June 25, 2009

Thumbs of Green

When I was growing up, my dad always did a lot of gardening. Still does. I suspect he gets this gardening gene from his parents. His dad tended the roses at his church until his brain began to fail him. My grandparents gardened constantly. My grandmother - now in her 90s - still does. I thought, for a while, that this gene somehow skipped a generation.

When I was a kid, I found this preoccupation with digging, planting and pruning tremendously boring. It involved neither music nor getting in trouble with my friends so I pretty much had zero patience for it. But for some reason, I never minded helping out with the hard labor. Every year, my dad would have a truckload of topsoil and a truckload of mulch delivered, two mountains on our otherwise flat driveway. For a weekend, armed with wheelbarrows, rakes and shovels, we'd chip away at those mountains, moving, dumping and raking everything into the appropriate places. Like I said, I never minded. Maybe it was because it gave me a chance to work on my tan. For the ladies. But I never saw the appeal of the actual gardening part.

Beth and I bought our house from its original owners. Owners who happened to found and chair the neighborhood gardening club. That sounds about as exciting to me as a club devoted to knitting tea cozies or memorializing the middle names of former U.S. presidents in needlepoint. But we came out ahead in that deal because we inherited a beautifully landscaped yard. Though it came with some pressure. I'm pretty sure the neighbors, for the last two years, have been waiting for us to drop the ball, eying our yard, waiting for us to fuck up, bungle everything and allow it to grow wild and be inhabited by wild monkeys or just up and die.

I'm proud of us. We've done neither.

Springtime last year - the weed season - Owen was pretty brand-spankin' new. Our yard suffered. This year, however, we've made a full-court press in order to bring it back to its former glory. It's sexy work. At the end of every weekend, we find ourselves in the heat, wearing gloves and long sleeves, sweating up a storm, dripping sweat and blood, comparing the rashes and bites we've managed to get as if we dry-humped weeds and vines to which we're highly allergic. But it's worth it.


Know what's strange about all this? I finally get what my dad and grandparents appreciated about this. I can pop in some head phones, turn on my iPod and dig around in the yard and make stuff grow. Maybe I'm just getting old but there's something nice about gardening.

(Shit. Typing that last sentence made me feel about 80 years old. After I get done here, I'm going to go surf the internet to find the best price on a Rascal scooter than I think I'll head to the local buffet and have dinner around 4:00 this afternoon. If any of you want to join me, please feel free. But fair warning. I can't miss my Lawrence Welk rerun a 7:00 and I've got to hit the sack at 8:00, especially because I'll be up every half hour peeing.)

What things did you not appreciate when you were younger that you totally get now?

Posted by Chris at June 25, 2009 6:49 AM

Cooking. I love to cook! I mean, big extravagant meals! Inviting like 30-40 people to eat what I have created! I also love to cook complicated things and do a little cooking show thing in the kitchen. You know, lay out all the measured ingredients and then talk to myself as I put them together.
Mostly things come out very well. Occasionally we have a disaster and go out for dinner.

Posted by: Maribeth at June 25, 2009 7:10 AM

I totally get the gardening thing too. My parents have a backyard similar to yours (although not as big) and their little bunaglow with a small postage stamp yard, when people come back there for the first time they are blown away, it's a little oasis with birds chirping, chipmunks and squirrels, beautiful flowers and high natural borders locking it all in. A few weeks ago I had some house plants that needed to be repotted so I took them all outside my dad used his drill to cut holes in the bottoms of the new pots I bought and I repotted outside in the sunshine, and it totally rocked. I totally get it.

Oh want to know one thing I always thought only old people do, NAP!!! Naps are awesome, I'm not talking hours long, just a good quick 20 min nap, totally revitalizes me.

Posted by: Dee at June 25, 2009 7:25 AM

I totally get the gardening thing! I had to laugh my husband who is 32 came home from work the other day and the guys were telling him "he shouldn't even know what a Hosta plant is at his age" heee! Nothing like a well groomed yard :-)

Posted by: Kami at June 25, 2009 8:35 AM

Ohhhh, the joys of sleeping in. Like, I used to get up early on the weekends. On purpose! I guess maybe I just wanted to wring as much out of my time off of school as I could.

