Vol. 10, No. 15

April 11 -17, 2002

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Extremism in Pursuit of Gardening Is No Vice

While writer Pat Harder and her husband Bill are laying railroad track through their nine acres near Galesville, another Bay Weekly family is cutting a woodland cascade down the steep, narrow, side yard of their Fairhaven cliff-top home. Still another is sodding the small square of their Annapolis backyard. At the back of our office in Deale, yet another Bay Weekly family has raised an eight-by-eight-foot set of square-foot garden beds, filling them with the “perfect mixture” of fertile, organic soil in hope of eating fresh and well.

Are we crazy?

You’d think so, seeing us lug and toil and dig and rake. Sweat-encrusted with the good composted earth we work, we bear no resemblance to Better Homes gardeners. The only place we can go without a good Saturday night scrubbing is the hardware, lawn or garden store.

How they love to see us coming. From the earliest breath of spring, we home-gardeners spend the bulk of our disposable income on tools, rocks, seeds, mulch, shrubberies and garden ornaments. That’s about the same amount we were investing on home improvement projects until the weather broke … and will again on every rainy weekend until our boat goes into the water — but that’s another story.

We dream of concocting a scheme we can’t manage ourselves, say a hot tub to soothe our aching muscles — because that’s the only way we can imagine getting to sit down long enough to enjoy our handiwork.

We may be crazy, but we can’t help ourselves. We’re victims of the immigration scheme, of the American dream, of Jeffersonian agrarianism. We’ve scaled our holdings down considerably from the 40 acres that would make every American farm family independent, but we can’t get the earth out from under our fingernails.

So mornings, evenings and weekends, most of us here — like many of you — escape from our 21st-century universes of paper and plasma to go back to the earth. It’s the substance we were made of, and by working it we make ourselves new. Feeling the dirt between our toes and fingers takes us back to the real world of worms and wood and the wonder we still feel as the sun rises above the Eastern Shore or dips below the mountains.

We’re like Atlas, the mythical Greek Titan, who as a wrestler was invigorated when he was thrown to the ground because he took his strength from the earth.

Our little plots are our gardens of Eden, which we reenter through toil and pain to find our innocence.

Excuse us if we wax mythological: It’s spring and we’d rather be gardening.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly