Just up the road from my house there is a monastery where the Trappist sisters wear homespun robes with wide tanned leather belts and make and sell cheese. They are open every day, and you go in and there is no shop, just a sister behind a door and a standard white kitchen fridgidaire filled with glossy red waxed boules of handmade cheese. You give her a check, she gives you a new gouda, heavy and shiny, and silently blesses you as you quietly leave. The whole thing feels like a kind of sacrosanct drug deal. And the cheese. Well, you keep your fingers crossed when you cut into it because since you did the whole shady-monastery-cash-for-cheese re-up you want it to be incredible, and it is. It’s buttery and mild and sweet and just hard enough to go perfectly with a crusty bread and a little white wine. Thank you, sisters.
Sweetheart got me THREE big, thick, gorgeous books on starting a vegetable garden, so the day after the Christmas snows, I went out to walk the land. I’ve been thinking about this garden for years. Thinking big. rows of fruit trees and berries and tender lettuces and cucumbers and new potatoes and strange roots. I want them. And, I’ve decided: this is where it will go. This huge swath of gently sloping earth that gets full sun all summer and has enough funny nooks and tree-lines to the sides for any guys that like shade. This knobby, untended, johnson-grassed stretch of impermeable Albemarle Clay. I’m pretty sure it’s a good plan? Hmm.
I don’t really know what I’m doing in the garden. But, it’s in my blood. My grandfather used to cultivate flowers from cuttings and would eat a warm tomato off the bush like an apple. My mother lines her beds with precious Poet’s Laurel and twisty Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick and knows about blossom end rot and how to kill slugs (answer: with beer) and a thousand other secret earthy mysteries. Me? I’ve just stuck as many plants into whatever containers I can find, cross my heart, and know I can shake my fist at Brooklyn if it fails. Not so, this year. Perhaps it’s too much. To go from herbs planted in coffee cans to almost a full acre of possibilities? Oh. Man. BUT. We are not ones to be thwarted, we will get our hands dirty, we will grow. And- the books, with their maps and charts and diagrams, are ready to be devoured and the seed catalogs arrive next week. So now, in the time honored traditions of anyone working the land, we thank our lucky stars we have the rest of the winter to get it all together.