Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Zen and the Art of Gardening

About ten days ago my town was under a tornado warning for most of the evening. I usually don't worry too much, ignore the sirens (usually don't even HEAR them). But something about this night seemed more real. I put on my bike helmet, grabbed my various computers and harddrives, keys, purse, and book and headed for the basement of my apartment building. There were six touchdowns over the course of the evening, but none of them caused much damage and none were within city limits. What did happen was a TON of rain fell on our area creating flash flood conditions and a lake where my garden once was.

I refused to even go and look at it. Too depressing. My mom kept me in updates and about 4 days later she said it had drained but was really muddy. I was in the final frantic stages of winding up summer school so I waited a bit longer. Finally 8 days after the ridiculous rain, I ventured out to the garden to survey the damage. Where once I had spinach I now had nothing. Not sure if the rain or lack of water for four days did the trick, but it was gone. Some things actually grew more and the grass was thriving.

I'm not sure what the deal is with the grass. My gardening neighbor said he knew the park district filled in the land with extra soil and he said based on the pattern of grass in people's plots one can almost guess the area that the extra soil was added and believe it was laden with grass seed. Sigh. So, there are plots with no weeds, no grass and there are plots that could be cut, rolled up and sold as lawn! I've decided to try to tackle 2-4 rows a visit and to just really weed it well... I figure by the end of the week if I keep up that pace and also do a quick maintenance job with the "done rows" my garden might be weed free before too much longer. It's important, too, for me to take stock and see what is even growing.

On Saturday morning: I managed to weed one row of corn and mom did the carrots and we watered the garden well.

On Sunday evening: I did the other row of corn and both rows of potatoes which basically rotted in the rows so it was me trying to just FIND the plants that didn't... there were four survivors and a LOT of grass... I pulled grass and broke a hoe trying to get the rest of it. Mom planted some cabbage at the end of the potato row where she could tell there weren't any plants so I have four of those plants too. I watered again. It's amazing how dry it can get in 36 hours.On Monday evening I bought a new hoe. Then I weeded the onions, weeded the beans, and hoed around one row of plants. I think it was the cabbage and cauliflower row. Then I watered everything once again. There is rain in the forecast so I hope I'm not overdoing it, but it just seems like they are always wanting water.

Recently a friend suggested this garden was not a good investment--granted this remark followed a detailed description of what's been going on and the plans for the next few days. Apparently it's all turning out to be too much work and the monetary investment and the cost in labor is adding up to some rather expensive produce. Yet, I see a garden is less about the produce, more about the experience. It's just an idea I have.

One should have a garden. the thought of owning property for example has ALWAYS gone hand in hand with the notion of being able to plant a garden on the property. If a house didn't have a yard in which that might be possible or if it was a townhouse (people are forever trying to get me to buy a townhouse--seriously, what the heck?) that didn't allow gardens or any kind of landscaping or "originality" then I wasn't having it. I guess it's just a romantic notion in my head and when push comes to shove it's probably not THAT necessary, but it's there just the same. I can certainly see how this gardening business would be so much more convenient if it was in my backyard!

On Sunday night I had an experience that reminded me of why I wanted to do this. For most of the three hours I was at my garden, I was completely alone on the outskirts of town at dusk. The weather was perfect--the temperature of heaven--a very light breeze, no bugs. In the distance there were some sounds of firecrackers going off... some remnants from the 4th of July. It was very Zen. I loved it. If there'd been more light I think I could have just stayed out there for another hour.

The community gardens are on the outskirts of town. The city is to my east and to the west... there is nothing but a train track in the near distance and beyond that fields. It felt like I was back on the farm. No noise, no commotion, no TV, no phones, no anything. Just me and my garden with a singular purpose or ridding that particular row of its pesky weeds. The garden is a new frontier to tame, to nurture, to create order where there once was none. The whole experience was remarkably satisfying.

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