gardening

Look out! I’ve got a hoe!

Sunday, May 17th, 2009 | In my garden | 1 Comment

Actually, I’ve got two. And yes, I find it hard to use the word “hoe” with a straight face….

Today at the garden store, purchasing what I think has turned out to be far too much compost, I also invested in a pair of hoes–a little one, for any of my small garden assistants, and one for me. We have three biggish beds that are pretty solid weeds at the moment, and are destined for pumpkins, squash and corn, and I had a vague idea that a hoe was something one used in weeding.

Driving home, I realized…I have no idea how to actually use a hoe. Do you? I envisioned sort of digging the weed out with it, like a mini shovel, but a closer look and a little thought made it plain that wasn’t going to work. So I did what any modern gardener would do: I googled it. Not surprisingly, a number of the results I got were .uk, but I’ve read my share of Angela Thirkell and had no trouble translating “allotment” and “sterling”, but still found myself at a loss–there was much information about when to hoe, and how often, and even how to space one’s plants to allow for easy hoeing, but nothing truly definitive until I found this:

Use the garden hoe to slice into the soil around weeds. Raise the garden hoe up, so that the blade is out away from your body (either to your left or right side) and approximately at shoulder-height. Then swing the blade down towards the ground and slightly back towards your body, striking the ground at approximately a 45-degree angle. Ideally, you’ll penetrate the soil deeply enough to get under the roots and lift out the whole weed, roots and all.

So I’m to swing the hoe down, decapitate the weeds, avoid hitting my ankle, remove weed tops, repeat. I have to admit I have my doubts about this. If you leave the roots, won’t the clover, grass and dandelions just pop right back up?

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When it is hot, be hot.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 | Adopting Devils | 1 Comment

To decide to have a child is to decide to allow your heart to go walking around outside your body.

Wyatt’s TMO teachers presented us with that sentiment on Mother’s day, as their idea of a festive mother’s day apparently involves making one cry (they also offer handprints, and that poem about how the handprint won’t be this small for long—oh, and checkbook covers, which I quite appreciate.)

Let me just say that the decision to adopt a child—now that, that is popping a chunk of your heart out and sending it tossing around in the Pacific in a Pepsi bottle.

I posted a few days ago about control, and not having it, and oh, that’s ok, I’m all right with that, I said, merrily. It’s fine.

Right. Just dandy. I am perfectly ok with not being in control, which is probably why I dream, alternatively, about the two most obvious things that are out of my control, at the moment—a job I’ve applied for, and going to China. Or about leaving kids somewhere, or failing to meet a deadline…everything short of naked arrival in math class the day of the final, really. Apparently I am anxious.

There are many, many things in life I cannot control. Other drivers. Airplane pilots. Acts of nature. Whether or not, say, Julia Glass has also applied for the writing gig I want. (My favorite friend said today, in response to that, that I am much funnier than Julia Glass, to which I say, why, thank you, my ego swelleth, but the job still goes to the Pulitzer winner) China. Interest rates, the price of eggs, virus mutations.

Buddhist principles suggest that the problem with those things is neither the things, nor my inability to control the things—it’s my attachment to the things, or their outcomes. If I can release that attachment to outcomes, I will also release my anxiety. Christian philosophy places the “things one cannot change” in the hands of God, politely capitalized. Jews, I believe, put things one cannot change in the category of things one does not yet understand, with the idea that one should have faith that in time, all things will become clear. It strikes me now, as it has before, that these are mostly matters of semantics, of applying different words and possibly different mental techniques to what is essentially the same question: How can I not feel so bad when I am afraid?

There is a reason, I think, that we say that we “practice” religion. We also “practice” meditation, and yoga. I propose that one thing these things have in common is that we will never get them right. If you aspire to behave like a historical figure who’s acquired the status of myth for his legendary kindness—oh, plus miracles—it’s not like one day you’ll be able to say oh, well, ok then, now I can move on to mastering chess. We never achieve enlightenment, and all things never become clear. We just….practice.

I would like to say that today I could use less practice. Which is just another way of saying that we may or may not be able to go get Rory in June, or July, or August…

And so I turn to my garden, which I note is another common suggestion in many religious practices. Cultivate your garden. The idea being, I suppose, that here you can impose some measure of control, just to lighten up after all that practice. The Parent Association at Sam’s school (apparently NOT the Parent-Teacher Association, now that I come to think of it) has a deal with the farm where we get our plants anyway—the ones you can’t grow from seed here, like tomatoes and peppers—and one must fill out the form, to request one’s plants, which one then goes and chooses—just as I would have chosen them last year, only with, I suppose, the addition of the form. A level of bureaucracy has been imposed on the process to permit the transference of some of the funds to Sam’s school. An advantage, for me, is the introduction of a requirement that I actually consider how many plants I want, as opposed to last year’s plan, which featured a wagon and three children who really, really like tomatoes. I think that, provided I also subtract the children from this part of the process, this will be a good thing and result in fewer tomatoes at the end of the season, which will mean I will not feel obligated to dry them, and then not use them, because I cannot figure out 1)whether I dried them safely or 2) how to use them. They are still in my cabinet, though, do I get points for that?

Tomorrow I plan to lay the mulch, add the compost and get ready. Sam and Lily—and maybe even Wyatt—can put in at least some seeds this weekend. It’s a little early, but I’m feeling good about frost.

That’s a piece of Buddhist advice, btw. A koan, even, because in its entirety, it’s a mysterious response to a question about dealing with discomfort, but one of those things I think we understand better the less we think about it. Hmmm…The less we think about it. I think I’m onto something, there.

Anyway–I’m ready to take that particular advice. When it is hot, I will be hot.

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