How It All Got Started

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(Summer 2009)

Ever wonder why things that are supposed to be "simple" end up costing so much? I mean really...



It's just supposed to be a garden. You stick a seed in the ground, toss a little water on it and "viola"...a perfect delicious tomato appears. Only I've got a concrete clay backyard with something green (weeds?..can't be grass) and a few native bushes and trees to help provide some much needed shade.

We planted a Maple 5 years ago and we enjoy sitting in the summer shade most evenings, alcoholic beverages in hand, happily buzzing our way into relaxation.

"Look at that crack in the ground". SM points out. (It hadn't rained in days.)

"I almost expect magma to come oozing out at any moment".

"Damn big crack." I agree.

Such is life in the North Carolina Piedmont where natural disasters are few. (Hugo, aside) But daily adversities such as hard clay, intense sun and all or nothing precipitation make vegetable gardening a joke.

SM and I were both raised in the lush greenness and yummy black soil of Ohio. (Funny how things become desirable when they're harder to get.) The reality is, like most kids, working the garden was a chore handed down by Mom & Dad.

SM is one of 8 kids. Gardens had to happen back then. Dad worked in the coal mines. Mom fixed one meal, cleaned up and began the next meal. (Rinse/Repeat) I can only imagine how big that garden was. Sweet corn, wax and green beans, peppers, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes....

Tomatoes?

"BLT sandwiches" SM says with a happy faraway smile. "Mmmmmm" sounding like Homer Simpson.

"When was the last time you had a really good tomato?" I asked.
(Me? I don't eat tomatoes. I can manage chili, pizza that sort of thing. I don't even like katsup on my fries.)

"Not recently....nothing tastes good anymore, you notice that? Tomatoes don't even smell like tomatoes. Peaches, nectarines? Hard as a rock. And the prices! $1.50 for a green pepper."

"No wonder we drink." I smile.

"We should plant a garden." SM says.

"We did! Don't you remember? Over there..." I nodded my head to where the shed now stands.

"We did?!"

"Yeah...! Watered it twice a day cause that was the year we hit 100 degrees for half the summer!" I said exaggerating...(something I do quite well!) "All we got out of it was a few bitter green peppers and a petrified squash."

"Well, we should try again." SM points out... visions of tomatoes dancing in his head.

"Yeah right!" I kicked the ground with the heel of my shoe. "Hard as a rock! You can't even dig a hole in this stuff."

"Yeah...I guess you're right." He sighs.

(But somewhere a seed was planted. And if my Baby wants a tomato that tastes like a tomato, well then.... Fast forward to January 2010. The doctor I work with has built a home out in the foothills of North Carolina. Lots of land. And he's planning a garden....)

"Are you nuts? Or do they have different soil than we have around here?" I ask.

"No. Same stuff. I used a posthole digger, dug it out and backfilled it with 4 loads of horse manure. Let it winter over and we'll see." He says shrugging.

"I'm jealous. SM and I would love to plant a vegatable garden but our ground is as hard as a rock."

"You should try raised beds. Ever hear of square foot gardening?"

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