Monday, January 21, 2008

Winter Garden

In many ways, our garden is an exercise in disfunction. An example of people not really knowing what to do or when to do it. If it weren't for the fact that we were surrounded by one-hundred and forty other gardeners who inspire us, we might find ourselves nowhere at all. A purgatory of unsown soil and weeds.

The author whose writing most propels my gardening is Pellegrini, who lived here in Seattle for most of his life. For Helen, it's Kingsolver, who wrote this wonderful book. After she finished reading it it migrated to my side of the bed, where it now calls to me in my sleep.

Even though Seattle is temperate enough to garden year round, this year, our first year of gardening, there is nothing we can eat in four-hundred square feet of soil except one robust parsley plant.

But rather than dwell on what we don't have, here is a catalog of what we do:

Garlic. 57 bulbs planted on 10/21/07. Garlic, you are the only thing that is keeping us respectable right now. You tell other gardeners coming and going from picking their leafy winter greens that in this spot some aspirational gardeners are living out their dreams. You say, in some small measure, forethought, planning, frugality, devotion. Next winter, as your largest offspring fill this same spot and your smaller ones fill our tummies, we will think of you, your inaugural generation.

Artichoke. One plant. Unknown origin. An inheritance from the previous plot owner. Probably ten years old. A heart of steel. Artichoke, in the summer, through no fault of your own save your unruly nature, your expansive leaves blocked the sunlight from our heirloom French leeks and Walla Walla onions, a fatal error of planning (planting?) on our part. True, when you bore your own fruit they were small and ridden with insect burrows, sometimes inedibly so. But your flesh was so sweet and firm that the few small artichokes you gave us made keeping you around worth it. We trimmed you down to bare earth back in September and already you're back for more. Bless you.

Parsley. You defy reason. I thought you liked summer. In summer you were crazy. You looked like Robert Plant, or Slash. Now it's winter and if anything you've gotten bigger. You're like one of those Midwestern kids who can't decide which is better: a frigid snowy winter or a humid sun-filled summer (not that I know what this feels like or anything). I think you'll have to stay in that spot, even if it means this garden will eventually become a mismatch of permanent squatters like your friend the artichoke, leaving no room for actual rows of annuals. This garden is nothing if not a home for misbegotten souls.

Oyster Shells. You move me. You really do. I know that your minerals and nutrients would leach into the soil more easily were I to dig you under. I know that you may be one more piece of evidence of our gardening laziness or ineptness. I don't care. I love looking at your bleached out curves just sitting there, prone to the elements, the salty air that blows in from the Sound washing over you, calling you back home. You represent this garden, a work in progress.

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