Friday, May 13, 2011

from the ground up

Most of the time, I am happy that my garden is in front of my house.  People walk by with their dogs and say hello.  People drive by and rubber-neck.  My garden gets a lot of compliments, and since I am its steward, I take the compliments personally.  Most of the compliments are pretty banal, and generally I don't know what to say but, thanks.  By constantly being outside during the season for three seasons now, I've come to know more than a handful of my neighbors, and I like them all.  Well, mostly.  Like I said, most of the time I enjoy being out front. Today, though, belly down on the sidewalk with my camera, I felt a bit like a weirdo, you know, someone who is maybe a little too obsessed with his own garden. 

I think the people of the neighborhood regard me as a medium-grade oddball with a green thumb.  The ones I've come to know a bit better seem to think I'm a nice guy.  Anyway, I had an uncomfortable encounter with my upstairs neighbor today.  She'd come home and was checking the mailbox, and there I was, still loitering around the front porch with a pocket knife and a spacey gleam in my eye.  "Need any parsley?" I said.  "No, not right now, but maybe I'll cook something just so I can use it," she said.  Then she quickly ran inside.  Just an ordinary awkward exchange that was probably exacerbated by the fact that I wasn't wearing my glasses when she rolled down the street on her way home in her silver car and I stood there, hand pressed to my forehead, watching her drive up to the house, thinking it was my girlfriend coming to visit me.  Anyway, the garden is coming along nicely nowadays, though just this morning I told myself that I was completely bored with it and with my life.

These are some giant, non-edible aliums, close relatives of common chives but much bigger and cultivated for show.  "What are those?" some neighbor asked.  Tired, I said, "they're like big chives."  "Oh."  Then she continued down the street with her corgie.

Another problem with a front yard garden happens when you plant things that are not known to the common gardener.  This is my broccoli raab, seen from prone position.  Broccoli raab isn't all that uncommon, but it's uncommon enough to get the more inquisitive neighbors inquiring.  "What's that?"  "It's broccoli raab.  It's somewhere between broccoli and mustard greens."  "Oh."  And down the street goes the neighbor with the basset hound.   

This is the area of the garden that I'm actually the most proud of.  Especially that stripe in the middle.  "What's growing there?" the neighbor with the chocolate lab asks.  "That's actually a cover crop of wheat, alfalfa, and clover," I say.  And that's what it is.  Soon enough there will be beans and tomatoes, but right now I've taken to calling it my fallow land.  I wish someone would stroll by with a great dane and say, "Oh, so you've decided to let that field be fallow."  And I would say, "Yeah, I sure have.  Do you want some rabbit food?"

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