By Tanya Ward Goodman
At the tail end of winter, we began a huge yard renovation. We dug things up and moved things around. It would look much worse before it looked any better. My daughter and I took apart the composter where we had been tossing rinds and seeds and smushy ends of fruit and vegetables for nearly three years. We turned the whole mess over with a pitchfork and then shoveled it onto a piece of screen set over the wheelbarrow. My girl shook the screen while I, with gloved hands, crumbled chalky bits of eggshell and removed hollowed cornhusks and banana peels made leathery in the heat. We found huge white grubs, eyeless worm things as thick as my thumb. We found earwigs and shiny black beetles and millipedes as flexible and bright as copper wire. It was messy business this composting, but our labor was rewarded with a nearly full wheelbarrow of fine soil, dark as coffee grounds.
As the work in the yard dragged on, we rolled this precious soil from one place to the next, hoping to add it to new garden beds where we would grow more vegetables and herbs and start the whole composting process again. It took a long time before the beds were ready and with all the rain and sun, small sprouts had begun to grow in the red wheelbarrow. I recognized the jagged leaves of tomato and the lily pad leaves of squash or melon. I thought there might be an eggplant. We transplanted these “volunteers” into the new yard as the gloom of June lifted. As the heat of July descended, we waited for them to reveal their identities.
This morning, I held the hem of my shirt up to make a pocket and loaded dozens of bright red tomatoes the size of quail eggs. In my garden there are also Japanese eggplant and the prickly green mystery pods have turned into melons, which ripen in the sun. Miniature pumpkins rise from the husk of last Halloween. It is magical and wonderful, but also very logical and real. These things went into the compost and so it makes sense that they would come out.
That logic doesn’t detract at all from the magic.
By: Allison Norris
Hello, Spring? Is that you?
I had imagined planting a beautiful vegetable garden along my white picket fence. A few kids running around in the yard, and the dog (a retriever, of course) trying to get them, would decorate my perfect yard. The sprinkler, going back and forth would drench them and I’d wrap them up in a fluffy white towel after washing the dirt from the day off in the bath. My husband, who was so tired of his career modeling underwear for Calvin that he went back to school to become a doctor, would walk through the door and wrap his arms around me exposing the pint of ice cream in one hand.
Wait, I think half of that is a detergent commercial? Those media assholes.
Bay and I tossed on our coats and headed to the garden store to buy a starter kit and some seeds. It was freezing cold with the sun out, and buzzing with people. Every single one of them stopped to smile at Bay, who loved all of the attention, and delayed our mission by at least 30 minutes.
With our seeds, starter kit, and a Dora shovel for Bay, we headed back to our bottom floor duplex to play with our newly purchased dirt. We spread the supplies out on our concrete slab and started expanding the dirt pellets with water and then placed our seeds inside. As sad as this sounds, I don’t know that I’ve planted seeds before. It was beautiful, actually, knowing that with your special attention and care, these little balls will form food that we’ll be able to eat! It reminded me of being pregnant and taking care of my little baby, growing every day… minus the eating-when-it’s-done-growing part. Then, Bay decided to crawl on top of the very thin plastic, crushing the squares that contained our newly planted edamame and sugar snap peas.
He ate some dirt, I showed him a worm that we found in an overgrown flower pot, and then I gave him a bath in his blow up duck bath tub that sits inside of my shower. I wrapped him up warm in a yellow towel and he laughed when I covered his little body in lotion and eventually pajamas. He slept sound all night.
Maybe I should feed him dirt before bed every night…