Me and the cricket tree.
After a recent visit to my garden, I've come to the realization that I'm much more of a landscaper than a vegetable gardener.
Don't worry, I'm not giving up on vegetables, but I understand now that I prefer to plant a bush, tree, or flower and let it grow on its own, for as long as it chooses, than to constantly fuss over quick-growing plants and then forget to eat them.
I came to this realization after digging a hole for a bush. Not just any hole. There are easy holes and there are hard holes. This was a hard hole. This was a hole where every thrust of the shovel met rock. Where even the sandy soil was hard-packed from long-ago construction (the worst kind!). Where the deeper I went, the harder it got. But here's the thing: I liked it!
During the process a couple of people said to me, "Don't you have someone who can help you with that?" And the truth is I do. But why should they have all the fun? There is something about digging a hole that's both releasing and strengthening in the best way. It's like a kettlebell workout, except in the end you also get a place to plant a bush or a tree.
At one point someone from the landscaping company I use came over and said he thinks I need to do things like dig holes because during the rest of my life my mind is so engaged and busy; that digging a hole is my mental break. There's definitely truth to that. The point is, he could tell I wasn't about to hand over the shovel.
Later that same day, at the Emmaus Farmers' Market, I was talking to one of my favorite farmers and admiring his carrots. I explained that I have a problem growing carrots, that I prefer planting flowers and bushes--and digging the holes for them. He replied that he really doesn't like landscaping because it takes so long to see results. He prefers the more immediate gratification of growing things for people to eat--maturity measured in days, not years. We agreed that he would keep growing vegetables and I would keep buying them from him.
Just a few weeks earlier, I'd taken an old friend to that same farmer's market, and on the way we'd stopped to see my old house. He hadn't been back in almost 30 years. I showed him the "cricket tree," as my kids called it, a silver maple my sister planted in the middle of our yard probably about 27 years ago. I never liked where it had been planted because I knew how big and fast it would grow and that it would make growing any vegetables hard.
After she moved out and one daughter ran into it while learning to ride a bike (the tiny tree trunk bent way back and flung her off the bike like a slingshot! The bike left a turquoise paint scar on the tree that lasted for years! This was apparently all my fault, of course, and she still hasn't quite forgiven me...), I decided to move it.
To do this, I had to dig a giant hole in the new spot, dig out the tree from the middle of the yard, and drag that 200-pound root ball a good distance to drop it into the new hole. I can still feel the strain of every muscle, the pleasure and joy of my stubborn success, the taste of downtown Emmaus dirt (probably tinged with lead) in my mouth.
Standing there with my old friend and that tree, I could see the years passing like a movie in my head. I saw the images of my two oldest daughters climbing the tree, playing in the tree, making forts under the tree. I could hear their laughter and happy screams echoing in my head as if it was yesterday--with the summery sound of crickets in the background. That little cricket tree is now so big I can't get my arms around it. I love that tree. I loved planting that tree. Because from one hole a whole lifetime grows.
Whether it's in business or your personal life, doing the digging yourself can be tough, but it can also have lasting benefits and rewards. So you might as well enjoy the digging!
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com