Saturday, July 16, 2016

On Gardening

Note: This post originally appeared at Stopping to Think on May 30, 2015.


This something of a procrastination post. I have far more important things to be doing. Yet here we are.

I love gardening. That is not to say that I am a gifted, skilled, or even particularly competent gardener. I just enjoy it.

As I took a walk around my neighborhood this evening with my pipe stuffed with some Old Shenandoah tobacco, and eventually wound up back in my yard, I had a few rambling thoughts about this activity, at least as it exists in my life. Gardening is far from cost effective. Every time I endeavor to start a garden, my rationale is that I will be saving my family all sorts of money in the long run. Sure, I have spent forty plus dollars in seed and at least that again in topsoil, compost, and potting soil, but surely there will be a payoff, right? Then I realize that I have planted the sorts of things we tend to eat...cabbage, spinach, lettuce, zucchini. Do you have idea how much produce of that nature you can buy for eighty dollars? A lot.

But homegrown things taste better. I'm not sure that this is entirely true, either, though it surely seems to be. One's own sweat, cash, and tears (anytime it hails or gets too hot) seem to add an extra zing of flavor to any produce one produces with one's own hands. Of course I'm not actually producing any of it.

That's part of the wonder of gardening, part of what brings so much joy. It seems like magic. You take a seed. You put some dirt on top of it, and either soak it with water or let the rain do that for you. Then, a few days, a few weeks, or (in the case of my lettuce) over a month later, green things, totally unlike that seed, magically start springing forth from the earth. Over the course of time those little green things take on a wholly different shape, and you begin to reap their benefits. Crunchy red lettuce. Crisp green cabbage. Crunchy purple carrots. Yes, I planted purple carrots. If I were to take someone from Mars, someone who had no experience having seen and assumed the way plant life on Earth works, and explained to them this process, they would look at me like I'm insane. Because who would ever think a tiny white seed would jump into being a three foot tall plant with edible red fruit hanging from its vines? That is insane. But that's what happens.

Gardening teaches me a lot of things that feel very valuable as I begin to raise my children. There is the substantial upfront investment. But that on its own, if left without further care, is meaningless. There is the continual weeding, thinning, pruning. Removal of what is excess and unhelpful. The encouragement and nourishment of that which is healthy. Careful watering, fertilizing, and praying that it all isn't in vain. Patience, because things don't happen nearly as quickly as one would hope. And hopefully, one day, payoff. Fruit. And since I've planted all heirloom seeds, hopefully fruit that will be produced over and over for many years and generations to come.

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