Category Archives: Gardening

When I’m Not at My Desk

I’m in the Garden

When I was a little girl, my parents had a vegetable garden at the bottom of the yard. Every summer, they would harvest and can what they grew, so we had home-grown vegetables all winter long. We stored the glass jars in a cupboard in the basement and even though I hated to go downstairs alone, it was a treat to choose the vegetable for dinner.

I remember sitting on the back steps with my sister, a bowl and a brown paper sack of green beans between us. My fingers always got tired, but I never minded snapping beans. The ends went back into the bag for the compost pile and the short pieces went into the bowl for Mom to can, except for the ones that made their way into our mouths. I still love the crunch of raw beans.

Eventually, Mom and Dad gave up the vegetable garden and that was the end of those steamy summer afternoons spent canning in our small midwestern kitchen.

My first house was a rental, but I couldn’t stop myself from planting a few blooms in the beds next to the front door. Every time we moved, what made the new place feel like home was working in the garden, editing out plants I didn’t like and putting in my favorites: lavender and roses, rosemary and sage. I still plant those, but now I like to try new plants, too, especially natives and drought tolerant varieties like California Lilac and sun drops.

This year, I made small raised bed for vegetables. Over the winter I grew radishes and lettuce; in the spring, carrots, onions and peas. What fun to check on the progress of my seedlings every morning, to stain my fingers pink harvesting radishes, to nibble on pea pods out in the yard.

I love the time I spend outdoors getting dirt under my fingernails, even if I’m only pulling weeds. It’s mostly mindless work. My eyes find the unwanted plants and my fingers ease them out of the ground while my brain is busy working out plot problems and imagining scenes. I can’t draw or paint to save my life, but planting a new bed lets me play with shape and color.  Perhaps even more importantly, I rest my eyes on green plants and work out the kinks in my muscles after too many hours spent staring at a computer screen.

Gardening gets me outdoors, keeps me moving and is cheaper than a gym membership. It’s the perfect complement to my writing life.

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