The other day, someone left three pea plants on my front porch. They were planted in containers that were meant to be vases, not planters, and lacked any means for drainage. I got three stunted pea plants growing in mud, plus three pretty containers. Peas don’t usually transplant well, and these had not been given the greatest start, but I had to at least give them a chance, so I moved them into the backyard. As of this morning, they are still alive and growing, so they may yet have a chance at life. Thanks, mysterious pea benefactor! I will try to take care of your babies.
All my neighbors claimed ignorance as to the parents of the abandoned peas, so I’m left with a very small mystery. It’s not too surprising that my house would be chosen as a home for foundling vegetables, though, since we’re growing more vegetables this year than you would really think possible for a small urban yard. I’m hoping to amaze myself at harvest time, though I would settle for a good learning experience. I’m taking part in Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days Challenge, which is all about making steps towards food independence. Every week I report in on her comments section on what I’ve been up to, and I’ve been enjoying reading what everyone else is doing at the same time. There’s everything from apartment dwellers growing windowsill tomatoes to people with cows and chickens and cornfields, all reporting in, and it’s great to follow.
I have a long-term dream, one that is so common among urban pagans that it’s a cliche, that I will move out to the country someday and surround myself with sheep and milk goats and chickens and flourishing organic vegetable gardens and be In Tune With the Land(tm). I do actually have direct experience with large (and small) farm animals, family vegetable gardens, canning, farm management, and many other practical skills towards that particular dream, and I think I have a realistic chance of making it happen. (“It,” for me, would be a farm in northern New England or eastern Ontario of 50-100 acres, with a good balance of pasture and woodland, with a farmhouse and a really solid barn, some fruit trees, a small flock of sheep, a couple of milk goats, a horse or three, some chickens, a couple of big woofy dogs to guard them and maybe a rat terrier to keep down the vermin, a big veggie patch, a hayfield, good neighbors with strong teenage children who can be hired to help out with haying and such, some sources for homegrown electricity, a woodstove, an art studio for my husband and a high-speed internet connection for me to be able to still work from home with a paying job – you know, in my spare time.)
Right now, I work in a dull cubicle in a tall building in a large city, and live in a narrow rowhouse about an hour’s walk away from the tall building. I can’t have chickens or goats, the hayfield is right out, and I’m not sure wood stoves are even legal here. What I do have is about 600 square feet of yard. It used to be too shaded for anything but ferns and hostas and that sort of thing – definitely not right for vegetables. Two trees were taken out over the past year, and suddenly we have a lot more sun. We also built a fence, which took care of my other concern – there are plenty of people around here who are very bad at respecting each other’s yard space and I’ve had to deal with all kinds of annoying neighborly interference. Once I had a neighbor decide to “weed my yard” for me and pull out all my lemon balm. I was annoyed, but if you know lemon balm, you know how that worked out – it all came back, of course, but since she had disturbed it, it came back all over. Including all over her yard. There are new tenants there now who ignore their yard completely, and it’s now covered in lemon balm. Revenge is sweet. Another year I had a neighbor decide to spray weed poison all over his yard, and along the edge of my yard, right where I had finally gotten cucumbers to grow. Part of that dream outlined above involves neighbors that are Very Far Away.
I seem to be having better neighbor experiences this year – maybe it’s the magic of the fence (we all know what Robert Frost said about that.) The poison people are gone, and in their place are a very nice young couple who are getting into gardening, so we have something to talk about. Yesterday, as we were out walking, we passed a guy doing some work in his yard. He always has a very nicely landscaped house, so we complimented him, and he immediately gave us some anise and some feverfew that had spread and he needed to get rid of, so we have some of that going now, too. I’m looking forward to anise, mint and lemon balm tea. I’m almost starting to like this neighborhood – I resented it for years for Not Being the Country, but I feel like I’ve been carving out a little space in it that I can love.