Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Gardening is For Risk Takers

Gardening has made me more of a risk-taker. Don’t laugh; I’m serious. When I moved into my first home after college, I immediately set off for the local hardware store and bought a flat of impatiens. I planted them in a neat row outside my little house trailer (again, serious). Having grown up in the woods, I knew these particular flowers would grow in the shade provided by the maple tree that sheltered my home. I spaced them exactly as the tag instructed and smiled all summer every time I came home and saw the happy pattern of pink- purple – orange – pink – purple – orange. For the next few years I planted more impatiens and when I moved to a sunnier locale, I planted petunias. I walked past the complicated perennials in their big pots with their big price tags. I didn’t have the budget for that – and what if I killed them as I had every house plant I’d ever offered shelter to? As a gardener, I played it safe.

When my husband and I bought our first house it came with a long gardening history. A huge established perennial bed loaded with coreopsis, iris, dame’s rocket, lily of the valley, coneflowers, and peonies filled the foundation of the old carriage house just outside my kitchen door.  A 60 foot long asparagus bed and tidily contained raspberry patch grew along the edges of the property, along with gooseberries (?) and justaberries (???), strawberries, black raspberries, rhubarb, blackberries, and seven fruit trees! My gardening education took a steep curve upward. Sadly, I must report in the first year alone we killed the peach tree, tilled under the weed-infested strawberries, and could only stare in confusion at the gooseberries and justaberries – what do you do with those?
Our Carriage House Foundation Garden (circa 1996)

My greatest gardening goal was simply not to kill anything else. And we did get better. I learned to freeze and can almost everything we grew.  I even planted more perennials and started an overly ambitious vegetable garden which mostly fed the deer and rabbits. And then I got pregnant and handed my garden over to the weeds and my husband.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

(Almost) Screen Free Vacation

We’re taking a vacation next week! It will be a whole week with no animals to feed, no gardens to worry over, no grass to mow, no screens to dull our minds! Or mostly no screens.

When I was a kid we spent two weeks at the beach every summer. I loved those weeks. We rose with the sun, surf-fished endlessly, played in the water, and lay on the sand reading. We always arrived at the shore with a stack of books we’d selected the week before when Mom took us to the Bookateria, a local used book store that let you trade in old paperbacks for credit. We each got to fill a grocery bag full of books for our vacation. I loved the possibilities of those books and the long days and quiet evenings spent turning the pages. Some nights we played Hearts, Parcheesi, Risk, or Rack-O. We basked in our parents’ undivided attention. On afternoons when the sun burned too hot for the beach, we’d tramp across the dunes to Newman’s Shell Shop and spend hours studying the shells sold by the pound and savoring the air conditioning before picking out that year’s hermit crabs.  Some nights we’d hunt ghost crabs and study the stars. Other nights Dad would build a bonfire on the beach and we’d fish through the tide change. We’d come home from vacation just in time to start back to school with our coolers full of fish, our skin bronzed, and our books crackling from the sand still left between the pages.

The one thing that was never a part of our beach vacations was a television. Amazingly, every cottage we rented was without one! After I grew up, my mom confessed that each summer when we pulled in to our rented cottage, Dad would demand that we all help him untie the car top carrier and stow the beach chairs and buckets under the house while Mom would hurry in, locate the TV, unplug it and hide it in the Master bedroom closet where it would stay for the duration of the vacation. Pretty clever, my parents.