Sunday, June 30, 2013

Breaking the State of (Procrastination) Vegetation



Every year around this time S and I have a ritual. We talk about planting a garden. That is, he talks about it (because he plants it) and eventually I go along for the ride to make sure we don’t wind up with an overabundance of any particular vegetable that I will have to prep and store for the next four years in my freezer. I’ve avoided the torrent of tomatoes for the last couple of seasons, but then there will be a zucchini deluge or possibly herb overkill.

This year it is peppers.

Because we are the ultimate procrastinators and don’t get past the talking phase of planting (which started in early May) until late June, we are at the mercy of whatever is left in the Semi-Wilting, Abandoned Plants section. We stopped at the first place, a local nursery that always comes through for us when we are least deserving of having a garden. We scoffed up some good stuff – jalapeno and habanero peppers, Brussels sprouts, and I decided to try cauliflower this year. I allowed S a limited selection of tomatoes and we tossed different herb ideas back and forth before deciding on rosemary and basil. There were no green non-fire-breathing peppers in sight.

Relieved that anything was left at all, we felt invigorated and took a ride to a farm to hunt down more garden gems. We managed to latch onto the last six-pack of green peppers. Then it was time to go home and discuss the final process – planting.

After seven solid days of rain the clouds rested and we were able to get out there.  Usually this is my husband’s area. He is the digger. And the planter. And the garden tender. And mostly the harvester.

I cook and freeze.

For some inexplicable reason (delirium from 8 a.m. Zumba, dehydration from too little – or too much –coffee) I offered to help plant. Instantly my knees sent up a flare gun that whipped out a red flag emblazoned with the words, “This will not be pretty.” S took me up on my offer and shortly thereafter I found myself standing with spade in hand, staring at the blackness known as the Weed Warrior (large, black plastic garbage bags cut up) that he had covered the garden with.

Peppers in captivity
Let me just take a brief moment to explain the difference between how I l work on projects and how S works on projects. I tend to jump into things helter skelter, hoping to find (create) some semblance of order as I go along. I wouldn’t calculate, I would eyeball. I wouldn’t necessarily count how many plants I have so much as estimate. In other words, I would get it done, but one of the zucchini plants could end up between the tomatoes, and there wouldn’t exactly be rows… it would be more like groups… because my spacing was – shall we say – a little off.

On the other hand, S measures. And calculates. And counts and recounts, and counts again. He has that analytical engineer-type mindset thing going on. And so I went out to the garden where he had already set some plants down on what looked like specific spots. I was so very wrong. There was much to be done before those little suckers would ever touch the soil on the other side of the blackness they stood over. I stood for a long time in the steamy afternoon sun, baking and waiting. By the third revision of the garden layout I moved to the shade and waited some more. It took everything in me (that I hadn’t sweated out) to not ask:

Do you want me to move any of these plants?

Do you want me to keep standing out here and watch you mumble to yourself?

What are you doing???


Why would they put the C vegetables so close together?

At some point (I think I might have dozed off while standing in the shade) S had plotted out the garden. He explained the detailed diagram in his head and I tried to imagine the end result. At the same time I was also attempting to picture exactly how I was going to get to the ground and actually do the planting. My knees cramped up sharply in rebellion, daring me to throw down with them – or without them. I was keenly aware the end result could be The End of my planting days almost before they had begun.

Something he said caught my attention. It was the word cabbage. Immediately I questioned this.

“Cabbage? You got cabbage?”

“No, you got cabbage.”

“No – I got cauliflower, not cabbage.”

“No cauliflower here, only cabbage.”

“Well, give it away. We don’t eat cabbage!”

“We will now. We can use it for coleslaw.”

“I don’t want it – don’t we know someone who can use it? Can’t we just toss it?”

“We are not wasting it.”

Really? He thinks we’re not going to waste it just because we’re planting it? He thinks six cabbage plants are going to give us just enough for a couple of cookouts worth of coleslaw? More likely we will have such an abundance that we can supply enough for the local deli’s coleslaw needs for months.

S made slits in the black plastic and I grabbed a spade to begin excavating. That was kind of what it felt like because, having surrendered to direct orders from my joints not to push it, I resembled a misdirected backhoe. I leaned at the waist toward the ground, bending and angling my knees ever so carefully so they didn’t toss me into the mucky water-soaked plastic like a bucking bronco.

*Snap*

*Crackle*

*Pop Pop Pop*

The all too familiar sounds of a revolt surged through the air, but I dug with the steadfast approach of a fullback at the 5-yard line.

After a whole lot of grunting and groaning, I had the first hole successfully dug and an eggplant placed firmly in the ground. I was on a roll. Five more of those, then half a dozen of those annoying cabbage plants (I swore I grabbed cauliflower), a few herbs and I was sweaty, soiled, and done. It was not an enjoyable experience and I did not release any stress or feel relaxed at the end, as some people claim to. I did learn quickly not to stay bent over with my head down in 97% humidity for too long. Things will start to tilt more than usual.

The pepper plants. Remember them? Fifteen of them, to be exact. There was no room at the inn (in this case, the garden) for the pepper plants. S had to dig up a chunk of yard on the side of the house to plant them, and he worked on this while I was chucking dirt, stuffing plants in holes, and shoving soil back in to fit under the black tarp. Once I was done, Lord help me, I went over to where S sat on the ground by the side of the house and asked if I could help him with anything else. In a somewhat dazed expression he stared at the area yet to be dug up. I could see he was starting to lose steam and it didn’t look like much more would get done that day. I was all right with that, since I had a date with YK to shop when she got out of work and it was just about time for me to de-grunge.

For the next few hours I forgot about gardening and shopped ‘til I nearly dropped. College and “stuff” shopping with a teenager is fun and exhausting. We made a pretty good dent in her list of things to bring with her at the end of August, along with a few other must have items for both of us. I was looking forward to getting home at the end of this very active day and relaxing with pizza and Iron Man 2.

We pulled into the driveway and I heard the not-too-distant sound of a lawn mower. No. It can’t be. He was giving up, ready to call it a day when I left three hours ago – what happened?? But there he was, pushing the lawn mower along at a pretty good clip. This was not good. This meant he was not done and there would be no relaxing until he was. The pizza would get cold. Movie hour would get late. Plans for a restful evening were quickly slipping out the window and down the street to some family with a perfectly manicured lawn and fresh vegetables at dinner from the garden they planted in early May.

Fortunately, YK graciously accepted being volunteered to finish up the very small amount of lawn yet to be mowed. I bit the bullet, donned clean grungy clothes on, and went out to help S finish up a little more planting while the mosquitoes had a feast day on my legs. At one point I thought he was going to duck when loud, snapping sounds akin to distant shots echoed through the air… simply my knees making it clear Advil would be my friend on this night.

The most important part of our mission was making sure the one spindly little tomatillo we bought was safely planted in the ground and stabilized with a stake next to it. The poor little thing almost seemed to shiver like a Chihuahua sandwiched between two Great Danes. Of everything we have in our garden, this is the one I am rooting for the most.


Who will help me eat my plants (or something like that)?

It won’t be long before we enjoy the fruits (well, vegetables) of our labors. I’m not sure we will ever be good at planting earlier in the season or picking out just the right amount of plants, but I can honestly say it was fun to be more involved in the process.

Grow, little tomatillo, grow!
On a completely different note (not really), I am truly thankful we have many wonderful friends and a thriving church community.... who will be seeing cabbage dishes at every function we attend for quite a while.

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