Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Think I'm Stuck

After my greenhouse tales over the weekend, I seem to be stuck for topics.  I'm waiting for the delivery of the other 3 posts and another set of missing parts, so nothing can be done with the greenhouse. 

I seem to be exceptionally busy this week.  I really don't know how I can have weeks with so little to do and weeks that are so ridiculous I can barely get out of beds in the morning.  That might be why I haven't had time to write a post this week.

But then I read Kathy over at The Junk Drawer and her post is to tell her about something we are good at.  This made me really stop and think.  Hmmm.  I am exceptionally busy.  I keep myself busy by doing a lot of things.  Many of which I am good at.  I teach French, I teach at the gym, I teach crocheting classes at the moment, I volunteer, I ride, and I keep a house most of the time.  But am I really good at any of that stuff?  Or can I do it, so I do.  That's a really good question.

So, I got to thinking.  What is something that I know I can do?  Something that other people ask me how to do?  Something that gives me reliable results time and again?  Something that I really love to do?  And the answer that kept coming up was growing things.  This shouldn't surprise you because you know I'm putting up a greenhouse.  I've posted many a post about gardening or plants or food that I grow.  I've explained that I bring in summer flowering plants to keep at school over the winter.   It cheers up the entrance and allows me to not buy new plants every summer.  Yes, it's all about the frugality, isn't it??

But I can surely say, I am good at growing things.  I have had a garden for so many years, I've lost track.  I remember when my father had a garden, just one year, I guess, in what was once the corral. I assume there was lots of good manure left in there.  I remember that it was big (but I was like 4) and looking at  the field where it was, it must have been big.  I vividly remember corn stalks that were high enough and dense enough that I felt like it was a forest.  And I VIVIDLY remember taking an ear of corn, pulling back the husk and seeing WORMS and freaking out.  I still freak out over bugs in the garden, but it's a silent screaming that makes me head for the nearest stone to smash them to bits.  But I do believe I screamed out loud and threw the ear on the ground and maybe ran away.  I also remember being allowed to bring in carrot tops for the rabbit at nursery school and they came from that garden.  I also remember having a meal at my grandparents' house and my grandmother saying that everything on the table came from my father's garden.  And I piped up that I didn't think he grew any hams that year.  This has come to haunt me and 30 years later, whenever we have a ham meal at their house, my father has to say "we didn't plant any hams this year."  Old habits die hard in the sparkling household.

My mother has always grown houseplants.  I remember a very creepy plant that she had once that had "flowers" that grew off the end of the stems that looks like gold fish.  But they were creepy, not cool like you might think.  they had what looked like open mouths at the end and I felt like they were sucking air.  And she has always had the typical philodendrons and ivies.  She has them everywhere.  African violets grow really well in a certain window she has.  So, when I went off to college, I brought some plants, because that's what you do in a living space.  You have plants.  But when you have to fly home for the summer, finding someone to babysit them is kind of a pain.  And now I have them from one end of the house to the others.  k-ster says I put them in stupid places, so they get annoying.  I don't know, I just like them.  It's kind of an obsession.  And once I learned that you can snip off pieces and propagate them- oh boy.

The first time I had a garden, I was probably 9.  We had had chickens for many years and finally, they all had been killed by wild animals, so my father gave up.  The chicken coop seemed like the perfect place because it was already fenced in and there was a ton of chicken crap everywhere.  Somewhere, I read about composting.  Yes, at the tender age of 9 or so, I understood the reason to compost.  And I thought it was the coolest thing ever(still do).  So, I planted stuff.  And it grew.  And I distinctly remember actually growing peppers and I was so tickled that I grew my own pepper that I took it inside, got a knife and cut myself trying to cut it.  But, I didn't have to get stitches, so that was OK.

It seems like a number of years went by before I gardened again and I am not sure why.  In college, I started gardening in the summer, but many of the fruits of my labor came after I went back to school and no one bothered to harvest anything.  My sister had a garden one year too. 

