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Gothic House Garden

Seeds planted, May 18

I am almost 50 years old and I have never planted a garden. Until now. I must feel in my bones that I will be staying put in Iowa for a while because I didn’t hesitate to make the investment – not only the financial one, but the psychological one. As I am learning – have already learned — the rewards one reaps from a little plot of vegetables in one’s backyard are enormous. Really, WTF? Why have I never planted seeds before? Why have I never understood the meaning of roots?

One month later, June 18, it’s already a jungle!

Reward #1: Because of my garden, I developed a relationship with my neighbor Don Eakins, the one who comes to my rescue whenever I am in need (i.e.: whenever I need a six-foot-long snake removed from my bathroom, an injured 20-pound snapping turtle chased out of my yard, my Mini Cooper towed out of the mud, or the snow on my sidewalk cleared with his snowblower). Don owns a handy, high-powered tiller and he is the one who took on the task of Step One: he turned a patch of my grass lawn into a garden plot. Don and I now regularly compare notes about how our vegetables are coming along. In spite of my novice gardening skills (and barely being able to tell the difference between a weed and an actual vegetable shoot), mine are looking a little more robust than his. Not that I’m competitive or anything.

Reward #2: I look forward to waking up every morning and looking out the rear Gothic window to see the progress. And my god, there is progress! You can literally see the plants growing before your eyes. I am not kidding. There is something magic in this soil. It’s black, fertile, and doesn’t require additives (like manure or Miracle-Gro). And the ample rain we’ve had, combined with just the right balance of sun and cloud cover, makes for ideal conditions. Really, this explosion-of-growth thing is its own miracle and one that brings me amazement and joy daily.

Reward #3: The ultimate reward, of course, is the edible fresh bounty. I had my first salad today – exactly one month to the day after planting the seeds — made entirely from greens and herbs from my very own garden. Let me repeat that: My. Very. Own. Garden. I love how that sounds! And not only was the salad incredibly delicious, bursting with Iowa sunshine and flavor, everything tasted even better knowing I had planted it and picked it myself. (You won’t find E. coli in this spinach!)

Reward #4: Even more exciting is the knowledge that this is only just the beginning. Summer doesn’t even officially start until next week. I have beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, carrots, green beans, and zucchini to look forward to. Those salads are only going to get bigger and bigger. And I’m only going to get healthier and healthier. And come fall, I will harvest a whole lot of sugar pumpkins from which I can make – drum roll, please – yes, pumpkin pie! (You didn’t think I would plant a garden without considering pie ingredients, did you?)

So there it is, my own little mini farm sitting humbly in the midst of the surrounding giant Iowa farms. A piece of the earth I can cultivate, plant seeds and marvel at their growth, and in almost no time nourish my body with the vitamins that come straight out of the ground.

I never planted a garden before because I never thought I had the patience to wait for plants to grow. (Why wait when I could just go to the grocery store?) Nor did I ever think I would – or could — live anywhere long enough to let roots take hold. (Why settle in one place when there’s a big, exciting world to explore?!) But then, of course, I never thought I would move back to Iowa. I guess it proves, once again, you’re never too old to learn something new. Or that wisdom comes with age. Either way, I’m just glad to discover I’m getting a little smarter. Even if it took 49 years.