Can Too Many Veggies Kill You?

Garden partyI stop. I look around my garden, which just six weeks ago was a 44×33 section of lawn. Odd dimensions, I admit. Rusty bought a tiller for my birthday and turned over the soil. Best birthday present ever! Since moving to the sticks, every gift-giving occasion, we get a new Swamp Yankee Thing. I got him a tow bar for his birthday. He got me the tiller, I got him a trailer for the lawn tractor so he can Indy 500 around with loads of wood and leaves and stuff. He bought himself a chainsaw. My chainsaw is wimpy. We split the Jeep trailer. Now we can forage wood. By “we” I mean “he,” but I can stack it up nice and run the wood stove. I’m learning my rustic skills. I’d like to be off the grid someday. Just a bit.

Rusty is better qualified for this. His first teen job was felling trees and taking care of horses. Mine was working at a real estate agency finding house listings and spell checking ads before Google and spell check were invented. Mostly, I learned to drink coffee and call WHCN to win concert tickets back when radio stations were local and had fans. I’m not sure that prepared me for getting off the grid. 

Rusty made the mega-garden mostly to “keep (me) the hell out of the front yard.” He said I should not even think about planting a horseradish or spring onion border in his flower beds. I totally would. I don’t plant much I can’t eat. Veggies are beautiful. I’d line the sidewalks with rainbow chard and use mint as the groundcover near the road. You can’t eat portulaca. It’s not very useful. Weeds are beautiful, too. They have flowers. I’d get rid of the grass if possible. Plant the whole thing with food, with English-garden pathways. In my mind’s eye, the front yard is simply a canvas for food. In fact, many lawn weeds are edible if you just let them grow. Though the lawn’s stunning, I’m a bit sad each time Rusty outflanks weeds with chemicals, defeating the chickweed, dandelion greens, and plantain leaves that are just trying to say, “Hey, here I am, tomorrow’s salad. Celebrate me!” 

“Thanks for growing, guys, but you have been sprayed with RoundUp. I think I might grow another hand if I eat you.” I think twice. The prospect of growing another hand is actually pretty attractive to me–I’m super busy. I could take multitasking to a new level, but since the Roundup label has too many big side-effect words, like a Viagra commercial, I give up contemplating eating weeds, and go back to my birthday garden, which has way too many veggies anyway. 

I empathize with Rusty. I understand the strict warnings. Every time he turned his head in our former urban paradise, I planted something new; constructed a new raised bed. I didn’t do this to annoy him, I just saw places where vegetable plants should be. You might call that obsessive. I think it’s a metaphor for life. You see an opportunity for growth; you plant something. Plant enough seeds, and you’re guaranteed a decent harvest. He does this all the time in business and entrepreneurship, but when I do it by planting, say, seven  hundred beet seeds and carrots in cracks in the sidewalk, it’s somehow not as cool.

My friend called my garden “big ass and ugly.”  He’s forgiven. It’s either jealousy or he’s glad he doesn’t have to put up with my carrots in the sidewalk. Indeed I am going overboard. I will to eat from this garden from now to late fall. It’s already begun. Eight days of kale and spinach. Priceless.

I’ve been told document the money spent on the garden to calculate the real cost of food. That reminds me of a great book, “The $64 Tomato.” I’m sure I’d be shocked. I tell everyone I just want to enjoy the beauty of life popping up where no life had been. It’s an excuse–I’m terrified that the bottom line will officially prove I’m insane. 
 
Besides, I don’t want to measure everything. It would remind me of work. I feel like I exist to measure stuff. Test, assessment, goal, target, graph, pie chart…I don’t want that to be the spirit of my garden. It’s my soul.
 
“How will you know what you did so you can be successful next year?”  Good question. Oh, I will take notes and information. I’ll remember that my cucumbers died and I swore.  I’ll remember that my farmer told me I planted the carrots too early and I need to reseed. No need to measure. My only goal–to weed, eat, and share the deliciousness with some aphids, and maybe some of you. 
 
 
 
 
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Pulling Weeds

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 5.47.58 AMI’m pulling weeds in the garden and planting new flowers.  The garden is full. It’s huge. Truth be told, it could have been a little bigger–I’d have filled it. A million things poke through the soil–some in rows, more in random places where I stuffed them when I ran out of room–overzealousness. I can’t wait for things to grow–I plant more daily.

I am installing marigolds along the fence, one by one, a million of them–the best defense against rabbits, I’m told. I dig holes, and stuff flowers in holes. Dig more, shove more in the ground. A line is forming.  Shovel and flower hovering, next flower ready… Two leaves rise up from the back of the hole.

“Hey!” they say, “What’s the big idea?”

“Sorry. Just planting the marigolds. Didn’t mean to disturb.”

“Well, watch yourself! You just planted here last week. I’m trying to grow. Do you MIND?”

“True,” I tell the zinnia seedling, and pat the dirt back around her.  “I forgot. I’ll try to remember.” I stuff the marigold row an inch forward and leave the zinnia be.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 5.48.31 AMI get so excited watching new life pop up and grow, that I don’t wait for things to take root. I plant on top of plants, I accidentally rip things up, mistake things for weeds…never really knowing if the first plant was growing the way it should.  Sort of reminds me of school.

We have all these measures, initiatives, and changes–some are necessary, but others  never really get a chance to take root, because there’s always another thing to plant, hole to dig, things to disturb. Sometimes, we just need to wait–if we do, beautiful seedlings will emerge. If we encourage them, remain steadfast and patient, and allow them to be nurtured by the sun, they will flower. It is magic.

In management and business, it takes time to assess the effectiveness of change. There are mathematical equations for this. I’ve worked for corporations that made major change upon major change, putting the organization in chaos, never really knowing which initiative drove business. In education, it often feels the same way. Sometimes we demand effectiveness immediately–it’s important. We behave as if there’s a pedagogical magic wand putting us back at the top of the mountain for all the world to see. “If we just do this…we’ll be number one. In every category. Again.” That causes chaos. It pulls the zinnias out by the roots. They never get their chance to flower.

Change takes time. Assessing change requires patience. Growth cannot be rushed. It’s science. Nature. Cyclical. To expect anything other than what is truth in nature to be true in education would be absurd.

Wait for the growth.

Wait for the growth.

Sorry, little zinnia. Thank you for the reminder. I won’t disturb you with a big flashy marigold just because it has a big orange swirly flower right now. Honestly, marigolds smell terrible. They’re a bit ostentatious. I’ll wait for you to bloom–it’ll be spectacular. Even if it does take a little bit longer.

 

 

[images: blog.cameronleger.com and flowerscape.blogspot.com]