We’re all going to have to learn new things. Old things, really, things our grandparents knew and every generation before that, but not us. Things are going to need to be decentralized. We need to learn how to make our houses comfortable without pumping in a lot of energy from somewhere else; we need vegetable beds in every front yard. Time’s a-comin’.
We’re on board. In theory. We wear sweaters and we have a vegetable garden. Or something like it.
It’s so exciting to think you can plunk a little package of Life into the soil and wring dinner out of it later. In fact it’s so exciting that we expend all our enthusiasm right off the bat and have no follow-through. We always planted sugar snap peas. It says right on the package that you can plant successive crops every two weeks, but we feel so accomplished after the first batch comes up that we never remember to do it again. We have a collection of open seed packets (rolled over at the top and a little soiled) going back a decade.
Same thing with lettuce. We put in six plants and a few weeks later there’s more lettuce than we can even eat, and then they bolt and we put them in the compost pile. If we’d sown more seeds earlier, we’d have new lettuce, but we forgot, and now we have to wait a few more weeks.
We watch the first few peas ripen and pluck them happily for a few days and then something shiny goes by, and the next time we look the pea pods are fat and nubbly and overdone, and we put them in the compost pile.
We’ve got basil, and extract a few leaves now and then, but we leave the rest for Donna around the corner to make pesto out of. This year we forgot to bring it over and she forgot to fetch it. First cold snap we’ll be putting the plants in the compost pile.
The peppers always do well. Or they used to, but this year we put them in the pea bed just to shake things up and put kale in the pepper bed. The peppers sulked. We picked a few small, dispirited ones and the plants went into the compost pile. The kale was tremendous and we had kale salad for a good week and then the white flies showed up and we pulled them up and put them in the compost pile.
|No one needs lettuce flowers.|
Know what we have a ton of? Acorn squash. We didn’t plant it. It just showed up. There were plenty of seeds in the compost and it could’ve just as easily been butternut, or delicata, or that stripey thing that looks like a toilet float, but no. Acorn. Every last one. They’re easily our most successful crop. That is because you can put them on the counter and ignore them and they’ll still be edible months later. And that’s what we need in a vegetable.
In short, this is not a vegetable garden. This is an avatar of a vegetable garden.
What to do? There are a few ways to go on this. We could begin paying attention, with sticky notes on the calendar (“PAY ATTENTION”) and bone up, and buckle down, and can, freeze, grind, dehydrate, stomp, juice, dig a root cellar, and, in short, go full Grandma on the thing. Or we can find a bright-eyed kid with braids, a Bernie button, and a fug of Patchouli and tell her to go to town on the place in exchange for a fifth of the take. We’d be way ahead doing that.
But we’ll probably do the same thing. We’ll see what wanders into the yard, feed it, water it, admire it, watch it make a mess in the bed, and then humanely euthanize it. We don’t grow vegetables. We grow pets.