Thursday, March 10, 2011

It happens every winter

I fall out of love with my house. I get discontent with my indoor hobbies. I get so antsy that even the cats avoid me.

I'll be better soon. The nights are finally above freezing and soon I'll be able to get outside.

When I bought my house, I was happy that it had a front garden and a decent sized back yard. Not that I had a clue what to do with dirt, but in my mind, a house had a yard. Knowing what to do with it would come later. And it did.

The garden used to be ornamental, then a few years ago, things began to shift. It became less about how it looked and more about what was in it. I grew a few tomatoes. I made my first batch of pesto from backyard basil.

It snowballed, and last year, it went over the top. (I think it was the garlic that did it). This past winter was rough; I'm sure I lost quite a few plants. That doesn't bother me anymore because a dead plant is just an opportunity to plant something new. The veggie seedling order has gone in to Natural Gardening Co. : 6 tomatoes (3 plum; 3 regular), 3 peppers (bell, ancho and sweet frying), a cucumber, a zucchini, 3 more strawberry plants. They will keep company with the lettuces I will pick up at the farmer's market, along with a few container-sized tomatoes and a thicket of basil. Somehow, I also have a load of seeds to plant. There will be salad growing in the cracks of the sidewalk at this point.

All this in addition to 4 blueberries, 1 red currant, 1 black currant, 1 gooseberry, 4 strawberry plants, a rosemary bush, perennial thyme and sage, potted mint and lemon balm, a bed of garlic and some self-seeded arugula that's already coming up. I'm also coveting a fig that's volunteered in Mario's sister's back yard, but I don't think I have the space.

I'm not sure when it all happened, but in 11 years I've gone from an apartment-dweller who killed house plants and couldn't cook very well (but who sewed adequately, if infrequently) to a homeowner who gets a little crazy if she can't dig in the dirt, who can make her own bread and cheese, who can preserve all the stuff grown in the back yard, and who makes all her own clothes.

Who am I, and where did I come from? I didn't grow up around people who did any of these things. Matter of fact, I grew up around people who were happy they didn't have to do these things anymore. Like all the women in my family, my mom was an adequate cook, but it all came from cans (and later, the freezer). She sewed with resentment and creative profanity. Her gardening consisted of a few angry rosebushes and some bedraggled petunias. (However, she raised beautiful African violets on the windowsills - indoors).

Maybe it was because she and my aunts were one generation removed from the Depression, or not even. Maybe progress to them meant not having to do those things anymore. I don't know, and they're no longer around to ask.

A co-worker told me the other day that with my skills, I'd have survived very well during the Great Depression. I don't think they're bad skills to have these days, either. And I love knowing just how little we need to purchase outside of our own home - with the way prices are these days, I'll work every Depression-era skill I can find.


Genki said...

It is amazing how when we have the opportunity, we can learn new skills. Your garden sounds fantastic, I hope one day to have a yard where I can plant lots of fruit and vegies. Last year, we moved from an apartment to a ground level apartment with a small courtyard, so we have lots of pots growing herbs and flowers.

Lori said...

I am with you, so ready for warm weather it is time to garden and to see green again outside. I have started painting all sorts of things in my house. My hubby wants it to warm up so I stop redoing the inside of the house! Have fun planning your garden, hopefully it will be spring soon.

Maureen O'Danu said...

I went though the same process. From indifferent at best to knitting, seeing, baking gardening. Thank you for reminding me to work on the garden today

BetsyV said...

I think the key is that our parents/grandparents were obligated to learn and use these skills, because otherwise, they wouldn't have had clothes nor much food nor a home in good repair.

We are blessed to be able to choose to learn to raise some of our own food, make our own clothes, do our own minor household or car repairs.

And good for you. I can't wait to get my garden going either. I can start the seeds anytime, but there's still snow on top of my vegetable plot!

Lisette M said...

I envy you your sunny garden! While I adore my shady yard (I have beautiful mature oaks,walnut, maple and dogwood), the only area that gets decent sun is by the road on the front, not a good place for growing vegetables. I will try to grow more edibles on pots on my patio this year (I always have an herb pot), but I'm weary of the squirrels who are relentless.

snow said...

I think it's terrific that you can do all these things. It is amazing how little you have to buy when you can supplement with the things you grow, and sew. Now if I only had a little more sun in my backyard I would have a permanent garden. I now plant my herbs and tomatoes in little carts that follow the sun when I can catch it :O)

The Slapdash Sewist said...

I am grateful that I have no yard to care for in my condo, but I do hope someday to be able to compost and garden. But for now, I enjoy the luxury of not dealing with it!

Becky said...

Haha, Depression-era skills. I like that. And I find it rather liberating to be able to do these things myself!

Your garden looks like it'll be lovely.

Marie-Christine said...

A thicket of basil is the foundation of any good garden :-).

The stronghold of cigarette companies and their addiction-enhancing products on the food industry has gotten much worse in the past 11 years, and so has our need to control what we put in our mouths. So it's a good time to pick up that particular new skill.

But yes, indeed growing up in a time like the Depression will both give you skills and make you loath to use them. Same deal with my parents and the war. It's good that the second generation is going back to knowing how to curb waste, and do for themselves.

At least you don't seem like such a bitchy seamstress :-). But hey, I swear a lot sometimes too, and it's fine, as long as I'm happy with the end result. The cat will never tell.

SEWN said...

I wish I had some of your gardening skillz. Of course it would help if I had a garden. ;)