By Pat Neal
It was the lettuce that convinced me to grow a garden. The idea of simply stepping out the door to pick a gourmet salad of the freshest greens mixed with thin shavings of baby carrots paired with the appropriate herbs and Mom’s red wine vinegar dressing overcame my initial trepidation and I whatever residue of common sense I once possessed.
I knew a garden was a long shot. The only sunny spot was choked with the meanest, nastiest weeds we have, the Himalayan blackberries. These were old-growth blackberries. They were so old I should have surveyed the mess for Spotted Owls, Marbled Murrelets, and jumping slugs before attempting to cut them down. I knew that when the garden pruners disintegrated during the initial attack on the blackberries. Should have used a chainsaw.
Once the blackberries were cleared it was time to replenish the first aid kit. Blackberries fight back. Grab one end of a blackberry vine and the other end swings around and whacks you, slashing nasty gashes in your hide. Once I healed up it was time to move on to the next torture device, the shovel.
These are one of the most useful tools ever invented. Unfortunately, I have never been able to find a shovel that fits my hands. Working with the wrong sized shovel could result in serious bodily injury and who wants to take the chance. Besides, sticking the shovel in the ground was impossible since it was solid rock entwined with bits of rusty metal to make it interesting. It was like an archaeological dig into a treasure trove of logging artifacts.
While prying a priceless piece of logging history lose from the rocks, the shovel handle shattered into a million sharp pieces, any one of which might have injured the fingers I use to type with. I should have never risked my writing career by foolishly using a shovel. I should have used dynamite.
It may seem like a small detail but it is a known fact that when gardening you need some soil to plant the seeds in. There was only one thing to do. I had to get some dirt. That took some time. The hours of daylight increased the ambient temperature did not. Just my luck to try to grow a garden in what seemed like a day in the life in the next ice age. Lettuce does not do well in 38-degree hail storms.
Then things got weird. With the wind, sleet, and rain the leaves started falling. This is usually a fall phenomenon marking the end of summer but it was happening in a summer that never started. The leaves covered the garden so thickly the lettuce couldn’t sprout.
That’s when I remembered the best garden advice I ever heard, plant early and often. So, I did. I planted often over and over again until something finally came up. Unfortunately, I had no idea what it was. Whatever it was, was not edible in anything but a famine situation.
Then a miracle happened! The potatoes sprouted. The peas poked their head out of the soggy ground. In no time it was time to string them up so they could climb into the weak summer sun. By then the amount of money I had spent on seed, tools fertilizer, dirt, and first aid supplies was reaching the point where it was leading to an economic collapse. Stupidly, I used fishing line to string the peas. The line stretched. The peas collapsed on the potatoes. The potatoes collapsed on the beans. The lettuce never did come up. Oh well, wait till next year.