Meanwhile, out in the garden

By Mir
May 9, 2011

So I’m trying to keep busy while the world continues caving in, because I hear that helps to pass the time and make things seem less dire. HAHAHA. It’s not working, yet, but hope—and MIIIIIIIIINT!—springs eternal.

This means, of course, that I am turning all of my energy to my gardening efforts. Because school never calls to tell me that my tomatoes are poorly behaved! Basil never screams that it hates me! And although I’m no fan of the slugs, they are entirely predictable and survival-oriented in their quest to ravage my harvest, whereas the Mother’s Day discovery that a certain surly someone managed to send $40 worth of texts IN A SINGLE DAY maybe shouldn’t have surprised or infuriated me, but did, on both counts. (P.S. I know we will look back and laugh someday, but someday feels a very long way off, today, and may as well have been Pluto, yesterday.)

I shall find salvation in my garden. It’s a little reassurance from Mother Earth that not everything I touch turns to despair. I’ll even take credit for the mint, which as we all know hardly needs my permission or coddling to flourish. I know. I’m still taking credit, so shut up.

First there was the prepping and the planting. Later, there will be harvesting. There will be tomato salads tossed with just a touch of dressing, because they’re so flavorful they barely need it. There will be snap peas straight off the vine, warm and impossibly sweet and gobbled down by children fresh out of the pool with puddles pooling under their toes. There will be rogue zucchini that somehow suddenly appear, prickly and ominous, where I swear there was nothing the day before. There will be endless batches of pesto and oh yes, there will be basil-lime sorbet, perhaps my favorite sign of summer, melting in the middle of a bowl ringed with strawberry slices.

But right now, there is just watering. And waiting.

I go out every evening to tend to my boxes and inspect the progress. Right now, my gardening efforts are a study in hope and patience, two things I find the rest of my life wanting for in a major way. What I can’t manage indoors, these days, I find in my nightly meditations as I fill my watering cans, pluck baby weeds, run my fingers over the soil and breathe prayers I cannot speak the normal way.

Each sprout is a promise that may or may not come to fruition, but it’s the possibility, at least. And it’s progress I can track. It’s tangible. That’s a comfort, right now.

This weekend all my cucumber seeds decided to pop.

I look at these little leaves and I remember how last year one mammoth cuke hid from me for probably weeks before we found it. Proof that—while I treasure the growth I can see—sometimes I don’t see what’s changing, and that doesn’t mean nothing’s happening.

Of course, the neighbors’ million feral cats are coming around, again, and my herb garden still looks like a giant litter box to them. I’m all for the natural wonder of my gardening efforts and blah blah blah, but it was a good reminder that when protection is needed, sometimes you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

That seemed to solve the problem. And in a weird way, I rather prefer the box like this. It seems fitting, somehow. Lush! Green! But also pointy and weird! It almost reminds me of some people I know. Huh.


  1. Ellen G

    Sometimes you have to control something in your world. Any tips on how to keep deer away from your plantings? I’m trying a topsy turvey with tomatoes this year, and that feels VERY BIG…

  2. Joshilyn

    THAT IS ME. I AM A LAWN FORK. I AM POINTY AND WEIRD and….I protect basil? The metaphor is failign me right at the end, but I am a lawnfork IN MY HEART. And that is all.

  3. Jenni

    i have garden envy. last year a pepper plant from home depot gave my garden a dirt disease that kills peppers, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, squash, and pretty everything else i usually plant. and from everything i read about it, there is no fix. it was a very sad summer…

  4. Hally

    Mir~I totally understand how you’re feeling. Last summer, I spent my energy carefully training my peas to climb the trellis gracefully and the pumpkin vines to follow the path designed just for them. (well I spent energies there rather than exhausting them with mother/daughter drama that my mother wants to insist on, and I being 30ish refuse to indulge)
    Hang in there Pretty Mir and remember that you will have beautifull Caprese Salad this summer and THAT will mostly certainly will leave a good taste in your mouth, when swallowing all your words that you WANT to say and didn’t leaves a poor one.
    Happy May!

  5. Karen R.

    Love the fork solution! I’ve seen plastic spike mats — soft enough not to injure, but pointy enough to deter, but I like your method better. I’ll be putting them in the container plant I drag in every fall so it can bloom again in the summer — if I can keep our cats out of it.

    Save some of that basil to snip over your GF pizza when it comes out of the oven — yummmmmm!

    Texting is the bane of my existence. Youngest has a 5000 text plan, plus unlimited in-plan texts. She also goes over… She is now a college grad (Yay!) and will pay for her own cell phone use once she finds a job. I suspect she will be a lot more careful once she is responsible for the overages.

  6. Christina

    I am once again way behind on my plans for a garden this year. But with the cats in the neighborhood, I’m totally stealing that fork idea when I finally get my butt in gear!

  7. Andrea

    I don’t know if you keep the slugs because you are trying to stay organic or because you are a lover of all things in heaven and on earth but I despise slugs and just tried beneficial nematodes for the lawn and garden. Don’t ask about how they work-it is disgusting- but my lawn is still healthy for the kiddos to run around it and hopefully I won’t find them as I dig. Just a thought (also, they get rid of cabbage beetles and the hornworm , I believe, is history)…

  8. MomCat

    So lovely! If only we had some rain…wistful sigh. I will get my vicarious garden delight from looking at your pics.

