Old News: June 2002
Gardening at Night
R.E.M. have a song called "Gardening at Night" on their first EP, Chronic Town. Like most early music from that band, it features jingle-jangle guitars, unintelligible lyrics, and an infectious, stick-in-your-mind chorus.
I mention the song because this evening I planted four Big Boy tomatoes in my back yard, well after the sun had set. When I finished, I watered the general area, hoping to splash the plants enough that they could last the night, and turned on a porch light to admire my handiwork. The plants aren't aligned in neat rows as they would be in a real garden. I like to think they look as they might in nature, the way tomatoes grow when not tended by humans.
(Do tomatoes grow in the wild? I assume they must—like dogs they've been co-opted to live with us, but some renegades probably survive without human help. My tomatoes will flourish like wild dogs.)
I had resolved that this year I would keep up with the work my tiny tenth of an acre requires. Due to a frenetic schedule I've pretty much failed so far. The lawn remains a patchwork of hay-like clumps and barren areas, liberally sprinkled with dandelions and prickly weeds. The forsythia grows daily in all directions. Evergreen hedges threaten to obscure the windows. The grass in the backyard has been dead for two years, and I'm genuinely afraid of the plants on the east side of the house. I don't have a clue how to edge the walk.
It's not all bad news. Miraculously, a snapdragon sprouted of its own accord near the back steps in May. I didn't know what it was at first and assumed it was a big, leafy weed, but fortunately I was too busy to yank it out. Now it sports a glamorous spray of yellow and pink. The rose bush in the side yard also seems to love my lack of care and has covered itself in peachy-pink blooms.
My neighbor Nancy grows wonderful plants in her yard, many native to Pennsylvania, all thoughtfully arranged and tended. She gives me seedlings every year; this year she provided the Big Boys tomatoes as well as a grape tomato plant with one tomato already started, some basil and dill sprouts, a native strawberry plant, and a native clematis (Clematis virginiana). Since her windows look over my property, she could be thought to have a vested interest in its upkeep, but really she's just extraordinarily generous. I feel an obligation to do right by the little plants she donates to my homestead.
And this is why I found myself planting tomatoes in the dark. They'd outgrown the plastic containers they came in and were wilting daily. I needed to get them safely grounded in real soil, and I worried I wouldn't have another chance this week to work on the yard. I started digging around 8. The sun had set but the sky was still light; I was fumbling in the dark by the end.
Despite the garden's ramshackle alignment, I'm pleased with how the project came out. I'll be even more pleased if the plants take root and produce tomatoes.
In the meantime, I'm hoping for another clear night this week, so I can get that clematis installed near the front porch.
The First Annual Inkburns Festival
To celebrate our first full year of publication, Inkburns will be having a party. Everyone is invited.
We'll have food and drink, and music, and contributors will read their work and display photos. There may be a limbo contest. There will definitely be prizes, for the person who has come the greatest distance and others. Plus, if we can get the technology working, we'll webcast the event live. It will be tremendous fun, and you'll want to be there.
- Date: July 13, 2002 (changed from July 20)
- Time: 6pm to 10pm
- Location: A specially-selected location in Butler, PA (Please R.S.V.P for address and directions.)