I started a garden this weekend.
That’s actually a lie.
I tore down a couple of my Murder Sheds this weekend and was left with two rectangular patches of dirt. I spent the next eight hours playing in that dirt, raking up old nails, pulling weeds and respectfully disposing of any mummified cats I found. I surrounded them with a wobbly wall of cobwebby bricks that were piled around my property and proclaimed, “These are my gardens.”
Then I saw a few more weeds and noticed that the ground wasn’t level, so I started digging around in the dirt again. I’ve been doing that for three days now. At this point I’ve dug and re-dug the same empty dirt plot so many times that if my neighbor suspected me of hiding a body and called the police, I wouldn’t even be angry. I’d shake her hand for being so vigilant about reporting suspicious behavior.
I would also fervently hope that she isn’t a gardener, because if she is, she’d know that even with all my digging, I can’t bury the truth: I’m making this up as I go. I have no idea how to garden. My experience has already been fraught with trouble and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Problems That Have Already Occurred
1. Total body soreness, brought on by lifting cinderblocks, bricks and large piles of dirt. Also possibly by tetanus. There are a lot of rusty nails out there.
2. Freckling. I shouldn’t be surprised. Last month, I managed to get a sunburn while I was indoors.
3. Comparisons to my late grandmother, who liked gardening, cats and books and did not like other people or leaving the house. Frankly I don’t see the resemblance.
4. Putting a hole in my neighbor’s nice fence. Flinging a piece of sheet metal at my dad and ensuring it put a big crack in my new neighbor’s fence was the Murder Shed’s last revenge.
5. I briefly owned a mummy cat. Did you think that was a joke? As my dad and brother pulled up the floorboards of the Murder Shed, my dad said, “Look out for the bodies under there, son!”
“Hahaha,” we all laughed, because we were young and naive then. “Hahaha! The bodies!” And that’s when Dad found the cat.
That was the day we all learned that when you’re a cat who dies under the floor of a desert shed, you don’t get sticky and melty. You dry out like a sponge abandoned in the Atacama Desert and you creep the hell out of the people who find you.
Problems I Anticipate in the Not-So Distant Future
1. Crazy expensive Home Depot wish lists. When you think about it, buying one of every kind of seed is a steal. I bought 50+ bell peppers for $1.75. All I have to do is add water and baby them and protect them from birds, mammals, bugs and disease. Every day. For the next three months. Bargain!
2. Birds, mammals, bugs and disease. I’m ill-equipped. Is there a plant version of Web MD?
3. A surplus of vegetables. I thought it was a good idea to plant three rows of jalepeños in my seedling kit. Some of them will inevitably die when I move them outside, victims of my ignorance, but a mess of peppers will remain. I guess that will be my shtick. I’ll be the Lady Who Puts Jalepeños On Everything. Or the Lady Who Gives All Her Friends Congratulatory Beans And Onions.
4. The remaining shed’s floor is rotting. It’s only a matter of time before I’m knee-deep in Mummy Cat II.
5. Scorpions. Halfway through overturning a rock, I remembered that scorpions exist. I’ve never met a scorpion. Maybe they’re really nice and just look like tiny armored killing machines. I never want to find out.
The problems keep piling up, but for every one of them I find at least three things to really love about gardening.
Cool Things I Can Do Now That I Have Two Dirt Patches
1. Play in the dirt! It gets on my face and in my socks and coats my teeth. I love it.
2. Demolish stuff! It turns out a large part of garden-building involves tearing things apart to make different things.
3. Learn about food! The other day I asked three different people how potatoes are grown. No one knew. Potatoes are my favorite food. In 24 years, it never occurred to me to find out their origin story.
4. Dedicate a patch to the memory of Mummy Cat! You turned to leather in the dry desert weather. / Mummy Cat, Mummy Cat! I hope there’s water where you’re at. Jordan’s making me a plaque. My dad keeps calling me Wednesday Addams.
5. Poke worms!
6. Talk to other gardeners, who, it turns out, might be my kind of people!
7. Scare Jordan with stories about spider webs!
I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m excited for the part where I find out. I’m not even sure I’ll be any good at gardening, but these first days have been the best and all I’m doing is moving dirt from places with too much of it to places that don’t have enough. And poking worms. I’ve done a lot of worm poking.
The first lettuce seed I planted in my seedling kit sprouted today. I keep going to check on it. I lean in close to the plastic dome that covers the tray of dirt and I stare at that little green shoot.
“I made you happen,” I whisper to it. “You were a seed in an envelope and I gave you soil and water. Some mysterious, unknowable power deep inside you made you grow up out of the darkness and towards the light, but I set it off. I made you happen, lettuce.”
I lean in even closer.
“And some day real soon… I’m gonna eat you.”