Before we left for New Orleans, Sweetheart and I pored over the seed catalogs I ordered back during the cold, dark months. We decided to order from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, an organic seed saving co-operative that’s about an hour away from us, figuring that whatever persnickety planting instructions they might have would ring true for us too. We were intoxicated with the sheer HOPE of the whole thing, the tiny paper packets full of possibility, with their seductive heirloom names (Lazy Wife Greasy Bean, Drunken Woman Lettuce, Ice Cream Melon, Whippoorwill Southern Pea, Yellow Moon and Stars Watermelon), and family origin stories (Violet’s Multicolored Butterbean: saved by 4 generations of Violet Brady Westbrook’s family, Banks County, GA, Turkey’s Craw Bean: according to folklore, a hunter shot a turkey and removed a bean from its craw; the bean was later planted and saved, hence the name Turkey Craw). When we returned we had a fat package of seeds waiting for us. We awoke to a frost today, but we’ve got to get our buns in gear! Dirt under our fingernails, the sun on our shoulders, the possibility of the soil, we are drunk with it.
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.