Friday, March 26, 2010

Dominique Browning - Losing It

An excellent article by Dominique Browning, the former editor of House & Garden magazine:
Losing It

Oh. My. God.


We put the lower pond in 10 years ago. This last winter was just too much for it:


Oh, man! This is going to be so much work to get back together. ~sigh~
Lesson to y'all = Make sure you use concrete blocks if you're going to install a rubber liner.
Yes, we knew better, but they weren't/aren't in the budget.

This is how pretty it used to look -


The upper pond was put in almost 20 years ago and is still looking pretty solid.


We transferred the fish to the upper pond, but the stress of the move was just too much for them. We're left with 4 orfe and 1 koi. My heart is broken - we lost my favorite, Miss Sweet Pea.


:( These weren't just pretty fish, they were our pets.

Every time one door closes, another opens (or so they say), so I guess it's time for that redesign we've been thinking about.
What better time than now, eh?

We'll be moving the waterfall and also the little stream, which also means the flowerbed will be expanded. Since I've been looking into getting Wakin fish for years (they're expensive and the closest place we've found that sells them is in Pennsylvania), maybe we'll just eek out the work on this and leave it empty for a while. The Wakins can handle our severe winters without a second thought and losing our koi just makes me want to throw up. I can't go through that again.

This year, so far, has started out so crappy! I'm hoping summer doesn't follow suit.
It's going to be a perfect growing year, right? RIGHT?

Happy (redesign) Growing!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Well, that didn't take long.
I brought the pots of caladium out to get started for this year on March 10, and one pot decided it was time to make an appearance already.


Still waiting on the other. Sometimes they take months to get going, so we'll see.

Unfortunately, the local herd of deer have also made themselves known.
Thanks for the warning?
(I know, pic stinks - they're those tiny dots on the horizon)


Happy (peek-a-boo) Growing! (that sounds a tad naughty...)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You Know What?

Thanks so much, everyone, for your support. It really means a lot!
I'm sorry if I upset anyone! I didn't mean to make anyone sad.

That article simply made a light bulb go off in my brain - I don't fit.

It's just that I realized, while I was reading, that I will never fit in with the majority of gardeners. I'm not even really sure how to express what I mean. Middle-class gardeners, maybe? Those with any disposable income? People who can afford to blow a few pennies here and there on the plants they really want? I've always known it, I just never wanted to accept it. Maybe it was just easier to pretend I was like most gardeners, and that my opinion counted for something.

And it made me very angry to think that Robin was coming across that people like me just aren't good enough. That I was somehow a complete failure as a gardener if I even dared to entertain the thought of using something as tacky as a Walmart tom cage. That I dared to even think of myself as anything better than dirt when it came to plant placement, paths or pretty garden design. And if I left a weed to see its glory - oh, boy! - I was useless.
And, for a little while, I believed it. Why bother with a blog if I have absolutely nothing to contribute and that is the type of thing people want - pretty gardens?

On the majority of blogs that I read, people are posting about all their newest acquisitions from the local nursery, online shops, seed catalogs, garden books, etc. (is it wrong that I get all excited for you guys?) and I can't even afford to walk in the doors of the places most of you guys shop at.

That article made me face those facts head-on. No matter how hard I try, I'll never be the norm.
Really, since I'm not even in their target demographic, I didn't even have a right to be angry about one word she wrote. I can't afford her book - I can't even afford to have an opinion.

And no, I'm not feeling sorry for myself or trying to put anyone on a guilt trip, it's just the way things are. Just the facts, Ma'am!

I've always been a fighter and never really let things get to me, but that article seemed to have enough power to, for a time, crush my spirit. If someone talked down to my kids in that manner, I would have kicked their ass, but here I was, believing every word that I was a crap gardener. I couldn't even justify refuting anything she said because I believed it was all true.

Honestly, what do I even have to offer to the gardening world? I will never have the newest, coolest, gotta-have thing. Ever. I will never have a 'socially acceptable' garden. Ever. I will never grow a 'pretty' vegetable garden. Ever. Food will never be grown for anything other than for being food. Ever.
Plants will always be propped up with sticks picked off the ground, recycled rebar and yarn. My paths will always be constructed from field picked stone and loads of free crushed red shale from a relative. My mulch will always consist of chipped wood (gasp!) leftovers from the town or utility companies. My plants will always come from trades, passalongs or clearance sales.

And you know what?
You guys made me see - I'm OK with that!

Growing things brings me joy. Eating preserved vegetables all winter that came from my summer garden makes me happy. Watching my kids learn to be more self sufficient and how to grow and care for plants that will sustain them, even in the worst of times in their lives, sustains me. Teaching them how to share what you have, or have learned, with those that need it makes me feel fabulous.

