July 4, 2014

Grumpy Gardener Girl

I hate gardening. 

I know, I know: in a current culture that encourages, “Eat local, seasonal, organic food of your own producing, and if possible, keep a cow so you can legally consume raw milk, and also please keep some chickens,” this sentiment puts me on the fringe of decent society. 

And no, “hate” is not too strong a word.

I'm so sorry, but gardening makes me grumpy. Of course, as a melancholy, dysthemic introvert, most things make me grumpy. (Cue chorus of "amens" from my family and all my college roommates.) 

But gardening takes me to a new level of grumpiness. That this has not escaped my children’s notice became clear one summer when my then-6-year-old daughter said, “I’ll tell you how much you hate gardening. Once you start, you’re already at the end of your rope.” And all I was doing at the time of her comment was walking toward the garden.

I hate gardening because my garden is just one more thing that needs to be taken care of, one more thing that can go wrong. I have children and a 100-year-old farmhouse to build character and encourage selfless living. What do I need a garden for?

I want to establish for the record that while I hate gardening, I love several gardeners. 

I am crazy about my mom, who tends five gardens (Vegetable By the Stream, Vegetable By the Barn, Butterfly, Perennial, and Wildflower) and dreams of things like raised beds and electric fencing. My dear aunt lovingly nurtures beautiful roses. Another amazing woman in my life, with whom I share a love of music but not, clearly, of gardening, pours over seed catalogs in winter as an affirmation that God always brings spring. One of my most treasured friends “gets” me in so many ways no one else does but cannot possibly be expected to comprehend my hatred of gardening while she anticipates the sprouting of her 500 (!) seeds of corn. I love these wonderful women in spite of their passion for gardening just as they love me in spite of my abhorrence of it.

The best thing about gardening?
Getting to wear my beloved mud boots.
There are, however, some chasms between the pro- and anti-gardening camps that cannot be bridged. I once had a birthday twin at our church, a fellow mom relatively close to me in age who shared my April 20th birthday. When I asked her one year if she had any special plans for our birthday, she replied, eyes shining, “The greenhouse opens that day, so I can go and spend my birthday money there.” That’s when I knew we couldn't be friends.
This is my kind of gardening:
I do nothing. Pretty stuff shows up in my yard.

Gardening proponents tout the unmatched pleasure of biting into a home-grown, perfectly ripe tomato whilst still standing in the garden. To this sentiment, I offer one retort: weeds. 

Also, the aforementioned tomato, which is supposed to make all this work and worry “worth it,” may never materialize at all due to various factors including but not limited to black spots, poor soil, deer, flood, drought, hail, heatwaves, and frost.

All of this, I know, begs the question, “So why do it?” For one thing, there is the guilt. Guilt is my modus operandi, my reason for doing almost everything except eating chocolate. We live on a quiet country road in an old farmhouse on 10 acres with a barn and a stone milk house, and it just seems we should have a garden. 

Also, I come from a long line of die-hard gardeners (see my mom, above), and I cannot escape the weight of my horticultural heritage. Plus, I love to eat. Pessimistic as I am about that perfect tomato, I would be thrilled to eat such a specimen produced in my own personal backyard. I could (should?) join a CSI or frequent local farmers’ markets, but our family is trying to survive on one income and such trendy practices feel a little indulgent on our budget.

So, I have a garden, but I hate it. In her excellent children’s book, More Perfect Than the Moon, Patricia MacLachlan tells the story of Cassie, who is about to be displaced as the youngest child in her family by the baby her mother is expecting. In her journal, Cassie takes to referring to her coming sibling as The Terrible Baby, and, in a nod to this wonderful book—and because I love reading so much more than gardening—I have begun calling my little patch of weeds and woe “The Terrible Garden.” 

It helps, a little.