Monday, March 05, 2007

Garden Planning and Unconscious Competence

My uncle out in B.C. moved from his acreage to a care home over a year ago, but he still got this season's Lindenberg seed catalogue in the mail. Mom and Dad were out to visit him this winter, and brought the catalogue home as an extra for me. It sat out in the living room for a few days, and then moved into one of my stacks where it was in danger of lurking until sometime after the growing season. Noticing this hazard, I fished it out, and while pondering where to put it for timely attention, I started leafing through it. A pencil came to hand, and I put marks by the vegetable varieties that looked good at first glance - mostly the same ones I recalled using last year, and a couple of the new ones, and one or two daring different things.

Then I balanced the catalogue on top of a stack of unfiled band music, partly under a leather wrist strap designed to hold a flutists' music lyre for marching, all of which rested on an assortment of clarinets (in disassembled form inside their cases, of course).

I had a reason. All this stuff was on the kitchen floor, mostly in the way of our usual path of travel through the kitchen, waiting to be delivered or handed to my parents for return to their collection of band instruments and music out at the farm. It was right there in plain view, and when I walked past it, seeing the catalogue there would remind me to carry on out to the shed and look at my leftover seed packets from last year to confirm my choices and choose my quantities. If my parents showed up, I would do all that in a great rush and hand them the seed order to send in with theirs. All very logical, you see.

Perhaps something else got balanced on top of that stack.

Perhaps the bright green of the catalogue cover became part of my normal expectation of the view in the kitchen.

At any rate, I must have stepped around that stack of stuff many times over the next little while. I remember having a nagging feeling that I should do something about it before it became a major irritant to my spouse.

Then one day the whole stack was gone. I was vaguely uneasy, but mostly just grateful that responsible parties had sent it on its way. I dashed through the pleasantly clear kitchen space on my way to somewhere else, and that was that.

Last weekend I was in Estevan for a Presbytery meeting, and getting a new muffler and tailpipe installed while I was there. Once the truck sounded like her old self again, I spent the remaining time before the meeting drifting through some big-box stores in search of items that my children desperately and very specifically desired. Neither of these items was anywhere to be found, not even in the brand-new 110,000-square-foot Wal-Mart. I know the square footage because the city manager addressed our meeting and proudly described this new store, fully double the size of its previous incarnation in the mall just up the street. He suggested several times during his talk that we could do some shopping while in Estevan. After he left, there was some discussion about changes to the agenda due to the cancellation of an evening presentation, and someone called out that we could have a video presentation instead: "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices." I confessed to someone that I had been to Wal-Mart that morning - and had come out empty handed. I'd also been to Canadian Tire (where it is now a challenge to find the tire section way back behind all the household, hardware, and recreational departments), and there, as I wandered the aisles fruitlessly, I paused to peruse a rack of "Heritage" brand garden seeds. I was surprised to discover that the company was headquartered just over in Brandon, Manitoba, the same place as our trusted Lindenberg. The varieties were familiar standards; many were my own favourites. It occurred to me that I really should get at the garden planning and seed ordering. I was tempted to just gather up an assortment of seeds right then and there, but the prices looked a little high, and I decided that if I was going to just buy off a rack, I'd prefer the rack in our own local grocery store.

What with the meeting Friday and Saturday, and potluck lunch at church on Sunday, and a little talk to give there about my idea for a Lenten fundraiser, the weekend didn't give me much time to regroup. Weekdays used to be my quiet time for taking my own directions, but not so now, with James being homeschooled. Sometime during the scramble of the following week, the phone rang, and Mom said she wanted to confirm some details about my seed order.

I was baffled.

I stammered something, and she insisted that she had a seed order from me. It was in that green catalogue from Uncle Frank.

Well, bless you, Mom. She had found my little pencil scratches scattered through the margins of the vegetable section, decided on quantities, chosen for me where I had put a question mark, and made up the order.

I guess I've done my garden planning for this year.


Jim said...

Hi Laura-

Seems like ages since we last connected and madcapmum's post reminded me that I need to check in with you too.

We've had non-stop visitors here since before the holidays and I feel like I'm behind on everything.

Even our beloved seed catalogues seem burdensome at the moment.

I did order 25 asparagus crowns the other day though and started preparing the beds.

The salad greens we planted in the fall have wintered over nicely under their fiberglass covers so we'll be eating fresh greens soon, and rhubarb too from the looks of things.

I enjoyed reading this post (something I haven't been able to find much time for) as I sit amidst piles of things that need to be sorted out and passed along, but balance doesn't seem to be coming my way on it's own, so I need to get busy.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with your garden this year.


arcolaura said...

Jim - thanks for stopping by! Good to hear about green and growing things. I'm trying not to be jealous. My green growing things at the moment consist of a couple of window pots of parsley and one of oregano. But the forecast is for warming, and it's time to decide where to grow my transplants this year: whether to try to get Brian's porch warmer this year, or put some artificial lighting in our basement, or just ask my mom really nicely to take in a crowd of little green boarders.

Speaking of boarders, your struggle with "non-stop visitors" reminds me of a Swahili proverb I saw posted in the bathroom at a friend's home where it seems there are always extra people around. "Treat your guest as a guest for two days. On the third day, give him a hoe."

I wish you well with your quest for balance.

Jim said...

I posted some pictures of our winter garden today, which is starting to come to life again...

...and that's the trouble with our visitors up here in this "resort area", they only stay for the week-ends or I would put definitely them to work.

Madcap said...

Hi Laura,

Sorry it's been so long. You're way further ahead than I am - maybe I should get your mum to order seeds for me, too!

We're still under a fair bit of snow, so I haven't had a chance to take a look at the new garden. Wondering whether or not I should plant the present garden for the newcomers as well. People don't garden for vegetables much around here, as a rule.

arcolaura said...

You would have time to plant two gardens??? Wow. When is the big move? I think it would be wonderful if you could get some easy popular veggies well established (and heavily mulched?) in the present garden before you go. But for any time you put into the new place, you know the fruits of your labour will be put to good use.

I hope there's rich soil waiting for you under that snow.