Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rocky and Bullwinkle Offer a Teachable Moment

This year the garden my daughter and I have planted in our yard is different from our gardens of the past decade and longer. The selection of vegetables has been restricted in terms of variety and volume (we had so many tomatoes last year it was a ironic it wasn't a local election season, if you follow my drift), so that planted this time are far fewer types of tomato plants and lettuce. Perhaps the biggest change in the garden she and I have planted this year is that I have planted none of it.

I came home from work one day last week and she and her mother had traveled to "CT's Home Improvement Warehouse", the one with the orange signs (as in 'orange you sorry you didn't choose a different color?') and rented the small roto-tiller, the Mantis, chewed up a patch of the backyard, worked in the compost to prepare the plot and planted the crops.

Since, among my talents, is the inability to understand when to water young plants, I don't even do that part of the garden. I open the back door, walk down the stairs, stand on the concrete landing and admire the fruits of not-my-labor. I never grow tired of this. Between us, had I realized how much fun gardening this way was, I'd have taken it up years ago. Assuming my daughter would have allowed me.

Michelle is very much her mother's daughter in terms of attention to detail (the map she drew of the garden with the layout and distribution of plants is color coded and seems to also be to scale). In years past, I would draw schematics on white pieces of paper in ink with my recollections of what I thought we had planted and where. Usually in equal parts less than accurate.Two, or maybe three, years ago we waited for most of the season for the rhubarb that I thought I had planted to break through. Turns out it may have been elsewhere in the patch but had been mooted when I'd clipped it with the mower.

The garden is in and doing well, or as well as anyone who has only been around for forty-eight hours can be doing, except as I learned yesterday morning, our neighborhood posse of squirrels, the same animals who show up, magically, when they sense Michelle might be home from college on weekends and holidays, and beg, literally, for peanuts, played the 'let's dig up the corn plants' card yesterday with deleterious effect.

Michelle was outraged at their betrayal. To their credit, they were thorough, though I knew better than to offer that observation aloud. The squirrels ate every shoot of every plant, digging them out of the garden so as to enjoy every mouthful. I find it interesting that since pulling this stunt, we haven't seen the little ba$tards since. They're usually all over the back landing with the first rays of the sun, banging into the blue recycling bins (searching perhaps for something to eat) making enough noise to attract attention, hopefully to be followed by fistfuls of peanuts being flung in their direction.

This morning and all of today, not so much or so many. My daughter is angry and I think the squirrels know it, and no matter what Animal Planet has taught me, I think they might even know why. In a way, as I've watched her rearrange our garden, and look to replace the corn plants and then safeguard the replacements, I've come to see our little backyard setback as symbolic of Norwich.

We have a plan of development in the Rose City, a relatively stable infrastructure, a good handle on our municipal expenses and realistic if not fully articulated goals for small scale economic development. We know to realize our plans and benefit ourselves and our chldren, we must be prepared to accept a certain amount of sacrifice in the now for rewards to be reaped in the future. But delayed gratification is so hard and for so many, it's too hard. Yes, we know if we eat our seed corn there will nothing to plant or to harvest. But we're hungry now and someone, somewhere could show up with corn enough for all at harvest time and then our sacrifice and self-control will have been unnecessary. At least that's what we tell ourselves and our squirrels. That, and that they can fly.
-bill kenny

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You truly have a gift, Bill. You are not only so so funny, but your humor has a point that causes us to look at something in a different way.

I'm telling you, we need you to get formally involved in what is happening in Norwich! So start with the school board. You have so much to offer and you would be a blast!

Joyce

dweeb said...

Thank you for your kind words.

I'm not sure many others in the Rose City would appreciate a more formal involvement by me in Norwich, unless you were suggesting a dinner jacket.

And then some of those might only be keen on the idea if I were on the menu. When you're a cannibal, every fight is a food fight.