Last week should have been a happy week, sort of like Christmas come again. Last week the catalogues from three seed companies arrived in the mail. This should have launched an orgy of reading and planning next year's garden, the equivalent of my seven-year-old self poring over the Sears Christmas catalogue, reading every description of every toy, wondering how I would ever choose only one or two. But it didn't.
I flipped through the catalogues, I put sticky notes on a few pages, I made a note or two in my garden book, but my heart wasn't in it. Onions? Oh, I'll just stick with the usual Red Wing and Copra varieties. Tomatoes? I'll just plant what I planted last year. Peas? Same old, same old.
This will be the fourth time I plan a vegetable garden. I should get weeks of planning pleasure out of those catalogues. But what I got instead was The Fourth Year Blues. What was wrong with me? How could I still have been so excited last year, and this year be in the doldrums?
Last year I planned my garden just after reading Carol Deppe's book The Resilient Gardener, and was excited about winter squash, and getting protein from the garden, and improving potato yields. I was going to try growing broccoli, Brussels sprouts, quinoa and garbanzo beans for the first time. My garden was going to be my laboratory, full of interesting experiments. This year? Not so much.
Maybe it's just that the whole business of growing food, something that was so new and exciting, so life changing, has simply become more routine, more regular, more a part of the daily background. Maybe it's that my wish to tighten our gardening budget has left me feeling too constrained. Or maybe my natural tendency to organize and routinize has left no room for play.
In any case, I decided what I needed was an injection of whimsy. Something whose appeal has nothing to do with food values, or self-sufficiency, or anything practical at all. Yes, I would continue to grow the reliable standbys that have seen me through the first three years. But I would flip once more through the catalogues looking for something that would inspire me with its quirkiness, its beauty, its impracticality.
And here's what I found: pink popcorn and brilliant red corn poppies. One is for play, for a silly pink colour and a bowlful of fluffy kernels. And one is for beauty of a natural and random sort, the kind that springs up when seeds are simply scattered, rather than being planted one by one at a prescribed depth in rows of orderly pots in a temperature-controlled greenhouse according to a predetermined timeline.
That's what I'm going to grow this year: play and random beauty. I'm looking forward to the harvest.
Image from here.