a time to plant


    I got to spend a good deal of the day in the yard cleaning up, pulling weeds, and beginning to fill the various containers we have along the driveway and the fence. Over our years in Massachusetts, Memorial Day has been the beginning of the planting season for me; this year things have warmed up earlier, so I got an earlier start. I enjoyed my day outside, even with the somewhat ominous evidence of climate change. Though I’m pretty good at the flowerbeds, I suck at lawn care, mostly on purpose. I don’t really like lawns. When we moved to Marshfield, we tore up most of the grass in the front yard and created perennial beds. Last year, I filled in the gaps with herbs, a couple of pepper plants, and some arugula. This year, I’m going to do more veggies among the blooms.

    I became a planter when we lived in Charlestown. Our “yard” was a two-tiered concrete slab next to our row house put in after the house that was on the lot burned many years ago. We covered it with planters – about fifty of them. A friend was visiting who was way ahead of me on the local food curve, said, “Why don’t you plant vegetables?” The simple answer was I had never thought about it. When we moved out of the city, I cleared out land behind the garage (mostly because I saw that was where my neighbors had their garden) and planted tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. The next summer, it was tomatoes and zucchini. I missed one of the squash under the leaves for several weeks and it was as big as a baseball bat by the time I picked it. Each summer I’ve added a couple of things. Last year, I learned about Square Foot Gardening and increased both my variety and my yield, adding numerous herbs, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, and Swiss chard to the mix. I may also going to try a bit of Hay Bale Gardening (which I learned about thanks to Tigre) if I get really ambitious.

    What I’m learning is I can grow a lot of food if I am consistent in my intentionality and effort. One of the joys of late summer and early fall for me is giving away tomatoes (that’s when we harvest them here). I’ve also learned what it means to enjoy things seasonally. I was allergic to tomatoes until about seven years ago. Thanks to a friend introducing me to NAET, which cured my allergy (I’m telling you it really works) and, for the first time in my life I could eat tomatoes. Our first summer here I grew my own and once I tasted them fresh from the garden I knew the year round varieties they sell in the supermarkets were impostors. I’ve learned a tomato is worth both the work and the wait.

    When Jesus told us to “consider the lilies,” part of the consideration had to be they only bloomed for a short time during the year. Learning to live with seasons means discovering some wonderfully temporary things, turn, turn, turn. During our time in New England, I’ve discovered the temporal joy of fiddleheads, and have a great and simple recipe as well that may not be of much use to many readers since I don’t think they get exported much. Hell, they only last a week or two around here.

    One of the things that bothers me about The Owner at The Inn is he treats people as a commodity: something he can consume at will without further thought. Our 24-7-365 world has taught us to disregard the seasons and all the other signposts built into creation, which leads to our thinking of the Earth in terms of commodities and production. Most of us can’t find one constellation, much less use the stars to find our place in the world. The steak or chicken we eat comes wrapped in plastic and we know little about how the animal lived or died. Neither do we know much of the plight of the workers who picked the bananas or grapes that were then flown halfway around the world so we could get them on special for seventy-nine cents a pound. (Actually, the bananas were twenty-nine cents here last week. Tell me someone in Haiti isn’t taking in the face on that one.)

    Whatever the justice issues are when it comes to food – and they are legion, my day of gardening reminds me I am closer to figuring out a way to incarnate the ethics of living and eating to which I’m attracted when I’m growing at least some of my own food. I am working to live as the folks to, as The Ethicurean says, “chew the right thing.”



    1. Hey, fellow Night Owl. Thanks for the link to NAET. I’ve a lifetime allergy to iodides, which has kept me from spinach and shellfish (ahhhhh cracked crab……*sigh*). If there’s a chance…..

      And good for you for gardening. I love it too, but currently don’t have time. So I just grow herbs like rosemary, thyme and basil, for the summer.

      “chew the right thing”…..great words.

    2. Ethicurean.com is one of my favorite sites. I check it at least every other day. I have quite a few Roma tomato plants this year, which I hope to turn into soffrito or pasta sauce. Last year I turned down bunches of zucchini, having nothing to do with so much of it, then discovered how delicious zucchini bread is, especially chocolate zucchini bread. It freezes well too. After having a heart attack in 2003 I have discovered my palate was changed too. Foods that are better for me, like tomatoes, have become tastier than before. Strange.

    3. The first spring we lived in this house, I made a little bed (about 4 x 7 feet) and somehow managed to plant lettuce,tomatoes, yellow squash, and green beans in that tiny space. That was a stellar year. The next year, the squash borers found us. No more squash–1015 onions and basil instead. In the past two years I have not planted a thing; we just bum tomatoes off my mother in law. Shameful. There is so much pleasure in growing vegetables; maybe I’ll decide to make time to put in some fall tomatoes, come August.

    4. Milton what a wonderful post… and I am interested and intrigued by Square Foot Gardening! So far I am all about the flowers… but you have made me wonder about tomatoes, you describe them so enticingly. Also, I loved hearing about your position on lawns. I AGREE. What a ridiculous use for land. I am considering doing exactly what you said–tearing it up and doing perennials.

      Happy dirt digging,

      Pax, C.

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