I started gardening with a vengeance when I got out of college. And I haven't stopped.  And now I am obsessed enough that I will have a greenhouse to continue to addiction.  I now garden, not just for pleasure, but for the purpose of actually eating what I grow.  I now see that I was "doing organic" when I was 9.  Long before anyone talked about it.  I was doing what made sense.  Using compost on what I grew.  I am now a raving lunatic who fears all chemicals and will not let a known pesticide anywhere near my food, if I can help it.  Not even organic pesticides.  Not even organic fertilizer.  Nothing but my own stuff in my compost and then that compost back on the ground.  I often wonder:  if I am putting all of my vegetable scraps into the compost, and those vegetables come from the grocery and are not organic, am I just poisoning the entire operation?  These and many other dark thoughts trouble me often.

I stopped buying conventionally grown seedlings because it occurred to me one year that if they have fertilizers and pesticides from birth, then how are they creating safe vegetables?  But then that begs the question, why am I using non organic seeds?  Don't they harbor the DNA that the pesticides and fertilizers already altered on the parent plant?  And is anything truly organic if bees go from flower to flower and coule bring pesticide from one flower to an organic flower?  Really, this is just a big mess in my head.  So I take the baby steps that I can take.  I control what I can.  And worry about all the rest when I'm not supposed to worry.

So, my harebrained plan is to have a greenhouse so I can start things earlier, have greater quantities of them and keep them longer.  For a few years, I have been really successful at starting seedlings indoors.  But, this operation is in my living room, so space is limited.  And once they get to a certain height, plants can't just keep bending toward the light from the windows or they get all spindly and can't support themselves.  So then, it becomes a race to get them out in the morning and back in at night.  My fantasy is that a greenhouse will take care of all of this.  I can grow many more seedlings and won't have to run them around or keep turning them.  But, I am refusing to heat it this first year.  Madness, they tell me.  You can't have a greenhouse in New England and not heat it.  Umm, have you met me?  I think I can rig up something.  I picture lots of black to absorb the heat. 

Where was I?  Oh, yes, I grow things and I grow them well.  People marvel at the plants I have in my classroom, my house and outside during the summer.  They often ask me how I....  So I tell them what I do.  But I always tell them that I break all of the rules of gardening, so maybe my advice won't work for them.  I never do what you are supposed to do with broccoli and here it is November and I'm still harvesting broccoli.  And I have to hold back so I don't get on my soapbox about pesticides and fertilizers and compost and talking to the plants.  I just wish other people understood just how much it means to me to have things grow.  And we shouldn't talk about the irony of having to cut down a tree in order to put up my greenhouse.

To sum it up, if I knew I could truly earn a living as a farmer, I would do it in a second.  If I knew that I would have heath insurance, a steady income, and the space I needed, that would be my ideal life.  But a farmer's life is never sure (and neither is anyone else's but theirs rely so heavily on so many things) that I would just worry myself into oblivion and that wouldn't do anyone a damned bit of good.

Well, for someone who was stuck, there seems to be an awful lot of text on this page!

So, what do you do well?  What do you love to do?  What do people ask you to show them how to do?  What talents are you proud to say you have?  What would you do for the rest of your life if you knew you had financial security?


  1. I would LOVE to be able to NOT kill orchids. So I guess that means murdering orchids is something I do well?

  2. Ahhh, I see I'm in fine company here with my good friend, Amyblam.

    Growing things is such a noble art. I have no green thumb.

    And isn't it sad that farmers livelihood is so in peril in this day and age.

    The only thing I want to do, the only thing I've ever wanted to do, is to write. So, I guess I'm very lucky that I am able to pursue my greatest passion.

  3. What do I do well? Hmmm...I guess I am pretty good at accounting, or I was in my day. But, in school I always thought I was dumb and stupid in math and then I end up an Accountant. Never got an F on a midterm, though. Or even a D, I don't think. But, now that my accounting Career is history, I really love to write poetry. I even wrote one about math. Does that mean I am ambicerebral? But, grow things? Well, you know first hand what a fabulous gardner I am...not. Actually, I wrote a couple of poems about gardens, too. I probably shouldn't have since I don't really have the proper credentials.
    I am very impressed by your gardening skills. Almost as impressed as I am by your Bananagram skills. ;0)

  4. Sparkling, I enjoyed this post so much and feel like I know you better now. I love to garden and have since my childhood. It seems to me like it is such a symbol of abundance. You put in a few seeds and get lots of good stuff and more seeds.
    I too have done what I call driven myself crazy with thinking about organics etc. I am more relaxed these days but we keep an organic yard and compost.
    I have a lot of interests, like you and what I do best is scan through many things and find the gold in them. For instance in blogs like finding this post in yours.


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