Jon de Vos: That sprout bit me
May 31, 2012
Holding a perfect lettuce head aloft in the produce section, it is easy to believe that it led an exemplary life and met a timely and hygienic ending.
There’s little thinking about it in a grocery store. Pop it in a bag, in the fridge and in the salad. No sweat, no dirt. The floors are clean, the lighting is designer-perfect and nothing slithers out of the brussel sprouts to nip off a finger.
I was born in downtown Los Angeles where garden is a gerund, as in, “I shot him ’cause he was boostin’ the Beemer while I was garden it.”
My wife was born in downtown Pittsburg (no h), Kansas, where the word garden takes two forms. The noun is a plot and the verb is the activity of plowing the plot.
To the task of gardening, she brings potting soil, compost, fertilizers, root stimulators, mail-order ladybugs, plant vitamins, soil conditioners, fish emulsions, and other notions too smelly for your septic. Did I mention a wheelbarrow? Or pushing it?
I watched her at work, going from flowerpot to flowerpot like a hummingbird. Safely out of earshot, I moaned loudly. For the next 90 days (82 for early varieties) I will be an integral (married) part of groveling in the dirt, keeping moose and chipmunk at bay, murdering God’s weeds while shepherding a flock of carrots to the stewpot.
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Or, I could be back from Safeway with 3 bucks worth of carrots in 15 minutes. I’d even spring 6 bucks for organic if she’d agree to put down that wicked-looking hand rake.
I was reaching for the remote when she slammed the door, announcing, “What’s it gonna take to get some help around this joint? You want a nice garden too, don’t you?”
A long, silent pause was apparently an unacceptable answer and her frown carried an explicit threat.
I said slowly, “Did you read the story of the Florida woman who surprised an eight-foot hooded cobra as she was bent over gardening? A nearby neighbor was milking them for the venom to sell to a pharmaceutical company to pay off his cocaine dealer and he spaced out shutting the cage. The point being, if she had not been gardening, she would not be offering her posterior to any snake in the grass who passed by.”
“What’s this got to do with you getting up off the couch and lending a hand?”
“Fear has me immobilized. A guy in England was gardening when a meteorite crashed through his trees and landed at his feet. Nearly killed him. Clearly a warning, like a sign from above.”
“Let’s talk about signs from below,” she said, hands on hips, eyes narrowing dangerously. Abruptly mobilized, I jumped up and ran for the cursed wheelbarrow.
With all the help from science, shouldn’t gardening be a lot like “Jack in the Beanstalk”? You should plant and then have to jump out of the way of the sprouts. Jack’s Magic Bean led him to a heroic career, wealth, and a beautiful woman. Gardening, I have come to find, is not always like that. You sweat a lot and lucky ones get a radish.
Or a yummy bowl of parsnips.
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