I should give you a bit of background into our dispute by telling you that even though I claim Iowa City as my hometown, I spent my first 13 years in Utah. My wife on the other hand had (up to that point) lived in Iowa all her life. If you are at all familiar with the Midwest, you probably know that agriculture is the driving economy in most states, so it shouldn't surprise you that a lot of Midwesterners are ferocious and talented gardeners. To use a farming phrase, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. That's where my wife's story starts and mine ends.
For Lisa, Spring and Summer romantically meant gathering together at Grandma and Grandpas house to till up the fertile Iowa soil and plant all manner of fruits, vegetables, tubers and other fancy and exotic foods. It was a dreamy, weekly reunion and the whole famn damily would hold hands as they'd hoe row after row and acre after acre of bliss wearing old time straw hats and singing those golden oldies of yesteryear. Ohhh yes, songs about about livin' off the land, puttin' yer back into it and reapin' what ya sow. Such a delight! Why the highlight of the day was shuckin' sweet corn on the cob before hunkerin on the porch for delicious home squeezed lemonade complete with sugar cane freshly processed from the days harvest. OR you could opt for the silky smooth ice tea that had been brewing from the kisses of the suns rays all day long *batting eyes*. For additional fun you could stay inside and make MORE memories by snapping beans with grandma over the kitchen sink. It's what they did on weekends... EVERY weekend. When she talks about it, you almost want to run out and buy a sturdy John Deer tractor so that you too can have corn that is "knee high by the 4th of July."
My family also gardened but not ANYTHING like that. There is a REASON why you don't see farms in Utah. Take for starters, that it's a desert here. That's why no one bothered the Mormons when they first settled up the street... no one in their right mind would try to start a community out here, much less FARM. Hell, even the Indians were smart enough to keep moving. Utahn's do however EXCEL at growing rocks, boulder's and other assorted geological formations. For my parents, (who are incredibly smart) this should have been a cluuuuuuue. But every year we would sit at the dinner table and discuss the need to follow the religious advice of our leaders and plant a garden. After all *key dreamy wife music* a garden builds character, togetherness, love for God's creations and of course, self-reliance. Can you say PARTY?!?!? So each year my mom would agree to a garden but on ONE CONDITION. It needed to be small, manageable, about the size of a kitchen table. A few cucumbers perhaps, some cherry tomatoes and a stalk or two of corn... to the neighbors it would look like we were at least trying. Ahhhh delightful indeed! We all agreed that this kind of garden could be LOVELY
I will never forget the SECOND year we gardened. My dad took me on that fateful trip to Sears with two of our neighbors in tow. They got this BRILLIANT idea to all chip in 1/3rd the cost of getting a rototiller. A rototiller would make it TONS easier to unlock Nature's Nutrients by making the soil ohhh soo much more fertile for our coming miracles. I watched as each man studied every floor model, kicking tires, pulling levers and handles before huddling together like hero's of the gridiron and deciding unanimously on the Goliath 5000 Series Rototiller. It of course, was the biggest model they had and took up half the store. Sears gambled their entire years profit on selling just one unit. I watched with amazement as a 50 foot crane loaded the behemoth crate into the back of our neighbors small pickup truck, immediately lifting the front end completely off of the ground. As we drove down the street people would frantically pull up alongside us screaming that he tailgate was dragging on the pavement and sparks were shooting out from the muffler. One of us would always nicely wave back and say "THANK YOU, THANK YOU, WE'RE FINE!" Since no one in the crammed pickup truck could see anything out the front windshield but telephone wires, my dad had to poke his head out the passengers side window to look down onto the street below and shout instructions to the driver on when to go, when to turn and "BREAK damn it BREAK! You almost hit that kid on the Big Wheel!" I really did see each man grin on the drive home, thoughts of a Fall Harvest dancing in their minds.
