Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back To The Garden!

Welcome back, dear reader!

At last, the summer has finally come upon us, and from a personal point of view, it's been a long, cold, winter. Thankfully, I spent most of that winter indoors (way, way indoors), and was spared much of the aggravation of skidding along never-salted, under-plowed streets. I can understand ancient appreciation for the official summer solstice up here on the top half of the third rock. For starters, it's the longest day of the year, and ideologically furthest away from the December darkness that loomed over our afternoon commutes. Most people would readily agree that the prominence of darkness is the most morose aspect of the season of the forgetful sun. Ah, the sun! That bipolar sun, like an alcoholic spouse who rudely left us last night, is back with flowers and apologies. We always welcome back the contrite sun every spring, forgive its drunken abandonment during the wintry night, and forget how crudely it ignored our once thriving flora and fauna. We are free to roam the streets, released from our imprisonment of winter to seek out all the outdoor activities otherwise denied us by wind chills and frosty atmospheric intimidation.

"...and we got to get ourselves...back to the Garden..."

With summer suddenly becoming too expensive for most upwardly mobile individuals, obviously the cheaper alternatives float to the surface. There are countless simple alternatives to high profile activities in the local metropolis. Many will go to the woods, and many more will go to the beach or local white trash lake. Others will just hang out in the yard. Ah, the summer yard party - my personal favorite. They'll have a few beers, get baked by the sun (and whatever else they consume), and have a perfectly good time for few bucks per person. The kids can play in and jump around the historically unsafe above-ground pool, from which several head injuries will occur when little Dylan tries to somersault off the unfriendly, tractionless, hot aluminum railing. Traumatic head and limb injuries with those mercurial kids are a rite of summer, and with proper medical insurance, rather affordable.

For us older folks, gardening always proves to be a cheap, if not frustrating, diversion. I've gone back to the garden, to quote Joni, and like most other living organisms in my life, the plants are spiteful bastards, taking root with suspicious sluggishness. It started in May, when I started to laboriously break up the ground, and enjoyed the annual tradition of dumping forty pound bags of top soil into the crumbly, oddly ditchy, garden area. The sweaty bags of elderly top soil resided quietly in a corner of the garage, and provided a cozy, damp environment for countless insects, some of which surely have yet to be documented by entomologists. Occasionally, I'd find a hole in the bag, chewed out by some retarded mouse or squirrel that was so stupid it decided that soil might be worth eating. It's possible that the rodent in question might have been trying to dig into the bag for a winter shelter, but I much prefer the retarded rodent story. Speaking of retarded rodents, a squirrel got into the house a few weeks ago, and soon disappeared into the basement. Instead of going anywhere else in the house to find a drink, it decided to jump in the basement toilet for a drink. The squirrel was found dead in something like 3 inches of toilet water. Now THAT'S a retarded squirrel. Rodents notwithstanding, top soil needed to be poured. I will never understand what magic force of suburban erosion constantly steals my garden dirt, but it disappears every despicable winter, without any influence by man, machine, or dog. I don't live on a hill, in a canyon, or near a river. There is no drainage path nearby, naturally or man made. My theory is that the planet is stealing my dirt, very very gradually. The earth is reclaiming my yard, a square inch at a time. I find no other suitable explanation.

In late May, the supposedly reliable tomato plants were lovingly welcomed to their freshly tilled bachelor pads. Thanks to the abysmal late spring weather, these plants chose to grow at the rate of three microns per week. Seriously, if the folks from the original "3-2-1 Contact" were to post time lapse cameras on these bastards, it would be like staring at a postcard. And what a lousy postcard that would be. Moving along the terrain, I planted questionable pepper seeds, given to me by the neighbor who tosses pears at me every autumn, and the seeds were either on birth control or in disagreement with the unseasonably cool month of May. I took out my various garden weasels, chompers, rippers, and hoes (can we invent a new word?), erased the earthen slate, and subsequently planted actual pepper plants. I bought the pepper plants very late in the planting season, when only a few unclaimed plants could be still found for sale. I'm already suspicious of these plants. I'm sure they've adopted a bad attitude by feeling like they were playground kids who were last to be picked for a team. Great, now I'm putting my pepper future into a bunch of dumpy, near-sighted, nonathletic plants that none of the other cool shoppers wanted. My nerdy, embittered pepper plants have since taken well to their new habitat, though they, like the tomato plants, are growing at postcard speed.

Chalk it up to hippie Woodstock symbolism, but I decided to try growing sunflowers in a forgotten area near the alley. I might simply have a predilection for all things tall. I had never grown them before, and as a friend often told me, they are very happy looking plants. To wit, it's certainly easy to imagine little smiley faces on sunflowers, not unlike seeing Wile E. Coyote dressed up as a cactus, romping around the desert road. Since I've already gone to embarrassing lengths to personify various other plants, I might as well run with the smiley faced sunflowers. At the store, I picked out a packet of seeds, chosen from myriad other varieties and colors. The happy picture on the seed packet was crudely offset by the harshly printed words "GROW TALL" and at the bottom, "EDIBLE SEEDS". I'm sure the latter is printed for reasons of safety around children, but how hungry are these kids, that they're considering eating an unsalted, unroasted, bland sunflower seed? Of course I tried one. I also tried dog biscuits when I was a kid. A KID. I liberally planted the seeds, burying them well below the surface of the soil, lest the avaricious birds nag their way into the dirt and ruin my smiley faced dreams. After a few days, sprouts! Only a few, but enough for a start. After a few weeks of slow growth and fighting off the neighborhood bullies known as weeds, the plants gained some prominence in their domain. Since they are growing as gradually as their grouchy brethren across the yard, I doubt they will be knee high by the fourth of July. If they grow four feet tall by September, I'll be surprised. If they grow with smiley faces, I'll be checking myself for head injuries along with little Dylan.

Finally, I decided that one forgotten area in the corner of the yard could be rescued for growing something - anything. Once again, I pulled out my various garden implements; the weasels, the gobblers, the stompers, clompers, and soilerators. The till-o-matic, the garden devil, and of course the hoe (again, can we change that name?). Unfortunately, adjacent to the area to claim, the ecologically unfriendly air conditioning compressor loomed without approval while I worked the ground. I wondered if anything might grow in an area so close to a factory, so to speak. I poured some more Amazonian top soil into the plot, dunked some bean seeds, and soaked it with fervor. Weeks passed, and obviously the bean seeds protested the presence of the neighboring aluminum skyscraper. None of the seeds decided to bring seedlings to the party, and the entire tract of land, though painstakingly groomed, has given way to a bean seed cemetary. Gardening is like hosting a party - some won't show up at all, some will take their time, some will hog the area, and others will be picky. But it's the summer! Go outside!


Xoynx said...

Yucko. For me, outdoor time is spring & fall, when temps are in the 40s-50s. Summer itself in Chicago is way too nasty--I'm now trapped inside with the A/C cranked.

Wendi Manning said...

Welcome back? We were always here. And no, I will not go outside. There is heat and bright light out there. No thank you sir, I'll keep my vampiric self inside.

Janis Francis said...

Welcome back, my incredibly prolific writing friend! Missed ya!

Fagedaboudit said...

Funny! I was an avid gardener untill '97. Haven't had the chance since. So I do know the struggles and some success from that "earthy" adventure.
Welcome back

Sherilyn said...

I like the word's like whispering a dirty little word OUTLOUD because it's okay when you're referring to your garden tool.