Let’s talk about gardening. Not because I want to, particularly, but because I feel the need to warn you about the dangers of it. You could lose your mind. Seriously. Let’s rewind to the days when I was still married, lived in a richy-rich neighborhood, drove a nice car, ate out EVERY DANG DAY and pretty much never thought about what I was feeding my kids. My friends and I labored over lunch plans, bought our food at swanky boutique markets with gourmet products that no one can pronounce, even went to wine tastings and learned about things like bouquet and umami. (Don’t ask.)
These were the days when I was too busy to cook. Traveling for work meant I bought lots of frozen dinners for the ex to heat up while I was away – and when I came home, I was pooped so we ordered take out from the local Thai restaurant or whatever the weekly paper offered as far as pizza coupons. The kids were happy, the ex was happy….I was….fat…but happy.
Okay, fast forward to my current life which is much different (but still very happy). I’m a single mom living in a trailer house in the middle of a pasture in a remote corner of Texas. My financial status is not what it once was. (Read: I’m broke. Like buying-dented-cans-at-Cash-and-Save broke.) Also, I have more time on my hands than I used to so I actually took up reading again. Go figure. I read numerous books on the subject of health and nutrition and the way our food comes to us and the many pitfalls therein. This made me very aware of what the Doublewide Daughters (DWDs) are eating. Especially the oldest one who believes that the four food groups are chips, soda, chicken nuggets and French fries. The kid drinks ketchup out of the bottle. For real. KETCHUP AS A BEVERAGE. I knew immediately it was time for a change.
I grew up on a farm. So I figured, hey – if Grandpa could grow food for the family, why can’t I? Let me tell you why. First of all, Doublewide Diva is a white girl. Strikingly, horrifyingly pale. The sun is not my friend. There isn’t an SPF high enough, trust me. Secondly, allergies rule my life. I can tell you what is in season by what part itches. So working in the great outdoors poses some problems for me. But by-golly, I was bound and determined to prove to the DWDs that food does not magically grow on grocery store shelves. And also there’s the thing about being broke. A pack of 79 cent (NON-GMO, please) seeds will feed us all summer. Two birds, one stone.
So the youngest DWD and I spent one rainy afternoon putting seeds in old butter tubs and Styrofoam cups and showered them using a watering can that I fashioned from a used tea jug that blew into the yard the night before. I got all the soil using a Lowe’s gift card I had been holding onto since Christmas. So far this was a super cheap endeavor. The oldest DWD tore herself away from the computer long enough to ask if we were planting any potatoes cuz she wanted to have free French fries, then she left us to our farming.
Three weeks later, we had 24 little containers of baby plants in varying degrees of green and red. They were so cute! Doublewide Dog sniffed them daily and had to be reprimanded for lifting his leg on them at one point. So we put them up on stools in front of the windows to protect them from his advances. We protected them like they were our babies. We talked to them, we watered them and gave them names. Not just broccoli – but Bob the Broccoli. Karen the Carrot, Peter the Pea Plant. These guys were family now. The best kind of family – the kind you can eat. (Wait, what?)
Except at some point you have to move them outside. Into the garden. Where fruits and vegetables grow best. The problem with this is – I have no shovel, pick axe, roto-tiller, etc. And I would rather die than pay to rent one. And for some reason the stars did not align for me to borrow any of these tools either. (Mr. Awesome was working and couldn’t get to town to bring me his.) So I did what any would-be gardener did – I googled the solution. And I discovered “lasagna gardening”. That’s right folks, it’s a method of gardening that is named after LASAGNA! How can you go wrong?!?! No tools needed, just layer the dirt, compost and newspaper. Plant your stuff and wait for the food fairy to arrive.
This was a dream come true! So while the DWDs were at their dad’s I got to work. In my fenced back yard I laid out a total of 224 lbs of soil, compost and manure. By myself. With no help. Except Doublewide Dog who kept rolling in the manure and then racing into the trailer to rub his back on his “dog bed” (read: old towel covered with hair dye stains.) Two hours later, I was done. Ready to plant my babies!! I carefully brought each of them outside and laid them out in the positions I wanted to plant them in. I walked the perimeter of the beds, figuring the exact location each one should go. I openly asked them who they wanted to live by. Turns out Karl the Kale has something against Lisa the Lettuce so they had to go on opposite ends of the bed. Who knew coniferous plants were so dramatic?
Then, disaster struck. Turns out separating seedlings that have grown together in a Styrofoam cup since infanthood is not easy. The roots tear, the dirt falls all over the place, the leaves pinch off and get all droopy. But my Gardening for Dummies book specifically said not to skip this step or we could suffer a terrible condition called root crowding. I labored on, as careful as possible. Giving each plant my close attention as the sun began to set and the temps dropped. By the time it was all over I was using a flashlight, wearing two coats, a scarf and a knit hat that one of the DWDs brought home from school saying, “A friend gave it to me.” Lice be damned – I was going to finish this garden!! And finish it I did. I collapsed into bed at 10PM with the smell of satisfaction mingled with cow manure lingering on my pillow.
The next morning was glorious. The sun came pouring into my window. The birds were chirping. I took a hot bath, got ready for work and headed out to water my garden on the way to the car. Only the garden was not there. Oh, there was a dark spot that looked like it may have, at one time, been a garden. But there was no defined shape, no edges, no nice little mounds of veggie babies. Doublewide Dog was nowhere to be found – until suddenly I saw his beady little eyes and dirt-covered body peeking out from under the porch looking guilty and exhausted from a night of frolicking in his new poop pile. All that remained were the scattered corpses of Karen the Karrot, Bob the Broccoli, and their kin. I cried. I screamed. I sat on the trailer steps and called the humane society to come pick up that stupid dog. They didn’t answer.
Then in an act of defiance, I got up like Scarlet O’Hara and stood waving my fist at the sky and declared my unwavering commitment to avenge my veggie babies! I called into work. I drove to the store. I bought a shovel and went at it full force. And that my friends, is how the Doublewide Diva invented the FRONT YARD garden. Where Doublewide Dog can’t get to it. And the neighbors can see me in all my sweat pant-clad glory bringing food to life. I salvaged most of the plants, re-sowed the others, and have so far made a complete come-back. No actual food yet, but I see it coming. And who knows, having the garden in the front yard may be a good way to advertise for home-grown produce- I could make some bucks. Blessings in disguise folks, blessings in disguise. (But the dog is still dead to me.)