Popcorn Homestead. That's where you'll find me today, writing about my inability to garden but still experience the joy of nature through others who do, such as Joan. Visit me there some time today when you get the chance. Meanwhile, enjoy Joan's take here on gardening and why she likes it so much:
Gardening is inherently full of wonder. There is no choice but to be filled with a sense of awe as the seed works it's miracle in the soil to push it's little green shoulders up out of the mucky soil to the sunlight.
Without fail at the start of each season I am skeptical this miracle will occur. The risks are high that the seed will be too deep or too shallow, the weather too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry. I worry each day through until I see the first bit of green emerge. To know a similar push with fibers seemingly even more delicate is occurring below boggles my mind. Together, the farmers and I watch daily as the first leaves (futaba in Japanese) are followed by the first true leaves -- chubby ones for basil and fancy serrated ones for marigolds -- take shape and multiply. We point out to each other with excitement the tiniest blueberries forming behind the blossoms or the mikan shaping themselves on the tree near the farmhouse.
In the garden, wonder comes in the obscure as well as the obvious. Under the blooms and fruit is an astoundingly alive and diverse world. I can't even begin to describe the joy I feel when I find a ginormous toad sheltering in my accidental mint forest or that I still feel when I think of all of the worms and critters I found when turning the compost bin earlier this spring. The abundant life moving about among the tattered remains of my popcorn, banana peels, and eggshells filled me with such pleasure that I literally gave a squeal of joy and did a little dance. The handiwork such creatures created since first building the bin last fall -- a rich hummousy soil that I liberally added to the areas being prepared for spring planting and plan to steep in water for a heady summer plant beverage -- means healthy soil, plants and increased odds for a good harvest of my Brandywines, edamame, green beans, squash, and chilli peppers.
I marvel, too, at the tenacity of other things. I grudgingly respect mint's ability to spread like a slow green fire through my beds, and to the bamboo that continues to erupt in the most unlikely and unwanted places despite my best efforts to eradicate it. (Organic efforts only as chemicals would destroy the animals and bacteria that create the soil structure my garden needs.) Annoyed and dismayed as I might be, I admire their pushiness and persistence. The bamboo, after all, arrived first and will most likely be here long after I'm gone, after the farm is perhaps eaten by an apartment building or parking lot. Given half a chance, I imagine plants such as mint, bamboo, and purslane will joyfully in turn eat up the building and parking lot.
It is the sheer miracle of life that the garden and farm contain that touches me even on the most miserably hot days or when I feel despair at the site of aphids sucking the life out of my beloved zucchini. It is the presence of such small miracles -- worms, bees, butterflies, blooms, ripening fruit, the crunch of the green bean, brilliant white ice crystals pushing black soil up early on a winter morning -- that rejuvenates me even as the season's work exhausts me. While Shinjuku's skyscrapers or Nikko's intricately carved temples amaze, for my heart and soul it is the web of life forging together the elements that turn seed to stem to blossom to fruit to harvest that fill me with awe. It's not my green thumb or particular culinary skill that made the blueberry jam or yuzu marmalade a reality, but rather a compendium of friends that make up the neighborhood of my garden. At best I am a groundskeeper who thankfully gets to sneak a few bits for herself now and again.
Joan merely calls herself a groundskeeper, but after reading her thoughts on gardening here, I'd say both her words and her work suggest to me she's a miracle maker of joy-filled beauty. She's one of the reasons I can appreciate gardening from the spectator's side. So what's your place in the world of gardening? Are you the green thumb or are you like me, just green?