Possumhaw: A bushel of tomatoes and a peck of peas

July 16, 2018 9:57:33 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


"Every gardener I know is a junkie for the experience of being out there in the mud and fresh green growth. Why? An astute therapist might diagnose us as codependent and sign us up for Tomato-Anon meetings. We love our gardens so much it hurts." 


Barbara Kingsolver, author of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." 




One morning last week I picked up Kingsolver's book and, while looking about the yard, relished her prose. The book describes the family's year-long experiment in eating only locally grown foods. About her garden, she writes: 


"It (the garden) gets a body outside for some part of every day to work the heart, lungs, and muscles you wouldn't believe existed, providing a healthy balance to a desk job ... It is also noiseless in the garden: phoneless, meditative, and beautiful ... nothing is more therapeutic than to walk up there and disappear into the yellow-green smell of the tomato rows for an hour to address the concerns of quieter, more manageable colleagues. Holding the soft, viny limbs as tender as babies' wrists. I train them to their trellises, tidy the mulch at their feet, inhale the oxygen of their thanks.  


"Like our friend David who mediates on Creation while cultivating, I feel lucky to do work that lets me listen to distant thunder and watch a nest of baby chickadees fledge from their hole in the fencepost into the cucumber patch. Even the smallest backyard garden offers emotional rewards ... As a hobby, this one could be considered bird-watching with benefits."  


The earth draws me though I don't have a food garden. After years of trying, I'm simply not good at producing anything edible. Even tomatoes in containers provided maybe one or two nice tomatoes -- hardly worth the cost of the container. I do have flowers and few things please me more than watching them grow, especially the ones having survived winter in the greenhouse. Perennials are like friends returning over and over again.  


As I sat on the front steps with lounging cats, I admired flower boxes overflowing with bright petunias, snapdragons, a touch of basil and dusty miller. Prairie petunias, Four O'clocks, zinnias, cosmos, purple coneflower and blue salvia reached up from below. The cats hardly noticed the flash of ruby red from the flowers to the cedar tree; a hummingbird was feeding.  


Across the field on the far side of the lake, the ducks swam, nibbling at whatever. Sometimes they swim so close you can't tell if they are one or two. Only by the length of them can I know they are close together. In all I had six ducks, but now only two. These two, Hilda and Helen, have been with me maybe five or six years. Sam warned the ducks would be pick-offed by predators here in the Prairie, but I said, "No, the lake will protect them."  


Predators are the reason we don't have chickens. It's hard to lose your friends over and over again. We could get a dog, but then the deer would leave and the cats would not be happy. All the earth is connected.

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.