Saturday, January 31, 2009

how does your garden grow?

I was chatting with one of my aunts tonight about gardening. It's not something I do right now, but I've been edging progressively closer to it over the last several years. I've managed to keep alive an iris that I dug up from the front yard of my house in Manchaca when I sold the place. And I grew an avocado tree and an onion plant in my compost pots. I guess that's got me feeling confident in my horticultural skills.

Confident enough that I'd decided to plant a tomato and some strawberries, anyway. I'd like to see how it goes. My aunt was telling me that this is just the time of year for planting... well, lots of things. And I asked her how I would go about finding out when to plant stuff.

She said she just learned from Miss Vannie, but she could pass along the basics. And then she told me a little more about Miss Vannie. She's sorta the stuff of legends in our family... a strong, brilliant, generous matriarch. I've never heard anyone speak ill of Miss Vannie, and if you know how Southern folk do, that's quite a statement. In The South, you can pretty much slander someone from head to toe, flay them, fillet them, and string their bones up for a scarecrow, so long as you say "Bless her heart" or "No disrespect to her memory, but..." before you spit your poison.

My mom wanted to name me for Miss Vannie, at one point. I'm not sure exactly how I came to be named something else, but I spent a couple of years in my childhood planning to legally change my name to Sarah Savannah when I grew up big. Miss Vannie knew all there was to know about gardening, mostly as a matter of necessity. She lived 10 miles from a store and she never once drove a car. She was my grandmother's grandmother, if that gives you any sense of her era. All her planting tips are pretty easy to remember, as they're tied to holidays. Plant this at the end of January, plant that on Valentine's day, and these other things on Good Friday.

Of course, I'm ... mentally challenged by calendars so I'll probably botch that pretty good a couple of times. But I don't live 10 miles from a store and if my peppers don't turn out, I can always walk across the street and pick them up at the market. Sometimes I get a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the urban life I live... The cars and the streets and all the people slammed up cheek-to-jowl and none of them friendly with each other, it really gets me down.

And then I look in the little pot out in front of my house and see that I've helped strawberries find a place to live in the city one more year, and it keeps me going. I bet Miss Vannie would've liked to have a little more city in her life sometimes, for the convenience. It's good to remember that on days when I have to pluck grocery bags that blew away from the store out of my crape myrtles.

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