My Pale Green Thumb

I’m fighting a battle, one wherein I desire to be taken seriously.  Throughout my life, I’ve discovered that if I’m not learning something, I’m not happy.  When I graduated college, I embarked on a series of adventures trying to keep the student in me happy and full of knowledge.  First, I learned about wedding planning and the suckitude therein.  Then I learned about house building.  That blew harder than the wedding planning, or getting caught in a bear trap in the tundra with no knitting to keep you warm and a strangely-immune-to-the-cold zombie shambling toward you with hunger in his dead and fevered eyes.  Next came procreation and all it entails, from conception to birth, and that naturally flowed into parenthood.  For the first three years of Son’s life, I made it my mission to know everything I could about parenting from trends, advice and which side of the fence I fell on hot button issues like Cry It Out and Formula vs. Breastfeeding, and the unimaginative people behind children’s movies.  When he was four, we got pregnant with his sister, so I reimmersed myself in all things baby.  In the last year and a half, I’ve begun to step outside my little family bubble and remember there are other things than kids kids kids.

So I tried to learn about photography.  I love photography, but find myself so tired at the end of the day and facing so little time with my kids in the evenings before bed that I didn’t feel comfortable using that time to practice taking pictures.  I didn’t want to spend the couple hours a day I get with them watching things happen behind a lens.  That didn’t seem fair to them, and to be truthful, when I did pick up the camera, I didn’t want to be distracted by refereeing kid fights when he’d take her toy from her and she’d screech like a howler monkey on speed and come ram her head into my knees, hobbling me.  I wasn’t going to learn anything that way.  Not to mention that the equipment is mighty pricy. 

Knitting came next.  I’m still in the throes of that. But there’s been something else.  The whole time I’ve been courting knitting, and even before then if truth be told, I’ve been seduced by something else, something completely out of character for me.  Gardening.  I don’t like being outside when it’s hot.  I don’t like getting dirty.  I don’t like bugs.  But gardening keeps beckoning to me with the promise of produce as fresh as can be, bounty large enough to be preserved and saved for year round use, the idea that I can grow the food we eat and therefore can control that which gets put on the plants and in the soil it in which it roots.  The green movement in this country has contributed to my desire to nurture a green thumb to reduce our family’s carbon footprint, as well as save on our grocery bill.  The fact that I like to experiment in the kitchen a bit helps and spurs me on a desire to find new ways to cook veggies, to plant veggies I’ve never tried before and to increase the variety of things we eat in our house.  That I want to have a big garden necessitates a need to learn to can and preserve that which can be saved for the year.  That in itself appeals to me because my dad’s family were farmers and canning was a way of life when he was growing up.  I feel like it brings me closer to my own roots.  When my parents visited in May, my dad bought a bushel of strawberries at our local orchard and made a bunch of jelly out of it.  He bought some of the supplies to do the canning and so I already have a better start than from scratch.  The only thing that scares me is the potential for botulism.  I don’t want to poison my family.

Where does the fight come in?  Well, mainly with my husband.  He likes fresh tomatoes, and he’s all for a small garden with tomatoes, onions, and squash.  But he’s not on board with the big garden with raised beds taking up half our yard, and a compost bin for fertilizer.  He doesn’t get the whole green thing, though he’s the one who got me started a couple years ago when he saw that energy efficient light bulbs could save us on our electric bill.  For him, it’s all about the money.  We drive the more fuel efficient car most of the time because of better gas mileage saving us at the pump; we got a diesel truck because it hauls the camper better but who cares that it’s lower emissions; he wants to plant trees not for the environment, but for their aesthetically pleasing look and their shade which might give our air conditioner some relief in the summer.  A garden to him is simply a means to save money at the grocery store.  So when I mentioned my dream garden to him, all the varieties of veggies, and the work I want to put into it, he poopooed the idea because it would require him to build me some raised beds, fence it in to keep the dog out, and help me with composting and doing some of the work.  He also said he wasn’t interested in many of the vegetables I wanted to plant.  Beets?  I don’t know that I could eat all the beets by myself.  I could try.  I definitely know I couldn’t do the asparagus by myself.  And yes, I want to try asparagus, though I know it takes 7 years to grow and is extremely sensitive. 

new season for the vegetable garden

But I’m inspired.  I want to make jars of my own spaghetti sauce.  I want to have fresh tomato cucumber salads in the summer.  I want onions that sing in chili mace with my own beans and tomatoes and tomato paste. I want to make strawberry rhubarb pie out of my own strawberries and rhubarb.  I want to grow my own pumpkins for the kids for Halloween.  I want to learn the different things to do in the kitchen with chickpeas.  I want to show my kids how to take care of their environment in a way that is both healthy for the Earth and themselves, how to use what Mother Nature has to offer to live and instill in them a healthy respect for soil that isn’t littered upon or covered over with asphalt.  I want to have a fresh herb garden so I don’t have to pay $5 for a small jar of a spice that is dried out and muted in flavor.  I want to eat as locally as I can, expending my own bodily energy instead of machined energy to harvest my food.  I want to make my own pickles, try different kinds of lettuce, do something besides get in the car and drive to the store, pay too much for food that will go bad before we can eat it, and then throw it away.  But I need to convince my husband.  He’s skeptical, saying this might be like the photography thing in that we’ll invest the money into it and then I’ll find a reason to quit.  I’ll say back that the photography thing isn’t gone, just on hold until a.) I can afford the equipment, and b.) the kids get older and don’t require as much supervision so I can put my face behind the camera and not turn around a second later to find that the baby has upended the cocoa powder on the kitchen floor and is ‘painting’ in it.  True story.  I’ll say that this gives back in a way that photography doesn’t.  This can save us money at the store.  This can make our food taste better (that should appeal to the chef in him).  This is the way

If that doesn’t work, I’ll bribe him with sex.  And hand knit socks.

Anyone have any good gardening tips?  I’m starting from scratch.


3 Responses to “My Pale Green Thumb”

  1. September.30.2009 at 11:10 PM

    You really, really need to read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver! It got me going on my garden and we’ve been off the vegetable grid for 2 years…
    Oh, and about beets… find out if the farmer’s markets in your area do a food exchange (or your book club, etc.) Our market lets you bring what you’ve grown and exchange it for extras someone else has brought. This way you don’t have to grow high-yield, low use veggies AND you get a personal size portion of beets!

  2. October.1.2009 at 8:17 AM

    That’s a great idea! Thank you! I do have some books on request from the library that I’m hoping will help me out too.

  3. 3 Jen
    October.1.2009 at 11:32 AM

    We are doing a garden also this next spring. About four years ago we had a huge garden that yeilded a lot of produce. It is a family affair with us. My son loves to garden, just this past year he planted (without my knowledge) mini pumpkins in our flower bed. By July the pumpkins had grown across the front deck and out into the yard. We ended up with 46 mini pumpkins. AND that was after I went in and pulled off a bunch(between 20 and 30 blooms) that were 1/2 grown through out the summer.

    Get Sassmouth invovled in it. I wish my grandpa were alive, he knew how to garden!

    Oh some tips. The old neighbor used to put straw down around everything to help with the weeds and use human hair to keep the animals away from your veggies.

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