For many years I have been doing something just to make him happy – because I thought it was part of what he expected in a farmwife. However, despite my feigned enthusiasm and efforts, I have not enjoyed or excelled at this activity.
No, it isn’t cooking – I have never pretended to relish spending time in the kitchen, so he had no illusions there.
It’s gardening. I don’t like it.
I once inherited a perennial garden. It came with a house I bought in the suburbs. What first appeared to be a huge responsibility turned out to be a joy and a retreat from the stresses of daily life. The plants took their turn each season coming into flower and I collected any seeds they dropped to replant the following year.
But there was no weeding involved. The plants were established so tightly together that weeds had no chance to grow. Occasionally, I had to divide a plant and give half away to a friend, replenish the soil or relocate something that wasn’t flourishing in its location.
I borrowed gardening books from the library, learned the Latin names for the plants and studied their habits. But I didn’t have to hoe grass under the soil or pull out a single dandelion.
I even worked with a landscaper one summer, putting my newfound knowledge of perennial flowerbeds to good use.
But in 2007, when I married the Farmer and he said he always had a vegetable garden, I bit off a little more than I could chew. I spoke too soon.
I wanted to impress him so I said I would take on the role of chief gardener – all I needed him to do was turn over the soil each spring and add the occasional heap of well-composted manure. I would handle the rest, I said.
It sounded like a good, manageable arrangement. I would show him that I planned to be a hands-on farmwife.
Then we went through our first season.
I don’t know if it is the manure or the soil in which the garden is planted, but I just can’t control the weeds. Drought took out entire plantings one year and flood washed seeds away the next.
This year, we have a puppy who loves to race in circles in freshly-planted soil. My garden didn’t stand a chance. The grass, however, is flourishing.
In order to keep the grass at bay (for really that’s all there is in my garden), I have to be out there every couple of days, painted in sunscreen and doused in bug spray, hoe and trowel in hand.
Over the Canada Day weekend, I was too busy to garden and missed a few days. By the time I got out there again, a nasty band of beetles had taken over my potato plants. They ate the leaves down to the stems and laid fresh eggs on the stalks. I had to pick them off one by one – a messy, smelly business. Bugs eradicated, I moved my marigolds closer to the row of potatoes. Their scent is supposed to ward off pests.
Next, I set to pulling out clumps of grass that had grown as tall as my onions. After completing three rows, I straightened out my aching back and surveyed the plot.
I have two purple cabbages, six heads of lettuce, one cucumber plant, one tomato plant and a row of potatoes. Next to this I planted a pumpkin patch. It is truly the only thing thriving in my garden. My granddaughter Leti will be thrilled come Halloween. And the pumpkin vines will serve another purpose this year – they can block out the sun that makes the weeds grow between the vegetables.
The Farmer doesn’t appreciate my pumpkins – he isn’t a fan of pumpkin pie and doesn’t understand why I planted them.
Well, next year I think I’m going to turn the garden into a wildflower bed for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. I’ll spend my time and money at the farmers’ market instead of suffering over my own vegetable garden.
I love the smell of sun-warmed tomatoes and onions but I can appreciate vegetables harvested by others even more.
It feels good to admit that a gardener I am not. Maybe next year when we sell our cattle, the Farmer will reclaim his role as chief gardener. We shall see.
Troy Media columnist Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.