A Wild Pink Haze

As I write this, a dark pink confetti of peach blossoms is

Plants From Seed

 whirling past my office window, carried in winds gusting up to forty miles an hour. Yesterday there was hardly a breath of wind. I was outside for most of the day doing yard work, first over at my friend Chip’s, then in my own yard. Today I’d go outside at the risk of stinging sandburn, accompanied by grit in my eyes and mouth.

Welcome to Spring in New Mexico: violent, unpredictable, and not really very pleasant.

Even so, for a gardener like me, Spring has an undeniable appeal. Non-gardeners think that gardening has something to do with plants. Gardeners know that the real appeal is dirt. Dirt is what makes the plants thrive, dirt and water.

Unfortunately, where I now live, both are in short supply, so the gardening season starts with making dirt. I wrote something about this back in late January’s entry, “A Thin Dark Line.” As of now, Jim and I have dug and filled three compost trenches. Number four remains open, but will probably be filled this coming weekend, weather permitting.

We’ve also gone out and hauled horse manure to enrich the sandy soil in our four raised beds – enough sacks to fill the back of our small pick-up truck. If the weather is nice this weekend, I think we’ll be collecting another lot. That should about do it.

If the weather is promising, we may also get our first lot of plants in the ground. We’ve been experimenting with growing more vegetable plants from seed. We’ve always done our cucumbers, squash, beans, Swiss chard, and many non-perennial herbs from seed.

However, the closing of local greenhouses we relied on for interesting varieties well-suited to our weird climate and relatively short growing season has led to our trying to grow tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants from seed.

So far the tomatoes and eggplants are doing well, but the peppers are lagging. I’ve been assured that the peppers will do well when temperatures hit the eighties. Right now we’re still in the sixties and seventies, although it’s hotter on our sun porch where we put the plants out during the day. They hang from the ceiling above cat-tampering height, set on a rack Jim suspended with purple string. It’s actually quite festive looking – especially since the cucumbers have decided to start flowering.

(Yes. I know the cukes probably won’t transplant, but Jim did so want to try and this is a collaborative effort).

Why do I go to so much trouble when there is a good grocery store a mile and a half from my house? When there are farmer’s markets and natural grocery stores? No. It isn’t about cost. It isn’t about taste, even, although that does come into it.

Honestly, I garden for much the same reason I read and write Science Fiction and Fantasy – for the sense of wonder. There’s nothing like the feeling I get when I see a tiny sprout break the soil. Or when a flower turns into a fruit. Or when I bite into a tomato still warm from the sun: a sweet and tangy miracle of transformation. As I savor the taste, I remember that this all started with dirt, water, and a little enigma called a seed.

Sense of wonder. Yeah. Gardening. When a story comes together. More alike than you might imagine.

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5 Responses to “A Wild Pink Haze”

  1. Alan Robson Says:

    My wife Robin has always been a keen gardener. She comes from Perth in Western Australia and while I’ve never seen New Mexico, I gather from your descriptions that it looks, acts and feels very much like West Australia — sand, sun, heat, lots and lots of brown. Consequently Robin has always been a huge compost enthusiast and at one time she had a worm farm to aid in the composting process. There are lots of juicy goodies to be had from a worm farm. Robin cultivated it assiduously, feeding the worms table scraps and rose clippings and anything else she thought they might enjoy.

    But one day she went to her worm farm only to find it empty. Not a single worm remained. One and all, they had left home and, it turned out, had gone to the house next door in search, perhaps, of greener (or at least less brown) pastures. Robin followed.

    “Please come back home and make compost for me.”

    “No,” said the worms firmly. “You’ve been feeding us too much fruit.”

    And so it was. Worms (well, West Australian worms anyway) don’t think much of fruit and Robin had been giving them watermelon rinds in abundance. She loves watermelons and she naturally assumed that the worms would love them too. Wrong assumption!

    To this day she remains mildly embarassed by the whole thing. She’s the only person she knows whose worms left home in protest at the way they were treated. It is a sad and sorry thing, to be left wormless when you are in dire need of compost.

    There’s probably a moral in there somewhere. But I don’t know what it is.

  2. Alan Robson Says:

    Also you go on to say:

    “Sense of wonder. Yeah. Gardening. When a story comes together. More alike than you might imagine.”

    Actually, I can imagine. All these kinds of creative things are closely related and all give that same sense of accomplishment. I don’t write fiction (well, like everybody else, I have tried to write fiction but it isn’t very good). However I *do* write computer programs and I *do* write non-fiction articles. And there’s a definite buzz the first time the program runs properly, or when the words click into place and the article starts to make sense.

    Professionally I’m a teacher — I teach people about computer operating systems (OK — I’m a geek, I admit it). But that too works the same way. When I succeed in taking an idea out of my head and putting it successfully into someone else’s head, I see a little light go on behind their eyes and I get exactly that same buzz, that same thrill, that same sense of accomplishment.

    And I think we all get a little bit addicted to the feeling. We want it again and again because it feels good. And that’s why we keep on doing these (if you like) creative things.

  3. heteromeles Says:

    Oh dear, I do need to make a correction. You’re making soil. Dirt is soil in the wrong place, like on the wind or in your house. It’s similar to the definition for a weed (a plant in the wrong place). Making soil is a good thing. Making dirt? Not so good.

    Otherwise, great entry! Hope you have wonderful peppers and maybe a cucumber or two.

  4. janelindskold Says:

    Okay… So why is it when you get dirty another word for this is “soiled”?

    Seriously, we will get cucumbers from the plants we put in from seed. It will be interesting to see if the ones we started early take the transplant.

    Another couple weeks before we find out. Next week’s weather — after being lovely yesterday (we had almost an inch of rain on Friday night, a major event) — is supposed to turn fierce again.

  5. heteromeles Says:

    If you can grow something off that personal dirt, then you’ve soiled yourself.

    If not, then it’s just dirt, because soil in the wrong place doesn’t do anything useful.

    Really.

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