Tag Archives: Home and Garden

RENT PAID

COH and yarn 021   IMG_5252

Coming inside from the frigid outdoors and standing in the warm office of the town’s administrative building, my fingers felt so cold last week that they could barely grip an ink pen. The stiffness relaxed as I read the back and front of a community garden contract, paid the fee and signed my name on the dotted line to once again rent two plots with the Green Thumbs.

The agreement’s pledge was clear. We will take care of our spot and respect our fellow gardeners, their tools and crops.

The oath was simple to make on a blustery day when the snow-covered ground remained frozen and unplowed. The work of maintaining a garden was still months away as I returned home with plots 6 and 16 secured, and the bitter wind gave no indication that winter was loosening its grip. My daffodils by the front steps were short green stalks too cold to bloom and standing awkwardly stiff like my fingers.

But almost a week has passed since I paid the garden rent, and spring feels possible. The weather has done a 180-degree turn, warming the neighborhood with highs in the 70s forecasted over the next few days. Yesterday, I carried my lawn chair from its spot in the basement next to the rolled up garden fence and metal posts, and sat in it on my front porch, which overlooks the thawing daffodils. A robin hopped on my front lawn, and joggers waved to me as they passed. Feeling comfortable in my bright pink, long-sleeved turtleneck sweater, I started to read Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, edited by Edwin Morris Betts, for inspiration. A tiny gnat distracted me as it crawled on our third president’s words: “But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

And so are the Green Thumbs.

We rented our first plot in 2013, and immediately faced the problem of deer among our unprotected rows. The animals left behind brazen footprints and ate our broccoli, which probably wouldn’t have survived anyway because we planted it too late in the season. Nonetheless, the invasion was a setback until we added a flimsy fence around our square and forged ahead.

At the beginning of the next gardening season in 2014, we admired with pride our three rows of abundant strawberries planted securely inside our fence. Never had such a beautiful patch of fruit been grown. We dreamed of all the short cakes and pies we would eat. But a week before harvest an unexpected hail storm damaged and broke the healthy plants and their berries. We nurtured the crop as best we could, but the strawberries hardly recovered. I didn’t even freeze one pint for the winter. We were left to wait another year for a satisfying berry harvest.

Last year in 2015, the deer stayed away. The berries bore fruit. And the Green Thumbs planted popcorn, something my youngest son had wanted to do since we started gardening. I was thrilled watching the popcorn grow, until he reminded me that he had gotten braces on his teeth and was not supposed to eat popcorn. We harvested the cobs of corn early because the summer was so dry and decided to cut the cooked popcorn into small pieces so my son could have a taste. We placed the corn, cob and all, in a brown paper bag inside the microwave oven. We could hear the kernels popping and had salt nearby and a stick of butter ready to melt and pour on the white puffs of corn. But the microwave cooked the snack too long. The cob of corn became burnt, black and inedible. And the kitchen smelled terrible.

Despite our minor setbacks in the garden over the years, the Green Thumbs also have had annual successes. We have grown enough lettuce and radishes, tomatoes and peppers, eggplant and onions, beans and carrots, watermelons and cantaloupes, potatoes and squash, and pint after pint of cherry tomatoes to feed our families and share with others.

Each year our planting knowledge and experience grows. We have aged many years at the community garden, but if Jefferson is right, the mysteries of farming will keep us young forever.

–cawk

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WINDS STRONG, PLANTS STRONGER

   Visiting the Green Thumb community garden last week, I was totally blown away.

   It wasn’t the growth of the plants that blew me over – none of the seeds have produced any sprouts. It wasn’t the beauty of our spot – the plot is pretty much a boring rectangle of brown dirt at the moment.

    It was the steady 30 mile-per-hour winds that nearly knocked me over as I stood gazing by the fence.

    The pipes of the wind chimes in the nearby tree were flipping noisily and clanging into each other. The swirling dust stung my throat and eyes. And the pie pans we had hung over the line of last year’s strawberries had broken loose. All but two of the silver dishes were scattered and tossed throughout the flat rows of the garden.

   I’ve always considered strawberry plants fragile. But the ones in our garden were already flowering. The dainty white petals that will turn into seeded red berries flopped and fluttered with the wind gusts but didn’t fall apart. The green spinach leaves that are easily snapped off for salad bounced and waved but didn’t cave to the elements. The stick branches of our lone blueberry bush remained sturdy and didn’t curl or break.

   As I stood getting slapped with the cold air, I realized how strong plants have to be to survive the weather and what an amazing job roots do anchoring the growth in the soil.

–cawk

GROWING FULFILLMENT

My neighbor offered encouragement when I told her my family has rented a community garden this year with three other families.

“We’ve never planted a large garden before,” I said. “We’re calling ourselves The Green Thumbs.”

“You are going to be fulfilled,” my neighbor said, sounding like a yoga instructor on the first day of class.

I thought about what she said when I fell over into a kind of down dog split while planting tomatoes and found myself stretched over rows in a sort of combination Warrior II then lunge pose to spread fertilizer.

While watering the plants with my heavy green watering can, my arms reached down and my back stayed straight into a slight half forward bend pose over lettuce, beets and broccoli.

“What are we trying to grow?” asked my son, who had forgotten what plants we put into the ground.

“Fulfillment,” I answered, standing up tall into a makeshift mountain pose. “We’re trying to grow fulfillment.”

He just looked at me.

All I could add was “Namaste.”

–c