Posted by: Fraulein N at June 25, 2009 9:01 AM

That looks lovely. I finally have a house and garden of my own and I'm hoping I too finally 'get it.' The previous owner did a great job -- let's hope I don't kill everything!

Posted by: laura at June 25, 2009 9:11 AM

What are you talking about? I am still young :P
Your yard looks absolutely wonderful though!

Posted by: Heather at June 25, 2009 9:13 AM


Posted by: harmzie at June 25, 2009 9:30 AM

I always love a good Lawrence Welk reference.

My parents never gardened, so when we got our own place, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Your yard looks lovely, so all that hard work is paying off!

Posted by: bad penguin at June 25, 2009 9:31 AM

Gardening here, too.

My mother used to make me help her in the garden when I was small, and I hated it with the heat of a thousand white-hot suns.

And right now, it's what I miss more than anything while we rent rather than own.

There are few things more centering than digging in the dirt and few things more satisfying than creating a beautiful garden.

Posted by: Elise at June 25, 2009 9:38 AM

A good crap.

Posted by: Heather at June 25, 2009 10:24 AM

I also was one of those people who hated gardening as a kid, and now love it. Granted, I haven't started an official garden, or mulched or done any of that stuff - I have a guy who comes and trims hedges and mows the lawn and that is about it. But my mom recently taught me how to plant flowers and which ones work best for where I live, and it was SO relaxing and cathartic, somehow.

Now can you tell me, Garden Yoda, how do I get rid of the brown, dead grass that has been scorched by the sun? It is 104 degrees here! I think I didn't water it enough. Do I have to like replant all that grass, or something? Man, this whole lawncare thing is too hard for me!

Posted by: Snickrsnack Katie at June 25, 2009 11:43 AM

My mom tried for years to get me to help her cook, to teach me and show me the family recipes. I couldn't stand it!! I didn't want to cook, period.

I think my obsession with cooking started to come about when I married my husband. I wanted to please him and food was a great way to do that. My sister in law is a great cook and my husband used to go on and on about how C. was such a good cook and can we try her recipe for (insert gourmet recipe here). I discovered that you could *gasp* actually grow your own herbs, and that peppers came in colors other than green and so many other things.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE to cook now. In fact, I really don't like other people in the kitchen with me most of the time because it's almost like a form of meditation for me.

Also, while I love a good novel, cookbooks are by far my most favorite read. I could never figure out why my grandma had so many cookbooks. I totally get it now - she was reading them, not just cooking from them.

Posted by: zanie at June 25, 2009 12:25 PM

My father. I appreciate my father now that I'm a dad too. And walking the dog.

Oddly, other things that folks seem to grow to appreciate (walking, gardening, reading, natural history and political history.... crap, *I* sound old now!) I liked from early on.

I still don't like emptying the garbage (but it seems like a smaller issue than when I was a kid). And cooking. I'll eat dry cereal if I'm home alone. Never have liked cooking, and if it's just for me... bleah.

Posted by: paul at June 25, 2009 1:00 PM

Gardening here too. I like the ripping everything out, plotting it all out and starting anew. The creating it ourselves, I find very fulfilling. My son could care less. He watches, but doesn't want to help or get dirty in the least.

I've been working on the jungle off of my front porch. There are several aspens, ivy, and from my point a view--a green, overgrown mess. Everything is going, but the aspens. I was a cleaner design of tulips, hens and chickens and marigolds.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at June 25, 2009 1:11 PM

just going to have to call you it.... "Hey MR. WILSON!!!"

Posted by: Darren at June 25, 2009 1:12 PM

Same on gardening

Classical music/jazz/new age stuff

Talk radio/NPR/PBS

Understanding why mom always said just wait till you have kids... so I guess my mom!?

Taking care of my "stuff" - you know when you were kid you kind of did not care - there was always an endless supply of "stuff". Now I know how much STUFF costs and that it is NOT an endless supply!