    Text suggestion – make her hand over the phone till she can hand you the cash and tell her this will happen every time she goes over. When I did this, my daughter did not do it again.

    Sending comforting energy and prayers your way.

  9. Jill W.

    Obviously I need the recipe for basil-lime sorbet…

  10. Lynn in Mass

    I totally understand how you find peace in your garden. For me, I find peace and happiness when I can find time to go out take some pictures. I have always loved to take pictures and share them. I noticed that I have slacked for a period in my life. I have recently purchased a new camera and take so much joy in learning about it and taking so many pictures again.

  11. Rachael

    Seriously. Unlimited text/data/cell minutes plan = worth not paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in overages for us every year.

  12. Varda (SquashedMom)

    As an urban apartment dweller, who for only a brief period in my adult life lived in a house with a yard, I am all about the garden envy now. There is something so wonderful about having your hands in the dirt and smell of the rich earth in your nostrils and tending to those tender green beings that never whine. Sigh.

    I love all your garden metaphors, and yes that cucumber lesson resonates with me, too (especially as with my son on the autism spectrum so much is always hidden from my view).

    I wish you happy plants and happy children all spring and summer long. I know that’s a long shot, but one can always hope!

  13. burghbaby

    If the forks don’t make the “Fork Off, Cats” message clear enough, perhaps it’s time to give the cats something instead of trying to deter? Catmint is one of my most favoritest plants ever because it’s so purdy, and it attracts cats like crazy. I have it planted far, far away from the delicate stuff and it works oddly well. The cats go roll around in the catmint (Not catnip, btw. Catmint is prettier.) and leave my other stuff alone. Sure, they wander the neighborhood hide as a kite, but oh well.

  14. Angela

    Yay for gardening, it is definitely therapeutic! I’ve been doing some gardening for the past couple of years and seem to be getting better at it. You know what else is crazy and will take over a garden like mint? Cilantro! The stuff can’t be killed, it even survived the hard freezes we had over the winter here in Houston that killed nearly everything else. Turns into a huge bush, basically. You can’t make enough salsa for all that cilantro! My favorite, purple potatoes. They taste just like regular, but way more fun!

  15. Sheila

    Those forks are brilliant. Garden on, with your bad self.

  16. Karen

    Great idea with the forks! Um, may I suggest unlimited texting. I think it costs $9.99 and it totally eliminates any $40 days.

  17. jennamom2boys

    This? Is a GREAT metaphor. “Proof that—while I treasure the growth I can see—sometimes I don’t see what’s changing, and that doesn’t mean nothing’s happening.”

  18. Jenny

    Mint spri(n)gs eternal! Love it! Maybe your text messenger can put her (I’m guessing) manual dexterity to work pulling weeds when the time comes.

  19. el-e-e

    Gosh, I am jealous of your garden! Very impressive. and Basil-Lime Sorbet nearly made me fall out of my seat. You can make that? Like, just… in your kitchen?! whoa.

  20. meghann

    You might be interested to know I went to an organic farming class a few weeks ago. (Part of my new job helping to run a farmer’s market site) One of the tips I really remember is that peas are a great thing to grow. They actually pull nitrogen out of the air and put it back into the soil, so just growing them fertilizes the soil. (Well that, and rye, if you wanted to try your hand at growing grain, lol!)

  21. Grace

    Those forks are brilliant. They’re so…sculptural. I love it.

  22. Cyndi

    Mir, I can empathize with you. I received a call from my 16 year old the night before Mother’s Day that his car had been towed for parking where he should not have parked. $255 fee. And, it could only be picked up between 1 and 2 on Mother’s Day. The exact time my sister ad I were taking my Mom ro Mother’s Day lunch. My son has had his driving privileges restricted until he has paid back the $255.

  23. All Adither

    And if only we got some sun…having a vegetable garden sounds so satisfying. All i can manage in my yard is lettuce. Glad you have that solace though.

  24. Katie in MA

    Does this mean that your taping plastic forks all over your people? Because duuuude. That would make me laugh and feel loads better. :)

  25. Katie in MA

    /you’re/ taping plastic forks…

    Yes, that bothered me enough that I had to correct it. I’m a dork and I’m okay with that.

  26. Heather

    I am mad jealous of your basil. And your cleverness with the forks. Heeee.

  27. Sandy

    I love the fork solution too. It may be the answer to my problem with squirrels going after my flowers. And it looks very artsy too :)


  28. karen

    VERY CLEVER FORK IDEA~~~ I’m thinking you’ve found that “stupid thing a person invents and makes a zillion dollars, why didn’t I think of that” thing.

  29. Chuck Mann

    I’ve never “gotten” texting the way young people do. I mean, I’ll send them once in a while and all, but I can’t imagine that being my preferred way to talk to someone. Yet to teenagers sometimes it seems like it is.

