Our community garden.

May 21, 2015 § 7 Comments

Seminole Manor Neighborhood garden.Our community garden was Kary’s dream.

Luckily, Kary is a practical dreamer.

She hoop-jumped until the City of Tallahassee gave us the use of a chunk of land at the elbow-bend where Roberts becomes Jackson Bluff, a curve so tight school buses take down the traffic arrows along with the occasional decorative crepe myrtle.

Before neighbors began hammering together the raised beds and planting, the plot was the weedy cut-through for people headed to the nearby convenience store for Swisher Sweets, lottery tickets and Little Debbies.

Although we put up a short fence when bike tracks crisscrossed a hill of watermelons, the right to cut-through remains unchallenged.

We hope that, as they cut between the beds, walkers enjoy the green and consider becoming part of the community of community gardeners.

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Jump starting summer.

February 1, 2015 § 3 Comments


Tomato seedlings.Remember the slap of the jump rope hitting the ground, your cue to run in and jump like heck?

For many things there is a jump-in-moment.

Like now. Here, the noisy flocks of robins are back.

Narcissus are falling over in the front bed, their flowers too heavy for their stems.

Sulphur butterflies are emerging.

And so I know it is time to jump in and start summer.

In case you want to start summer too, this is how to do it.

Burpee seeds.Begin with a mess of seed catalogs. You can pick seeds up locally, but the selection will be modest and you will usually get stuck with varieties someone at Corporate in some faraway city thought you would like.

So. Catalogs.

Perhaps because it was the catalog that always hung over the arm of my dad’s Morris chair (open to tomatoes) I would say that Burpee is the one you must have.

But quantity is important. A pile of paper catalogs is a form of wealth; ask any gardener. And they’re free.

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This summer.

August 24, 2014 § 14 Comments

Milkweed seed.Summer 2014 has not yet acknowledged it, but we have.

This summer is over.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t putting up a fight.

Here in North Florida we have hit that annual patch of days when the temperature tops 100 without the feels-like fudge factor of the heat index.

Walk across the parking lot at WalMart to pick up three ring binders and pens and the solar wind rising off the asphalt will lift your skirt and take your breath away.

But school’s been on for a week now. An informal survey of the kids in the neighborhood about week-one ranges from, “Second grade is awe-some!” to a wistful shrug. Nothing, in the course of human events signals the end of summer like back-to school.

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Pointing the car north.

August 1, 2013 § 13 Comments

In my sister's garden.One whiff and we know the tent is musty.

It hasn’t been out of that olive drab bag since last August when we camped our way north to my sister’s place in Stockbridge, Mass.

And now it is August again, time to air out the tent, then turn North, toward the part of the country that was my childhood home. Time to see the kids who shared that childhood.

My little brother, Chris, is retired now. My sister, Claudia, wishes she were.

The generation that spilled from ours will wander in as their increasingly adult schedules allow. Who can keep straight when everyone will arrive? But once again this year, almost miraculously, everyone will be there.

As if someone has yelled, “Ally ally in free,” we will tumble in the front door of Claudia’s kitchen, hug each other, smile and the rituals will begin. « Read the rest of this entry »

Courage enough.

May 24, 2013 § 4 Comments

I kneel in our vegetable garden, weeding.

The damp from the sandy soil would soak through the knees of my jeans if they had any, but both are blown.

My own winter-pale knees poke out, easy targets for the fire ants that share this southern garden.

Despite the ants, the jeans and I have been vegetable gardeners for a long time.

As I do every year when spring yields to summer, I am weeding, mulching, disrupting ants with a hand hoe and comparing this to other times in the garden.

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Walking the circle.

June 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

The European tradition of storytelling is linear—the main character starts somewhere and ends up somewhere completely different. This story-form views life as a tale of change and progress.

Native American stories walk the well-worn path of seasons and cycles that repeat.

I may tell linear stories, but in real life I prefer the native American story-form. Life walks a circle and I like it that way.

Take vegetable gardens. They happen every year—twice for the dedicated gardener, winter and summer.

I am now at the hopeful beginning of the summer garden season, a season that has risen again and again over the horizon of the year for me, and for my father, putting in Jersey tomatoes in Princeton Junction, and for my grandfather, thumbing pea seeds into the ground in Congers, New York.

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My own back yard.

April 14, 2011 § 18 Comments

Peppers in the summer garden, 2010.

I wonder each week as I sit down to write a post for this blog, have I emptied the cupboard?

Is everything I know and feel already out there in black and white?

But week after week, like Dorothy Gale, I discover that to find what I’m searching for I need look no further than my own backyard.

When given more than a passing glance, the things I take for granted turn out to be the substance of my life, and far more nourishing than the wishful dreams my brain invents.

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