Posted by: Christina at June 25, 2009 1:37 PM

Time is Not Endless
Life is Fragile

Posted by: MariaV at June 25, 2009 1:40 PM

I totally get the early to bed, early to rise thing now. I couldn't sleep in now if my life depended on it!
Your garden is gorgeous and very inspiring!
I said something to our teen the other day that I never thought would come from my mouth "when you own the house, YOU can make the rules - until then..." I felt very old after saying that *sigh*

Posted by: LaineyDid at June 25, 2009 2:44 PM

I remember despising the trips to the Community Gardens where we grew beans and carrots and lettuce and all kind of gross things when I was growing up. And if you've been to my blog lately, you'll see how much I've been crowing excitedly about my little garden. I admit that I'm getting older. Maybe it's the appreciation for having done something with my hands that I will then harvest and eat? I don't know. It's turning into a sickness.

Posted by: k8 at June 25, 2009 2:52 PM

It looks awesome. My yard has suffered a lot since Declan, which I am embarrassed about-- and you should see it now with the BIG GIANT DIGGER DOG. Ack.

Posted by: Aimee Greeblemonkey at June 25, 2009 4:01 PM

Your backyard is awesome! I would totally want to move there, except for that pesky thing called winter. One benefit of living in Las Vegas is we don't know what cold is. =)

Posted by: Lesley at June 25, 2009 5:56 PM

Naps. When I was little, I never understood how old people loved their naps so much. Now, at the ripe old age of 25, I can really appreciate a good 2 hour nap on a Sunday afternoon!

Posted by: Stephanie at June 25, 2009 6:56 PM

Oops. Sorry Chris, the back yard looks great.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at June 25, 2009 7:51 PM

being pregnant, i have random cravings. easter afternoon around 4pm i wanted fried clam strips. i know, i know. the only place we could find nearby where we were (which didn't even end up having them) was newport bay (straight out of the 80s, early 90s). we went in and my husband and i shared the fish and chips (since they didn't have the clam strips). even then we remarked aloud "what big portions they serve here!" and then as we were leaving, the early bird diners were getting out of their cars in the parking lot. we laughed and laughed at how old we had just acted! i'm 30 btw

Posted by: kati at June 25, 2009 9:30 PM

Reading. When I was younger, it was just a chore I had to do for school. Now I wish that I had hours upon hours to just seclude myself away and read book after book. And not just fiction - books about real world stuff that I wish I had learned when I had the opportunity.

Alas, I have two children now. No time for reading.

Your back yard is amazing, by the way. I have one plant that I have managed not to kill for several years because it is the Supernatural Bionic Plant. I don't even have a clue what it is. Everything else has long gone by the wayside.

Posted by: Amy at June 25, 2009 9:51 PM

Like you, gardening. As well as visiting gardens, showing an interest in birds and wildlife and making jam.

Rarely does a week go by when we say 'god, our parents must be loving this' as we admire a plant and remember what little shits we were as teenagers.

Posted by: Katherine at June 26, 2009 3:21 AM

I never got the offering seats to people on public transport before I was (and am) pregnant and no bastard will get up and offer one for me because they are too busy in their Ipod worlds to notice anyone else. Old? Hormonal? Me?

And peace and quiet. We live close to the city and while that is mostly fabulous, sometimes the parties on the weekends, the noise, the drunks with our young family DO NOT mix. I know eventually the burbs will pull us in.

Now that makes me feel old. I think I better go do a line of coke to feel relevant or something. And your garden looks fantastic - well done!

Posted by: Beth at June 26, 2009 7:21 AM

OI! What's with the dumping on needlework? Needlework hasn't been considered boring for decades, not since Vivienne Westwood got hold of knitting. It's all about DIY and anti-consumerism. Besides, it's not about the work itself when you club it, it's what you *talk* about. Which normally has nothing to do with the work -- usually we wind up talking about books, or politics, or sex, or whatever else is not about what we're making on a given day.

If there are clubs for it, it's probably not boring.

Posted by: Kat at June 26, 2009 7:27 AM

My parents are gardening nuts too. In Houston you can basically put anything in the ground, water it and it becomes some huge thing in no time so that keeps my parents busy. I never really was into it until my parents bought 10 acres a couple of years ago and had a house built and landscaped the whole thing. Now all of us kids are drafted on the weekends to get out and do some stuff on the land. I don't mind and I kind of enjoy the physical activity. Except when I get into the poison ivy which has been twice this year.

Posted by: Shell at June 29, 2009 7:08 PM