When I was a kid living in Manitoba, my mom had a garden in the backyard. I loved running through the stalks of corn, pretending I was Mary from The Secret Garden. Occasionally I would force the boy next door to be the sickly bedridden boy. While it was probably his worst nightmare, it was a helluva time for me, so I've always kept a fond place in my heart for gardens.
As many readers are probably aware, I am renting a house, which means I have a big beautiful yard that my landlord, Wayne Hoffman of Signature Service Real Estate, informed me I could do as I pleased with.
So, for the first time ever, I decided growing a garden would be a great use of the backyard. Armed with a hoe given to me by my editor, who became my garden guru, I attacked the yard.
The yard fought back.
I presented my dilemma to Ron and MaryAnn Braun and the problem was solved with a roto-tiller.
The yard may have won the battle, but it lost the war.
At the Peavey Mart I went overboard with seeds, completely disregarding the information on the back. Ideal planting times? Germination period? Whatever.
I planted chives, radishes, beets, carrots, corn and pumpkins. Not just any pumpkins, either. Grand Daddy pumpkins.
It was already late June, and everybody said: "That's not enough time to grow corn and pumpkins!"
I politely replied, "Yeah, probably not, but I'll try anyways."
Silently, I thought, "I'll show you!!!"
The seeds were in, the heavens opened the flood gates and optimism filled my mind.
Little tufts of green appeared against the rich black soil. Little tufts of green became big tufts of green. Nothing was in neat perfect rows, and I became slightly concerned.
The dogs had run through the garden, so I was unsure what were weeds and what was garden goodness.
I started bringing questionable sprouts to my editor/garden guru. They were all weeds.
It soon became clear that I am astoundingly talented at growing weeds. I couldn't keep up with them. I would spend my lunch break in the backyard, picking weeds and slapping mosquitoes.
As the rainy season set in and the mosquito population doubled, tripled, quadrupled, I turned my back on the garden.
"You can have it," I said to the weeds.
Surprisingly, the radishes saved the day. Radishes must be descendants of weeds. I was so happy, I ate them raw, I put them in salads, I even brought them to a barbecue, wrapped them in tinfoil with butter and ate them like potatoes - delicious!
The corn started to sprout, the beets came in and two pumpkin plants unfurled their leaves.
"IT'S ALIVE! IT'S ALIIIIIVE," I yelled like a third-rate actor in a low-budget production of Frankenstein.
I renewed my war against the weeds, which were over a foot tall by that point.
The chives never came in, although I may have mistaken them for weeds. Someone told me they were supposed to be planted in clusters, not rows, so that may have been the problem.
One orphan carrot painstakingly reached for the sky. I thought Jack, as I named him, was a real fighter, but sadly, he never amounted to anything. All leaf, no tuber. However, I refuse to take responsibility, since someone at work told me none of their carrots grew either. So there. It had absolutely nothing to do with me letting the weeds completely overtake the garden for a few weeks. Nothing at all to do with that. Okay! Okay! I killed Jack, I admit it! (but it still had nothing to do with the weeds I was curious and pulled him up to "check" and there was just this eensy weensy root. Even though I stuffed Jack back in the same spot, I'm sure I killed him.)
Other than the carrots and chives, I was still pretty optimistic.
Then the hail struck.
My beets were shredded, the pumpkins were shredded and the corn, ironically, was fine. The beets were the only vegetable I was really set on growing, however, so there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in my corner of the world for the next few days.
Then, one fine sunny day, I looked out the kitchen window to see - gasp! - my beets had resurrected themselves. I even think it was the third day. Holy beets!
I made a phenomenal pot of borscht, thanks to my mom's phenomenal recipe. It would've been nice to have grown all the ingredients, but I'll try next year. Instead, I harvested the rest at the grocery store.
Meanwhile, somewhere between Sept. 17 and 22, the corn stalks went from green to yellow, which I assume means they froze and died a lonely death. I peeled one of the bigger ears of corn and ate it raw out of principle. It was small and pale yellow and tasted like snow peas.
The lone surviving pumpkin looks like a big orange zit or a tiny tumor and I don't have much hope for it. It will likely die alongside my dreams of a bountiful garden.
I did, however, grow a much stronger appreciation for farmers. It takes a lot to wrest a meal from the earth, let alone feed the country. Thank you, farmers!