I've been thinking about our garden lately. Last fall, on our final day before the end of the season, I planted eight rows of garlic and shallot bulbs. Now, with two or more feet of snow packed against the dirt, the day we'll pull them up feels pretty far away.
Last weekend Joe went down to the basement to get some potatoes left over from last fall. We thought we'd stored them in a dark and dry enough spot, but when he pulled the paper bag from its hiding place, we found all but a handful had sprouted. Useless. It wasn't just that, but a combination of things, including lack of time and the fact the garden is a 20-minute drive from our house, that inspired Joe to raise the question of not gardening this year. It was his idea in the first place, but I'm the one who's fallen in love with the process. Joe loves the results, and the theory behind learning to grow your own food, but he sees it mostly as an enjoyable chore.
Last winter I might've agreed -- we'd had the garden for less than a season, and it was hard work on a very short learning curve. But last weekend, it wasn't up for discussion. I can't wait to have the house overflowing with vegetables in their bulging reds and shiny greens and the way the kitchen smells like fresh, wet dirt after bringing in the first big bag of tomatoes or lettuce or corn. I'm starting to know what I'm doing.
Last spring, this was our garden plan:
This year I want to do things differently. I want to grow fewer things and space them more appropriately; I want to learn a new way of preserving what we grow. I want to learn more about composting, which we do, but certainly not as well as we could.
The past two years, we were lucky to get seeds in the ground to grow, and we moved blindly from sprout to table, no safety net of prior experience to guide our way. I never thought I'd get excited over seed catalogs.
Now here we are, moving an inch or two away from being true beginners, toward a slightly more certain center. And when I look outside my window and see a frozen lake and a dull gray sky, nothing makes me happier to imagine than green fields at mid-day and hot sun on your neck and an ache in your muscles that says you've done something good and real.