bitter lettuce

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

This year we planted a garden. In my state of constant list making, I have a mental list of things that I want. This is not the same as the “if we ever won the lottery” list. That is purely for fun. My list of things that I really want but do not have is incredibly short but one thing on it is a vegetable garden.

Our current house came with a fenced garden in part of the back yard so we were good to go! We planted seeds in little peat pots inside months ago. Around Memorial Day I got a local man to till up the garden and we planted our seedlings in neat little rows. The girls had fun playing farmer and it was a nice family activity. Then school got out and we headed south for three weeks to catch up on our family, friend and beach time.

We got back home and discovered that a lot of growing had been going on. Grass growing, that is. It was everywhere and it was thick. I was determined so I started weeding. Every morning I headed outside in my grubby jeans and got to work. Pulling grass on my hands and knees until I was exhausted and too hot to do anymore. It took just over a week but I got all of the plants cleared out. Even though about half of the garden did not survive the onslaught of grass, I was left feeling rather satisfied.
When we started all of this I had a whole list of reasons why it was a good idea. Eating better, fresher food, teaching the girls about growing food and all that is required. The list went on. But I have come to realize that this was something purely selfish. I wanted it. My sweet husband, of course, knew this already and humored me by being a good farm boy and responding to my laborious requests with a kind “as you wish”.

In all of the hours out in the garden pulling grass, I have discovered how much I enjoy it. I think it’s in my blood. My father grew up in rural North Carolina. In his community if you wanted to eat it, you’d better know how to grow it. This was not a matter of what was trendy or being organic. It was survival. He was one of 9 children and the only one to leave NC. My whole life, we have traveled back to see the family and I have always marveled in their gardens and the shelves of vegetables that they have grown and canned to feed their families through the winter. It is one of the most basic tenets in providing for one’s family and I find the whole thing rather appealing.
Unfortunately, I am not a very smart farmer. I shared this revelation with a friend and he said that he’s not a smart farmer either. But he’s a little smarter than he was last year. And smarter than he was the year before that. There is hope after all! I already have a list (shocking!) of what to do differently next year.

I have also realized that I am a very hands on person. Literally and figuratively. I love the feel of the dirt as I pat it down around young plants. I enjoy finding the grass that dares enter my Eden and ripping it out by the roots. Dispatching the enemy never felt so good. I enjoy sewing, baking and crafts for the same reason. I like to get my hands on it. I am a hands on mother and wife. I take the things that I am responsible for very seriously and I give myself fully to those things. Call it being a know-it-all, nosy, bossy, control freak, or whatever you want. It is just who I am.

Through all of this I am left with what promises to be a bounty of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, herbs, cantaloupe, peppers and kale. And even though my garden will never grace the pages of a magazine (except maybe as a “before” photo), I will continue to weed, nurture and prune until the season is done. I will look lovingly upon my beautiful lettuce in its fresh shade of bright green and try to forget that it is too bitter to eat.