    Your garden looks awesome, and I am already jealous of all the fresh veggies and herbs you will harvest.

  30. laura

    My darling daughter moved to Chicago on Mother’s Day. Chicago is a very big city VERY FAR AWAY. I did not cry or rant or rave or even pout. I just told her when I am in the nursing home I will remind ALL of my visitors of the year when my darling daughter moved FAR AWAY on Mother’s Day.
    Guilt. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  31. Daisy

    The forks – I could try that. It might make that pesky squirrel stop planting its own seeds in my garden. I hang old computer CDs to wave in the wind, in the hopes that they’ll scare away the crows that would eat my lettuce seeds. They’re Windows 3.1; that should be scary enough, don’t you think?

  32. Liza

    Those forks look AWESOME! And you have finally given me the answer I was seeking — WHY have I suddenly become obsessed with my garden? Answer: Easier than my kids. Way.

  33. Debbie

    Unlimited texting is a moneysaver when you have children who love to text. My teenagers spent more time texting friends than talking to them on the phone.


    I love to grow things… except, clover, where I am extremely proficiently green thumbed. I love that the ad next to your blog was a Hidden Valley Ranch commercial. It was seemingly fitting of good things to come.

  35. Leila (Don't Speak Whinese)

    Gardening is my Om. It is also a family activity. The kids and I love to garden together and it is my excuse to randomly squirt my cat and children for my own amusement.

    I’m going to try the forks next. ;)

  36. Little Bird

    Don’t you have an adjacent neighbor with dogs? Plant that catmint along that property line!

  37. Nancy

    Like you, I am loving the gardening. Between the stress caused by the kids and stress from work, I needed a healthier option than drinking. We have flowers in front of the house, berries and gourds on the side and veggies and herbs in the back. Yummy. And this year we are experimenting with giant pumpkins!

    DH heard that coffe grounds would keeps the cats away. I think the forks look way cooler.

  38. Kristen

    Jealous. It was snowing here in Wisconsin up until last week, I swear! I haven’t planted anything yet!!!!

  39. Lori

    Unlimited talk and text packages will save your sanity with a teenager. Totally worh the extra $. I’ve had a few of those surprise bills as well . . . not fun!

  40. Heather

    According to one of my best friends it is all about the unlimited texting plans and worth every penny (she has a fourteen, twelve in a week, and six year old) – anything to lesson the bill anxiety is worth it in the end – plus it was actually her phone number on the family plan that was going to put them over one month. She kept texting the oldest two since they were responding. Love the garden and very jealous since we had frost last week in the north – today it is suppose to be 83. I hope that the summer evens out.

  41. Lisa

    You and the MIIIIIIIIINT! You make me crazy with the mint! :P I, for one, am *still* pulling it out of my beds, 5 years after I planted it, because I don’t want it anymore!

  42. The Mommy Therapy

    I’ve been out of town and busy doing things like 20 loads of sand filled laundry, so I am just now reading several posts at once. I feel like I missed out on a lot of emotions. I hope you are feeling more positive, more capable of forward motion, and more confident in all that you do as a parent.

    Just reading how you feel and how you react to all that is thrown at your children, and therefore at you, shows how much you love and how very diligent you are in trying to make things better for all of you.

    I love that the garden gives you peace, something to retreat and invest in outside of your family. It sounds wonderful. Makes me want to go plant something or water something.

    Thanks for always sharing so honestly! And I like it when you write when you are feeling emotional…it feels relatable and true. :)

  43. reading between the lines

    Perhaps it’s just me but I got more out of this than just gardening advise. After reading, I’m inspired to grow more than just a garden. A recent, very painful divorce, has forced me to look within myself. After raising 3 children and devoting myself to one person for 27 years, I realize now it’s time for me to grow. The forks that protect the fruits of your labor are much like the fence I’ve protected myself with. Perhaps I’ll still have to guard myself from those that just want to feed off of me but I will now allow others to help me flourish.

    Thank you for the inspiration. I will, for the first time, plant a garden this year. Perhaps it won’t be the best but I will try to plant things that compliment each other. I’ll allow the earthworms to help the roots grow strong. I’ll choose a spot that will allow enough sunshine in without burning the leaves… and yes… I will enjoy the refreshing taste of mint.

  44. RidgewoodMom

    We too have feral cats in our yard. 90 year old neighbor has taken it upon herself to feed the entire stray cat population of Queens, which then uses our yard as the kitty litter (GROSS). I like the fork idea. I might try it. DH uses little bamboo sticks, and puts fishing wire between the sticks and that keeps them out of the herb garden. I also sprinkle cayenne pepper and hot paper flakes all over the garden. I read that it gets in the soil, and then when they dig up the dirt to do their business, it burns their bum. They should just stick to their own yard.
    Good luck with the garden. We planted our first crop of peas this year…ever…so we’ll see what happens.

  45. angie

    What is it about being outdoors, cultivating life that brings sanity? Every time I have a difficult emotional situation, I always feel better after going outdoors and digging in the dirt. Even weeding is a release! I’m so proud of you and your veggies. I have so far only had success with flowers.

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