My husband and I moved to Minnesota just two years after our wedding. I was anxious to fit into the Minnesota culture, which somehow, in my mind, meant that one of the things my husband and I should do is grow a garden. Having grown up a city girl in California, I had no idea what this would entail.
So, during our first summer here, we decided to embrace the challenge of growing our very own food. The idea even seemed God-ordained when we learned that the town we live in had some garden plots which people could rent for just such an activity. We filled out the necessary forms, went to the garden center for our seeds, and then we planted. My husband has told me many times throughout our married life that he was once “Horticultural Champion of Lake of the Woods County” which I’ve come to realize means he pulled a few weeds in his dad’s garden, entered a few carrots for a 4-H competition, and won. But, in fairness, it did appear that he knew what he was doing as he put stakes in the ground, strung the string to get straight rows, and everything else that one is supposed to do to get vegetables to pop out of the ground. We were so excited about our potential crop at summer’s end. But then . . . well . . . it got hot. And, we didn’t really feel like driving across town (at least a mile) to water our little plot. Plus, there were all those pesky weeds to cope with. And that was just the beginning. We also had to deal with the stares of the other garden plot owners who looked upon our poor lot of land with either sympathy or disgust. By the end of summer, we didn’t even bother to make the trip to visit our little garden plot. We decided just to be happy with the fact that the other plot owners didn’t run us out of town for being a disgrace to gardeners everywhere.
You would think, at this point, we would have recognized our lack of gardening skill, or perhaps lack of ability to stick with it, but no. Two years later we were homeowners and there was a little plot of land in our backyard where a garden had been. We decided to try it again. This time we had confidence that we’d do it right. My husband rented a tiller to prepare the land. Somehow, I still remember, 30 years later, it cost $13 to rent the tiller. Again, we put down stakes, strung our string, planted our seeds, watered and waited. How hard would this be? We didn’t even have to leave home to care for it. Perfect! But, oh, those mosquitoes in the backyard were nasty. I tried to pull weeds but lost my will as the nasty little bugs kept biting. And then there was the newly born baby to feed, and it was once again, hot. I hate hot. But, we persevered as best we could and actually reaped a few green beans. Most of them were over ripe by the time we picked them, but still, something had grown.
Finally, the time came to harvest the carrots. I was so looking forward to those home-grown carrots. We pulled the first one out and literally, it was less than a half-inch long with a diameter so small it could hardly be measured. It was the most pathetic little thing I’ve ever seen.
Thirteen dollars! Thirteen dollars for a tiller, not to mention the blood, sweat and tears (I’m sure there were tears) and this is what we end up with?
A few days later I was at the local farmer’s market. It was towards the end of the day and the woman selling her veggies just wanted to go home. For the sum of ONE dollar she offered me an entire grocery sack filled with home-grown carrots.
I carried my carrots home, showed them to my husband and said, “Next year, in that garden area, we’re planting grass.”