Gardening Vicariously Out the Car Window

“…and apologizes for her hands, which are covered with flour and dough. I show her my own hands, still stained with island soils, and tell her never to apologize for dirty hands. I am reassured when someone offers me a rough, callous mitt.”- “Fields of Plenty” by Michael Ableman

My hands are usually something that could use a apology. The constant kitchen work leaves them quite dry and rough from the constantly washing off whatever it is I am baking. The deep cold of winter and extra “work” during the holidays leaves me with a bit of carpel tunnel or early stages of arthritis. The aching feeling in my hands and wrists usually subsides late January assuming I wear mittens every time I’m outside.

Spring, summer and fall means my hands (and feet) stained a rather unpleasant shade of brownish-green. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I scrub. The callouses, though there year-round, are much more noticeable during the “non-snow” months. Between shovels, pitch forks and garden weeds there is no rest for my hands.

I appreciate someone with hands like mine. I can see the common ground between us without having to speak. For someone like me who struggles with conversation, garden stained hands gives an opening for pleasant small talk that isn’t weather based. The conversation will inevitably end up there, as talking about the weather is a true Minnesota pastime.

Driving home the other night I was temped to stop by and talk to a family that was planting a garden along the road. I didn’t of course, that would mean I would have to actually speak, but I thought about it. Over the years I have watched that garden plot thrive with vegetables for a few years, then taken over by weeds for a few and back with new owners. Last I heard, it is a father and couple sons that have it.

Last year was weeds. This year I saw they tilled it so nicely and then laid sheets of black garden plastic over the whole thing. That in itself must have been quite a task, this is not small plot. Over the next few nights I could see they were planting through the plastic and carefully marking the plants and rows with flags. They also appear to have a fence up to keep the deer out. Probably the reason for the weeds last year; gardening can be very discouraging when all you do is unwillingly feed deer.

I am curious what they have planted, how they plan to keep it watered if needed and what they are using to keep the plastic down. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this method. It’s also not the most common method in the area, so it would be nice to hear what they have to say about it at the beginning of the season and again after harvest. Over the years I have tried all sorts of things that at the beginning of the season sound like a great idea and by harvest I would never do again.

… A few weeks have gone by now (I have been slacking on finishing this post). I see them planting almost every night on my way home from work. It’s starting to look like quite the garden. I still have no idea what they have planted but it’s looking good.

The flowers I planted in the front bed must have from been too old seed. I have a lovely patch of weeds in there and no flowers that I can see. I learned years ago to not weed the flower beds until they are big enough to tell the difference between weeds and flowers. By now everything that was going to grow should be up. This late in the year I am not going to bother trying again. I will just pull the weeds and leave it empty for now.

Our vegetable garden plot in looking great so far. Our neighbor plowed up a big area between the two of us. We helped pick some rock and then he took the disc to it. Some of this will get some fresh grass seed and the rest will be vegetables next spring. I can’t wait to get some seeds in the ground next spring. The soil there is beautiful, rich, black and alive. I’m tempted to try the black plastic method next year. Maybe for half of it… I haven’t yet decided.

This no vegetable garden is a tough one for me but I am surviving. I just gawk at everyone else’s.

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