“Stories are like seeds. It pays to know what you want to harvest from your garden so you can plant the right seeds.”  Mary Alive Arthur, story activist.

Inauguration Day felt like the true start of the new year.  With so much commentary–I’ll let others address the politics. I celebrated the day with a rite of new beginnings.

I bought seeds.

Growing a garden, after all, has some parallels with growing a new culture.

Seed lust

I live on an island where the desire to grow things is infused into the local water systems. I overdosed during my first years. I planted and grew way too much and then felt overwhelmed at harvest time. I swore to remember that 1) I am my gardening staff of one; 2) There are only so many turnips a couple can eat at any one time; 3) Fellow islanders do not want my zucchinis. In fact, islanders have been known to duck and cover any time they see a neighbor approaching with anything green in August.

Still hope springs anew when the end of a bleak, bleak winter is in sight.

One evening with  “The Territorial Seed Catalogue” from Oregon and I’m smitten with seed-lust. How can you resist descriptions like:

“Cantarix [lettuce] produces beautiful billowing globes of glossy, maroon-colored, oak leaf foliage that fades to a lime-green center. Maturing to about 7 inches wide and 4 inches tall, the plants provide a plentiful supply of sweet, supple leaves for continuous harvest.”

I’m in. My list lengthens. To give myself a balancing dose of reality, I add to my must-remember list:

  • My husband, while open to the force of nature called “kale,” will not eat it every night.
  • Finding a hoof print in the garden never augurs well.
  • One visit by one deer can devastate half the garden.
  • My horse likes peas. She will stick her long neck into the pea patch, risking a small electric shock. She doesn’t know how to pick, so her solution is to chomp shoots and pull out vines.
  • Half-eaten pea vines will not rise again.
  • Tomatoes, in the Northwest, ripen in October, after the rains have turned them to mush.
  • Digging is a family activity. My dogs follow my lead and continue to dig after I’ve planted.
  • I am slightly allergic to garlic, and the crop I planted last fall will sustain me for the next decade.
  • The robins put out a “Situation Alert” in June devoted to raspberries. With the announcement of the first delicious berry, birds from across the county flock to our property.
  • Harvesting, although fun, takes time. Perhaps “I like apples” wasn’t enough to justify 1200 pounds of apples each year.
  • As you sow, so shall you weed.
  • Weeding is a cosmic event that is never, ever done.

Hope and reality

As I work through the catalog, the dance between reality and hope continues, as it will with the new presidential administration.

In the spirit of the new President who invited us to step up, I offer a few garden insights:

  • Changing the culture is like developing soil. It takes time. Rather than just dumping fertilizer on a bed (which I’ve done), it’s better to play the long haul and cultivate an environment where the good stuff can grow.
  • Compost is golden, which is helpful when you’ve been left with a lot of shit.
  • Not all seeds will germinate.
  • It will never turn out completely according to plan. (The deer who crashed our fence.)  Expect mistakes. (Why did I grow perpetually self-seeding fennel?)
  • The best soil conditioner ever is love.

My kale made it through the winter, and so will we.

In the spirit of new beginnings, I dare you to resist this:

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