Friday, September 02, 2011

Wisconsin 101: Gardening for the incompetent

You guys, I am a failure. My gardens this year - flower and veg - are shite. Only a few of the flowers I planted from seed germinated and they are spindly and weak and gasping for air. The vegetables?

Oh for shame.

The chard grew about 4" and then stopped. It has not budged in a month. Yes, I have watered. I have had to water: we have had so little rain that I have mown the grass only once in the past month. Which is fine because I think grass is a waste of space.

The other good news about the lack of rain is that this is the first year since we moved in that our basement has not flooded. We are not missing that at all.

Speaking of grass, my neighbor moved, much to my dismay because 1. I like her and 2. her son is our cat-sitter.

Before she left, she asked me to take care of the next neighbors' yard: they are an elderly couple, he with a heart condition and she recovering from a broken hip. I have shoveled their sidewalk before because it is the neighborly thing to do. But I have not been in charge.

But what do you say? No, those old people can fend for themselves?

I agreed.

The first time I was out mowing, the next next door neighbor said hello and said for me to give a shout anytime I needed help. I blew it: Instead of answering, Hey, anytime you think this grass needs to be cut, just come on over!, I just said OK. I do not want to be the in-charge person on this. I do not want to be the boss. On this. In other things, yes. But not on cutting the grass because I hate cutting grass. I hate it.

The elderly couple do have children who live in town, but apparently those kids don't feel an obligation to take care of their folks and their yard. Sad, although you never know what has happened in people's lives. The elderly people seem very nice, but what if they were complete jerk parents? Then I would say they are reaping what they sowed.

I had to mow again yesterday because nobody else jumped in. The grass was getting long and I was worried that Elderly Neighbor would just cut it himself and have a heart attack. But the next time I see the other neighbors out, I am going to say that all are welcome to cut.

Back to my garden. No rain. But I have watered. Still, almost nothing. Last year, I was giving away chard and tomatoes and zucchini and lettuce. This year, I am guarding my precious puny harvest with a shotgun. Well, if I had a gun I would be guarding with it.

I was going to blame it all on the weather and our awful cold spring and the late summer, but then I went to Medford to see family and discovered that my aunt, who had a heart attack the weekend she was going to stake her tomatoes, so that never got done and now the tomatoes are sprawled all over and slugs are eating half the fruit, still has a better garden than I do.

I feel inferior.

Fortunately, I also feel lucky. Because my aunt is extraordinarily generous and sent me home with a car full of produce. (And my cousin Angie, whose rice krispie treats with the pudding I stupidly declined, sent me home with a cooler full of venison bratwurst. Not many people are brat worthy. Brats are too hard for me to get.)

She sent basil, parsley, tomatoes and cucumbers. Then we went to the farmers market, where I loaded up on corn, maple syrup, blueberries and flowers.

This farmers market, BTW, has rural farmers market prices. None of those $8 a pint strawberries in northern Wisconsin. For $5, I got a quart of blueberries. Wild blueberries. Yes, that is correct. Wild. The little itty bitty kind that are a pain in the neck to pick.

I drove 253 miles with the aroma of basil filling the car. Not a bad way to travel.

I guess the trick is that if your garden is going to be crummy, be related to someone who has a good one.

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