Garden Grunt

There’s a certain pleasure in being grunt labor for a garden. For one, it doesn’t involve much thinking. My wife, DyAnne, is the gardener in our family and she works out the math behind the plants. Occasionally, I’ll throw in a suggestion about fertilizer. Life doesn’t get more basic than assessing effective shit.
For another, I get to mess with power tools and play in the dirt. We just got a new tiller that required assembly. I’m an instruction-follower and I don’t know why. The manuals I come across usually leave out key directions and put the brakes on a project. So, I wing it, which typically calls for minimal thought. But with this tiller, the instructions flowed from Step 1 through Step 36, Subsection 4B without a hitch. I initially installed the handle upside down but recognized the error in time to make corrections before the situation spun out of control. As such, I’ve got a good feeling about this tiller. We haven’t started it yet, but I feel confident. The instructions recommended to wait on starting until closer to tilling time. That way the gas doesn’t sit too long and go stale. Instructions said it. I believe it. That settles it.
Mother’s Day is our annual trip to area greenhouses for starter plants. In Northern Minnesota, we’re in plant-hardiness Zone 3. A rough rule of thumb around these parts is to purchase plants on Mother’s Day but don’t be surprised if they’re not in the ground until Father’s Day.
My responsibilities at the greenhouse are to negotiate the chopped-out shopping cart that’s customized for plant transport through narrow, bumpy rows. Sometimes, Dy puts me in charge of procuring tomatoes because I can ID those without much help. Again, not a lot of thought here. I’m pleased with my growth since last year at recognizing some of our favorite herbs. I’m spot on with rosemary, not too bad at basil, but thyme can throw me on occasion. Most ornamental plants are out of my league. I make valiant guesses anyway.
Hanging out with the shopping cart is also a good place to people-watch. I see other grunts like me down the aisles doing the same thing. There’s something in our eyes when we lock on to each other’s gaze that silently speaks to the importance of our role. It’s good work if you can get it.
My greatest pleasure is simply observing Dy meticulously select plants. She examines them for bugs, checks for even color and calculates how best to ensure their survival until planting. It’s spiritual for her. She’s learned well from a Beatle who was actually a gardener in disguise. George Harrison never claimed the soil and plant life he tended was his. He said the garden belongs to God.
Gardening for DyAnne is akin to hunting for me. If we’re lucky, harvest from the garden and harvest from the forest will combine in the physical realm in the form of recipes for the dinner table.


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