Sunday, November 7, 2010


How to make a garden: for two years throw your compost onto a small patch of land, not too far from the side door to make the walk a hard one in the winter but not too close that you can smell the rotting coffee grounds. Let the chickens eat their fill of your waste, scrabbling and scratching and fertilizing the dirt beneath their feet. In the fall, use a big blue tarp to drag leaves from the back yard, the front yard, the side yard, the bit of yard by the road - drag all those leaves over to your soon-to-be garden and cover it as if it needs a woolen blanket to keep warm. Moan plenty about your aching back that night, even though your pain is a proud one. In the winter, throw compost on the top of the snow. Worry about bears. Throw more compost on the top of the snow. If the bears are distracted by the garbage they won't bother coming over to the house. In the spring of year number two, trade with your neighbor - tilling services for fresh-baked bread. "Smells like it'll be good," he'll say after running over the plot a few times with those strong, jagged tines. He's not talking about the bread. Feel proud of your good-smelling dirt. Plant four tomato plants (started inside several weeks before, with help from the Baby who eats some of the planting soil; he is number three and eating dirt warrants only an exasperated look) even though frost is still a possibility. Plant a row of lettuce. Plant six broccoli seedlings, and a few egglants. Two days later kick madly at the chickens who assume these, too, are for their benefit. Whine to your husband about a fence. Replant the poor assaulted seedlings in pots and put them on the porch railing. Whine more about a fence. Rejoice when the fence appears (after more whining). Plant lots of tomatoes, broccoli, celery and Brussels sprouts and also encourage the various volunteers that surprise you every year. And carrots. Plant carrots, because the children like to pull them up and sometimes they even eat them. In November feel wistful when you pick the last of the carrots. Wish you had planted more. Wish you had a bigger garden. Whine to your husband about a bigger garden. Recognize that you love the garden even more once all the harvest is gone, once you have laid leaves and hay again over the earth. Dirt smells good.

In Science class this week T was asked to do some research on Kittinger and his unintentional breaking of the sound barrier in the 60's. At that time he parachuted from an altitude of 20 miles above the earth's surface. Turns out there are two people currently in a race to break that record. Reading the article I was surprised to learn all about the great lengths people have gone to and the risks involved. Getting up high enough seems to be the tricky part, though freefalling that fast can prove to be fatal. Glancing through T's assignment, I was reminded of an image that often flashes in my head at the strangest of times. It's of the woman in the movie “Apollo 13” staring up into space knowing that her husband is there, and yet has no contact with anyone. (M and I went to the theaters to see it to celebrate our first anniversary.) Having not lived through this period of history it still hit me hard, still does. It is the longing on her face that often haunts me. Recently young T (a's oldest son) asked for a birthday cake that would represent the earth as seem from the moon. Maybe a rather unorthodox request, but to me it seemed magical, like he was gaining some perspective. It was a chance for us to celebrate his turning a year older and possessing the ability to see oneself and one's planet from a different place altogether. Major milestones. The going out may be the exhilarating exciting part, but there too is the return. Always the return. The chance for the daredevil, spaceman, adventuresome boy to put two feet firmly on the ground; the solid steady earth welcoming him home.


  1. It wasn't your _whining_ that got the fence built... ;-)

  2. B, returning from sea was always lovely for me. It's cold out there. Always cold, even in the hottest weather. Coming home to the earth always felt warm and solid to me. Steady and welcoming, just as you wrote.

  3. Lovely, lovely history of the garden. Love you.