Saturday, March 29, 2014
Every gardener has that day when he wonders if it “is all worth it?”. Perhaps it’s the aching muscles following a day of preparing the soil,turning compost and spreading manure that initiates this thought. Or a conversation with a friend who in an off hand comment stated that the time you spent in the garden could be better spent making some money at a part time job, somewhere.
Then there’s always the pragmatist, like one of my sisters, who wants nothing to do with the outdoors or gardening except when it comes time to swing a golf club, who adds up all the hours of labor involved in seeding, planting, cultivating, nurturing and finally harvesting a crop, converts those hours into dollars and then tells you how much cheaper it is to simply buy at the market. Perhaps it’s the late frost that caught you unaware or the dang beetles that ate your prize lilies that makes you throw up your hands to the heavens and wonder “is this all worth it?”.
It happened to me just a couple of weeks ago. While staring out upon the garden, the raised beds merely shapes under a foot of snow, I was taken by a wave of melancholy so sudden, I couldn’t imagine where it was coming from. Before long I was wondering if the path I chose was worth it? What caused me to feel like this? Did I regret losing time for creating? Absolutely Not. Was I keeping a garden to save money on groceries? Possibly, with todays rising prices, but No. I don’t think so. Was I discouraged over losing a crop? No. If I didn’t have failures,well sure, how else would I learn?
You’re getting older, I told myself. You’re not as strong as you used to be. The muscles ache more and more every year. It’s only going to get worse in years to come. I couldn’t even fathom managing the herb farm I had for the previous 22 years. And yet I miss the greenhouse and that wonderful humusy smell of rich earth every time I enter, and to watch that miracle of growth of a seedling bed or simply to brush up against the lemon verbena leaves that would so readily perfume the greenhouse with a mere touch.
And then I thought about my Dad’s garden. He talked about reducing the size of his garden for years, but it didn’t happen. He’d say that he “won’t keep much of a garden this year”, but I knew it would be just as large and bigger than ever. He’d curse the spring mud ’cause he couldn’t plant yet, and he’d brush the snow off the escarole before he cut it just as he did for decades.
Then I realized that I, like my father, would never weary of keeping a garden. It simply isn’t in my bones or nature. I’ve told my dear hubby for years now, that the day I stop gardening, he may as well plant me.
There’s that bonding of the human spirit with the spirit of the earth that takes place when keeping a garden that no amount of bodily discomfort can diminish. Though I hate to admit it, it is, in fact, the labor itself that satisfies. The kind of labor that at the end of the day you can look upon, and see what you accomplished and feel like a good mother to the earth.
Is it all worth it? You bet. In fact, for me, it’s essential. I couldn’t imagine a windowsill without a tray of spring seedlings popping up in my house. This whole while, it was just miserable February making me feel funky. I’m really not too fond of late February, unless I’m off basking in the islands somewhere. Oh, don’t get me wrong, you’ll no doubt hear me bellyaching this season over weather conditions, critter attacks, aching muscles.. but by far you’ll hear and see the benefits I will reap from my garden..and for me, this outweighs any pitfalls that may come along my path. Now where are my mudmocks? Happy Spring gardening!