Ups and downs, ins and outs, curve balls and random collisions. Who said Life was going to be easy? As I sort it out, here's a collection of my essays, newspaper columns and mental meanderings about family, friendship, ecology, politics and a world that goes bump in its fright.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I’m About To Be Seduced Again

I can see the signs; I can feel the stirrings in my heart. The alluring photos, the sensual descriptions, the come-hither language. And here I am, the eternal optimist, allowing myself to be charmed – even encouraging enchantment.

Day after day, the seed catalogs appear in my mailbox and day after day, I allow my mind to drift to how life could be if only. If only I planted the “Butterfly-Hummingbird Garden Collection” that's practically fluttering in bright pinks and purples from the pages of the Audubon Workshop; if only I made a cold-frame like those described in the pages of Mother Earth News and started some pretty lettuce and spinach plants from the seed packets I received as a come-on from Nichols Garden Nursery; if only I turned that corner of the yard by the back door into a little kitchen herb garden.

In the background as I’m thumbing through these catalogs, making lists (in pencil at this point: I’m not ready to commit) and wondering exactly how much I actually could grow on a small urban yard, I hear the snazzy tune of an old, familiar song. I’m jest a girl who cain’t say No; I’m in a terrible fix. I alluz say Come on, let’s go! Just when I orter say Nix!

I know better. I’ve been here before. The first year I moved to Kansas – from the wind-swept wilds of Wyoming, where, if you planted 32 tomato plants and tended them carefully, you might end up with 64 actual tomatoes – I went a little mad in the local nursery. I bought heirloom cherry tomatoes, heirloom slicing tomatoes, heirloom sauce tomatoes and then, just in case the heirloom thing wasn’t as great as I hoped it would be, I bought some of the old standbys: Big Boy, Celebrity. And then, because I wanted to make sure I had tomatoes as early as possible, I even bought a couple of Arctic something-or-others, developed with a very short growing season for people in cold climates. 32 tomato plants.

I also bought three tomatillo plants, just to see how they’d do here (the answer: Splendidly.) If anyone in Kansas is looking for a cash crop, allow me to recommend tomatillos, that pungent little green fruit so essential to South-of-the-Border sauces. Tomatillos love Kansas’ climate. I had tomatillos for the multitudes.

And sufficient tomatoes to feed global hunger. I started out carefully nursing my tomato plants, fussing over them as though I still were in Wyoming and needed to say the appropriate incantations and hold my mouth just right to get the earth to cooperate. By the end of the summer, I was practicing not benign neglect, but openly hostile neglect. See? I can pass right by you and NOT turn on the garden hose.

Of course, I couldn’t keep that up for long, given the spirit of my father, a.k.a. my garden wizard, tsk-tsking his disapproval in my ear. So I watered and I weeded in a surpassingly minimalist way. And I got tomatoes! Exuberant, oh-my-lord tomatoes: Yellow tomatoes, orange tomatoes, paste tomatoes, slicers. The day I happily put together a basket of tomatoes to share with my co-workers, I discovered an awful truth: In August, everyone in Kansas is trying to pawn off tomatoes on everyone they know.

I was stuck. So I froze and I canned and I dehydrated and still I had tomatoes. I ate so many tomatoes that the acid gave me mouth sores. By early September, I was actually happy that the grasshoppers had discovered the tomato patch. I had a dream in which my neighbor Nancy (with whom I was sharing a garden space, and who had planted tomatoes of her own) and I stood in our garden wearing tattered nighties, laughing maniacally and chucking tomatoes at passing cars.

So this year, I know I must let my head lead my heart. Just because the Kitizawa Seed Company says those blue melons can be grown in my climate doesn’t mean I need to try. And just because the magazine article says I can make those cool garden-tipi trellises in an afternoon doesn’t mean I actually have to. Maybe ornamental gourds will grow along my south fence, but honestly, are they really right for me?

There’s a certain predictability to this romance. I’ll fall for the pretty pictures and the sweet nothings and then time will move on and I’ll be left with all these offspring and neither time nor money to give them everything they need. By late August, I’ll have an orphaned garden and a heart full of shame.

No. I simply must resist. Must be rational. Must not ….

But look: Right here in the Nichols catalog, it says “Easy care.” And here … in the Audubon catalog, “Fun to Grow!!!”

I’m jest a girl who cain’t say No ….


Blogger Rose Marie said...

Is there any better place to surrender to sweet temptation than in the garden?

8:56 PM

Blogger KC_Compton said...

It's definitely in the top three!

The kitchen also ranks right up there. We'll leave location No. 3 to the imagination. ;-]


4:22 AM


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