Another Day in the Country
Fighting for survival
© Another Day in the Country
A garden is something that you have to fight for in order to keep. You can build it on your very own property, plant it by the sweat of your very own brow, water it with your very own water that you pay more for in summer when there is higher demand, and still you have to fight to keep it going.
Crabgrass, always hungry for new territory, comes marching with its long arms — an invading enemy. You have to fight it off, pull it out by the roots like some kind of ethnic cleansing, because if you turn your back for a week, it will certainly reappear.
You fight the frost in spring, keeping your tomato plants indoors, sheltered. I’ve even tried covering my lilac bush when cold weather threatens.
You fight the cold again in the fall, watching for the first sign of a killing frost. You know that what you’ve grown must be salvaged before that cold snap comes or you’ve lost it.
Today, I walked out to my precious little garden box and found inch-long gray bugs marauding my tomato plants. Yesterday, the plants stood verdant, flourishing, healthy, and beautiful. Today, they are stripped of their leaves — just the veins drying in the Kansas heat.
These same bugs have attacked the potato plants and the green beans — running for the border as I spray insect killer on them with a vengeance.
“Out! Be gone! And stay away from my garden box!” I holler at them, futilely.
I’ve been fighting for my garden daily, as 100-degree weather withers the plants. The little sugar tomatoes that I’m gleaning are actually hot to the touch. How do they not just cook on the vine, I wonder.
The grasshoppers are growing. They love being in my yard. Under my watchful eye, I turned the chickens out last week, hoping they would cut down the grasshopper population. But their attention span wandered.
Fighting for territory, I spray bug killer around the house. The grasshoppers watch my progress from the safety of the iris by the pond where they are in reducing the tall green leaves to long tall stems. It’s like another form of vegetation just appears in my garden.
I’m feeling threatened! What happens when those hoppers reach adult size? Will they win this battle? I can almost hear them chewing.
I forget from one summer to another about all the things that can threaten a garden: frost, hail, blight, bugs, bunnies, heat, drought, and weeds. And yet, every year, come spring, I plant a garden.
Why do we gardeners soldier on, cultivating, enriching, digging, pulling, planting, and caring tenderly for our little plot of soil? It’s for those wondrous moments when you pick your first tomato and it’s perfect!
It’s for the day the potatoes are ready to dig and you discover, like magic, that the little piece of the past — a fragment of an old potato — has grown into a crop of new potatoes.
From a scrap comes enough for a whole meal, and the flavor is nothing like those store-bought potatoes that have been hidden in cold storage for months on end.
You keep on planting for that moment you come outside and see drifts of daffodils in the spring, a bed full of zinnias blooming in the summer, and all those glorious mums in the fall.
I plant for the sheer joy of watching things grow. It’s the same reason that I still teach art to children. The same instincts that keep us fighting for our gardens keep us not giving up on our community — even our political system and each other.
As gardeners, we don’t give up. We may get weary. As women, we may wonder why politicians are still arguing over what to do with our very own bodies, but we don’t give up, declaring our dignity as human beings who have the right to choose.
We are innately gardeners, all of us, cultivating some little spot of growing things, somehow through all the assaults that are hurled at us — grey bugs, grasshoppers, and heat.
All it takes is determination to keep trying, pull out those weeds, offer some water, care, and little by little, bloom by bloom, we make our corner of the world a little sweeter.
In spite of all that threatens, I will sit on my front porch this evening, forgetting the hard work, and breathe deeply, inhaling the sweet fragrance of my grandmother’s four-o’clocks blooming with impunity, on another day in the country.