The problem you see, is that a rototiller that size can chew up a a plot of ground the size of a dinner table in about six seconds. "Hardly worth the trouble of even getting one" my dad would announce. "Shucks, if yer going to spend that kind of money on a tiller, you should get your money out of it and till up something bigger, say something along the lines of a FOOTBALL FIELD." So off goes my dad, donning leather work gloves, old sneakers and jeans to conquer the world of gardening. Secretly, I think my mother was abhorred at what was about to happen, but somehow she managed to put on her nervous-supportive face.
With all the rocks we had, it was always an event to stand on the patio sipping a cup of grape kool-aid and watch the tiller grab hold of a small rock (about the size of a Volkswagen) and practically launch my old man out of his Nike's and through the handlebars. As the tongs would dig in to the bolder, the five million horsepower engine would groan under the weight, wince, and then violently lurch forward, my dad looking like a human flag as he held on for dear life. Much MUCH later in life, I gained an appreciation for my dads athletic ability to not get flipped over the fence and into the neighbors front yard and grotesquely EATEN by the Goliath 5000. In an ironic twist to this celestial story, a lot of the swear words I now use as an adult where learned as a child watching my dad till up the rocky top soils of Orem, Utah. Of course, dad mostly tilled, us kids had the blessings of hauling "God's little miracles" to the rock pile. In the end, the rock pile was the only thing we consistently grew year after year and in MASSIVE quantities I might add.
I have to admit that by the end of the day we did have a serious looking garden. Neat little rows of STUFF planted, dad pulling out little rocks the size of footballs from the tiller tynes while mom watered the seeds. I can still hear the sweet sound of rocks gently tumbling down the now larger and settling rock pile in the corner of the back yard. Even as an adult, avalanches remind me of gardening...weird!
In our third year of gardening, I learned to breathe the first day of gardening all in because I knew this was as beautiful as it was going to get. The problem with gardening is that *gasp* weeds also enjoy the same kind of soil! In most cases, the weeds loved it MORE than the crap we were trying to grow because the weeds always flourished like sin! So a word of wisdom to all you perspective gardeners out there, unless you are dedicated to dressing and tending to God's wonders you have a great chance of growing weeds... a LOT of em. My family was great at planting but mistakenly thought that the weeds would respect the hard work we had put in and whither away.
So here's the crux of my story. Since weeding is a tremendous pain in the ass, this glorious experience was handed out to whomever was in dutch at the moment. See, unlike my wife's family, in MY family you weeded the garden whenever you got into trouble. This idea of holding hands and singing songs ended the moment one of the other two neighbors came to pick up Goliath to till their own rock fields of heaven. Since I was the one who was getting into A LOT of trouble back then, I spent countless days and nights weeding the $*&#! garden! I hated it, it sucked doing it alone and I began to secretly cheer for every manner of insect to devour everything we had planted, including the weeds. "Eat the lot" I would curse. In these hours and hours and days and nights of deep reflections and soul searching I vowed that I would NEVER have a field of Satan on any property that I owned!
So there you have the polar extremes of our gardening experiences. Every year my wife begs and pleads with me to help her start a garden using new Jedi mind tricks each year. This year the justification is "it would be such a great experience for the boys!" It's hard for me to crush her puppy dog eyes and audible yesteryear tunes playing in her head. To her credit she has worn me down to the point where I am open to HER having HER garden in the corner of the yard. But I won't plant it, I won't weed it and I sure as hell won't till it.
So kudos to all of you green thumbs out there who love to stick your hands in the dirt and make salsa out of your banana squash. I applaud your need to get closer to Mother Nature. As for me, I think gardening stinks and I am more than willing to be inconvenienced by the two block drive down the street to find the sweetest tomato's of my choice at Wal Mart for .10 cents a bucket. It surely beats spending thousands of dollars on MULCH and Miracle Grow to plant a bunch of stuff that I am going to never eat and eventually stick in a brown paper bag to "give" to the neighbors. God bless you Wal Mart, you are full of God's abundance and are evidence that the Almightly loves us. I only hope that in Heaven the Wal Mart is as close to me as it is to me now!