Monday, April 06, 2009

Contemplations upon a packet of wax beans

The season of growth is again upon us.

Today it is snowing, but in contrast to the never-ending slogging that is January in Cleveland, I know that this snow will be gone in a day or two at most. I don’t mind snow as much when I am watching the maple trees bloom outside my window and the jonquils I planted in that little pot on my desk are starting to bloom. You can’t fool me, Mother Nature. It’s spring.

The weekend was spent, in large part, engaged in preparations for this year’s garden. We garden cooperatively with the neighbors in our little cul-de-sac. If we were in Los Angeles, they’d call us a commune and we’d be trendy. As it is, we’re in semi-rural Ohio, and it’s called being neighborly.

This is the third year of our little experiment in cooperative gardening, and I feel like we’ve really hit our stride. Where before, we’d each have our tiny patch with a couple tomato plants, some peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and a bean plant or two, we’re now bordering on agri-business, with each yard being assigned plantings based on what has grown best the past two years. This year, I started several dozen seeds of each of various peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers, we have dug asparagus trenches in each yard (don’t know who will win the Asparagus Queen title among us), Lori has about 100 leeks in her yard, and Theresa has completely out-done herself with five different varieties of legumes. To that, we add melons, pumpkins, squash, herbs, okra (Lori did okra; I’m not sure who she thinks is going to eat it all, but I’ll let her have her fantasy), and a half-dozen other favorites that each family loves in their own way.

There’s nothing I can say about the satisfaction of growing your own food that Barbara Kingsolver hasn’t expressed more eloquently than I ever could. I’ll just say that on this snowy April afternoon, I’m dreaming of the smell of sun-warmed July earth and pasta sauce stirring on an outdoor camp stove, prepared from vegetables picked off their stems or pulled from the ground minutes before. Of starting dinner planning each week by sending the girls out into the neighborhood to see what’s ripe. Of Saturday afternoons spent with a hoe and a rake, accompanied by kibitzing neighbors who arrive with beer and laughter to “help”.

My girlfriend, Christy, often (only half-) jokes about how we will all survive if the world “goes Jericho”. I’d like to think we’d do pretty well in our little neighborhood. But in the meantime, we’re just eating better, and on less money, than we ever have and I’m grateful.

Zucchini, anyone?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Some of you know that Mr. Bean and I are in the process of becoming licensed foster parents, so that we can adopt a local teenager (“Daisy Mae”) who has stolen the hearts of both of us, and K to boot.

We have to complete 60 hours of classes, and our home study, and our physicals, our fire marshal inspection, CPR and First Aid training, background checks, finger prints and a full psych evaluation. And we have to buy a new bed and carpet for her room.

Is it worth it?

On Sunday, I was at the neighbor’s house where Daisy lives right now. Her foster mom, Lori, and I were planning this year’s gardens: I get the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other crops that need the wetter, more fertile soil of our floodplain garden site. Lori would grow beans, peas, corn and other crops that probably need a bit drier soil.

At some point, Daisy wandered through the room. Grabbing an apple off the counter, she looked at me. “Um…so…what are you guys having for dinner?”

“The carnivores are having steak; I have a piece of salmon.”

“I love steak. Have I mentioned that I love steak?” She grinned and hopped from foot to foot.

“Would you like to some for dinner?” I looked at Lori, “You wanna send her over for dinner?”

“What?” said Lori, “and miss out on hearing her complain about my cooking??” She winked.

Daisy giggled and hopped up. “I’ll get my shoes.”

Daisy arrived with a box of hair color in her hand. “Maybe after dinner, could you help me color my hair?”

Two hours later, dinner was prepared and eaten. Dishes were done. Daisy and the Bug were curled up together on the couch, watching Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Daisy was falling asleep. Mr. Bean was already snoring.

I looked down at the strawberry blond hair peeking out of the blanket, “You’re not comfy, are you?”

Daisy laughed and stretched a bit. “Can we color my hair later this week? We’re cozy.”

I’m sure, five years from now, that I’ll be able to count these moments on one hand. But these moments remind me why we’re taking all these classes and switching our lives around. It’s so we can make a difference for her.

It’s so she can make a difference for us.

And yeah; it's worth it.