A Literary Feast

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Worm Castings and Cat Pee: Journal of a Newbie Gardener

Posted on May 17th, 2013

My one adult experience with gardening occurred about 8 years ago. We were living in an apartment complex a few miles away from where I went to college. Each unit had a small plot of dirt in front of it which most of our neighbors filled with cheery aster mums or hyacinth bulbs. For ours, I decided on a row of fun (and functional) pumpkin plants.   Unemployed and in need of a project, I nurtured the pumpkins from seed to plant with loving care. Eventually they flowered and, the very next morning, the complex’s maintenance crew came by and mowed them down with a weedwacker. We left the plot barren for the remainder of the time we lived there and never returned to…

The Tenacity of the Pea Plant

Posted on May 17th, 2013

Thin vines stretch across the honeycomb of air climbing the chicken wire of the garden fence with sticky new fingers in a spiderweb of green. In one gap, where – finding nothing to hold on to – the plant clearly doubted, it encountered only another of its own arms and the two wound round each other and spiraled momentarily toward the sky before pushing away, leaving a perfect coil in the middle of nothing. Despite this near miss, this almost fall, the vine keeps reaching out from its most recent anchor, groping blindly in the mystery of time and space, trusting that eventually it will reach something, if only itself.   I admire the pea plant. It must take so much hope to wake…

Taproot

Posted on May 17th, 2013

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts; And all around me a voice was sounding: This land was made for you and me. – Woody Guthrie   I grew up in a small New England town, in the same house all my life, so I always thought I had a good sense of what makes a place a home. Apart from the relative seasonal changes of spring to winter, the scenery didn’t change much and there was a comfort in that. Until one day, in the farmhouse bathroom of a woman I hardly knew, I went to wash my hands and I spotted her soap. It was large and yellow and covered in dirt.…

Potatoes, Comrade

Posted on May 17th, 2013

Like a dog who thinks he’s people, I was a child who thought he was an adult. This presented a conflict, growing up in a working class Moscow neighborhood where most of the children spent their free time beating each other up in schoolyards and in a large field, seeded with broken glass and dog excrement, an enormous heating plant looming over the proceedings. This hell continued until we left Russia when I was nine years old. (Growing up the rest of the way in a lower middle class neighborhood in Brooklyn presented a whole other kind of hell, at least until I hit high school age.) School was my least favorite place to be; I preferred spending time alone with my encyclopedias and…

Asparagus officinalis

Posted on May 17th, 2013

Asparagus is a pretty funny thing, when you really think about it. I’ve heard it’s some sort of grass, which makes sense when you see the way it grows. Individual stalks poke up from beneath the dirt, sometimes clumped together with others but mainly striking out on their own, a single minaret growing to seemingly impossible heights. There’s no foliage between the stalks, as one might expect with other plants, just dirt and these towering green fingers. With each day, each hour, practically each minute you can see the stalks reach further toward the sky, making it look appear more like some sort of subterranean being poking up probes to test a new and alien aboveground environment. In a home garden, asparagus is really…

Burning Ring of (CSA) Fire

Posted on May 17th, 2013

When most people think of retirement, images of relaxation come to mind. For Nancy and Bruce Livensparger of Fire Ring Farm in Portland, CT, retirement means running a labor-intensive non-profit Community Supported Agricultural operation (CSA). Nancy was a career landscaper whose passion for organic food grew as her interest in controlling invasive species in manicured lawns waned. As GMOs became ubiquitous in the American food supply, Nancy wanted to grow as much of her own food for her family as possible. Subsistence farming on any scale is a big endeavor and she wondered if running a CSA might be the ticket to subsidizing her efforts. As an added bonus, it gets a community involved in the natural food movement. Fire Ring Farm was born.…

Protect the Freshness is Over

Posted on May 17th, 2013

If you’re living in China and just barely working out an income from freelance projects, you might take a job doing voiceovers for propaganda films. A string of hours in a Beijing recording booth can earn you fifty, maybe sixty dollars. You can take breaks and they’ll give you lunch. There will be bottled tea. Afterward, you will walk out into the spring air with a new sense of wealth and possibility, financially settled for another week and able to forget what you had just done. I spent a year doing the odd English voiceover for Chinese Communist Party films. In 2006 I worked on a crushing celebration of Tibetan agricultural practices. “The women do all the cooking and cleaning, which is their pleasure,”…

Secret Handshake

Posted on May 17th, 2013

I’ve spent no small amount of time feeling that I needed to be more rooted to the here and now.  That my life was something that I was constantly sliding off of. Life as greased pig. I’d fling myself on top of it, only to have it run squealing for the fences again. Half of the time I’d feel the sharp loss, and the other half of the time I’d want to sit back on my haunches in the mud, light up a cigarette, and say ‘fuck you too, mister.’   Farming, in my mind, had always seemed a sure-bet way to anchor oneself to the present. There’s nothing more immediate, after all, than dirt, than weather, bare and uncaring. The last time I…