes one feel “green,” though not the type of “green” to be found within homes whose owners drive their monster Escalades to the farmer’s market. Our efforts might not change the Earth radically for the better, but they are small, muddy steps in the right direction.