Monday, January 14, 2013

What Roots Us

I sit here typing with very dirty nails.  I spent the week-end returning to gardening projects, and as a result, I'm feeling somewhat more rooted than I have been.

A few months ago, my spouse spent a week planting many things in pots and containers of all types.  We've tried the old-fashioned gardening where we put seedlings directly in the ground, but we haven't had much luck with vegetables.  We've got very sandy soil and a variety of pests.  Container gardening works better.

So far, we've had great luck with lettuce, so we've been having more salad.  We don't have lots of lettuce, so we've been experimenting with composed salads, with a bit of greens, some herbs, and additions from elsewhere:  hardboiled eggs, grated cheese, sauteed onions, pickles, olives, marinated beans,  other veggies like tomatoes and carrots, those kinds of things.

This week-end needed to be the week-end that we transplanted the tomato seedlings.  We had one huge pot with at least 30 seedlings--they needed more room.  And so, we spent the week-end providing that.

On Saturday we went to the Home Depot to get more dirt.  I often think of my grandmother's rich dirt.  Before she had to move, she lived in her house for over 40 years, and she dug her kitchen scraps into a plot of land by the huge shed in the back yard--old-fashioned composting.  As a result, she had amazing dirt.  How I miss that dirt.  She would shake her head in astonishment that anyone has to resort to going someplace to buy dirt--dirt, of all things! 

We've been composting too, ever since we bought the place in 1998, and we have nothing that resembles that dirt.  Sigh.

While we were at the Home Depot, we bought some mint plants.  They cost just under $4 a plant, which would also make my grandmother shake her head.  She's from a time and place where you planted a tiny sprig of mint, and it took over your yard overnight.  She'd be shocked that I'd pay for mint.

I've been looking for seeds, but I've had no luck in finding chocolate mint seeds.  So, when I saw healthy chocolate mint plants, I bought two.  The peppermint plant was an impulse buy.

Yes, some women buy designer shoes or handbags on impulse, but I buy mint plants unplanned.  That fact tells you much that you need to know about me.

That fact, and the fact that I'm going to work with very dirty nails.  I'll work the dirt out as the day goes on, but I like the reminder that I'm rooted.  Even before I plunged my hands into dirt yesterday, I had dirty nails.  Our creative worship service yesterday had an arts project with colored modeling clay which stained my nails and fingers; for more on the fun project, see this post.

Yesterday afternoon was perfect for transplanting:  warm, but in a temperate way, not a muggy/hot way, and overcast.  We gathered every pot we have and figured out where to put all the seedlings.  We're aware that some of them will not survive.  If they all do, we'll need more pots--what a wonderful problem to have.  We've got the new mint plants in pots too, and I'll be happy if they take over.

I don't have time to do the kind of gardening that my spouse does, but I'm happy to be part of the process here and there, and I know he likes the company.  And we both love the idea of being a bit more self-sufficient by growing our own food.

Don't get me wrong--it's not cost effective to grow our own vegetables.  I know that factory farming saves a family a significant amount of money, at least now, while it's still subsidized in so many ways.  But it's good to plunge our hands into soil, to remind ourselves of what roots us.  I love salads that contain food grown just outside the door.

But more than that, I love that I remember my grandparents when I help with the gardening.  I remember my grandmother, who did her version of composting, even when she no longer had a garden.  I remember my grandfather who spent time in the garden each morning to monitor the health of the plants and to do a bit of harvesting.  I remember the gnarled fingers of okra, the corn with its silky hair, the ribbons of beans.  I remember snapping those beans with my female relatives on the porch.

My spouse has similar memories, and it's good to share them as we plant.  It's good to dig our hands in the dirt and remember the generations before our grandparents, generations that also grew gardens.  It's good to get dirt under our nails as we dream about the future.

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