The only thing that matters, pretty or not, is that I'm growing things. Lots of things.
That I'm teaching my kids, friends and neighbors to be good stewards of the earth and how to make do with what you have - no matter how ugly it may be. That I have enough vegetables to share with those that don't have enough is important to me.

Whether I'm in the majority gardening group or not makes no difference, because every single day I sow a seed or pull a weed, I'm making a difference - Pretty gardens be damned! Rock on ugly gardens!

Words may have power, but gardening, and blog friends, have much, much more. And I have way too much to share to keep my mouth, and keyboard silent.

Besides, I'm scared of Colleen, Gina and crew coming over here and kicking my ass! ;)

Happy (ugly) Growing!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ugly Garden Silence

Like every other garden blogger out there, I've read Robin's guest post on Garden Rant.
I've also read through posts in response to that post from Colleen, Gina, MBT, Jessica , along with a few others, and Robin's response to the responses (whew!).

After reading the original guest post, I felt as though I'd just been picked on in the school yard because I was wearing hand-me-down bell bottoms instead of those cool new designer jeans I couldn't afford.
Seriously, Walmart tomato cages be damned, have you ever seen them grown in an uglier way than this?

Yes, rightly or not, my feelings were genuinely hurt. And it surprised me. A lot.

A friend asked me why her post bugged me so much when I've been growing veg and flowers for more than forty years and maybe she's been growing for two or three and probably doesn't know what she's talking about - and besides, anyone can put anything on the internet whether they know anything about the subject or not. But, I have great friends who would defend me if I said the sky was purple, so they don't count.

So I sat down to think about it and analyze why this was.

I think I've found the answer, but it isn't a simple one.

I believe vegetable gardeners can be split into many different groups, some individuals overlapping multiple styles.

The elitists (lets not even go there)
The newbies (and weren't we all at one time?)
The ornamentalists (I only grow those because they're cool)
The designers (anything that doesn't look pretty goes)
The truists (my grams/gramps/forefathers did it that way, it's good enough for me)
The scientists (start with the soil)
The budget-wise (It's not what I want, but it's all I'm willing to pay)
The mother-of-inventioners (I have 0 dollars to splurge and will Mickey mouse what I have to)
The crammers (I'll make it all fit)

And I'm sure you could add many, many more.

I overlap into many of those categories. I imagine many will only fit into the same ones as Robin, so will, quite rightly from their perspective, agree with her wholeheartedly. Those that don't, won't. Those that slightly overlap into hers will see some of her points as valid but see red at others.

But what got my panties in a wad was that she's assuming people have endless amounts of time and money to spend on their veg gardens and they all know what they're doing right from the get-go.

I'm sorry to burst her bubble, but a lot of people have none of the above.

Can you picture a single mom of 5 kids with two part time jobs, trying to get the bills paid and the kids fed, worried about a few weeds invading the garden when she's simply trying to get extra, healthy, nutritious food in their diets? Should she not garden at all? Should those children learn nothing about where their food comes from?

Or a disabled person on social security worried about what the neighbors think of them growing in 5 gallon buckets instead of in the ground because they can't bend over that far and can't afford to pay help? Instead, should they simply stare out the window wishing there was a way?

Or someone with every single plant surrounded by chicken wire or some other supposed 'ugly' barrier because the local wildlife decimates everything for the simple reason the neighbor thinks feeding anything with fur is cute? Should they just give up because someone thinks it's ugly?

I think Robin simply needs to walk in other gardeners' shoes for a few miles.

These are my personal facts:
I garden because I have to. No garden, no veg to eat. And yes, it brings me great joy.
I'm far from being any sort of designer.
I can't afford to buy cool garden stuff. Period. I use what I can get my hands on for free, regardless of how ugly it is.
In a nut shell - I do what I can with what I have. This is not a choice.

I've come to realize, sadly, that my way of gardening, and this blog, simply do not fit into the norm. The only place I fit is at the very bottom of the totem pole - the poor gardener.
Although I may have forty years of gardening knowledge to pass along by way of this blog, I probably won't. I certainly wouldn't want to contribute to the decay of the 'perfect' way of gardening or upset someone's sensibilities by suggesting they use buckets and window boxes if they can't bend and can't afford raised beds.

So, until I start feeling a little better about my garden, and myself, I'll let this blog sit silent.

I'll still continue to read and learn from all those great garden blogs because one can never stop absorbing useful things.
Besides, I'll be busy starting seedlings in some very ugly recycled containers.

Happy (ugly) Growing.