We built our first home in 1998. And if I put on rose-colored glasses, I don’t think the experience was all that bad. But what no glasses can erase from my memory was putting in the yard.
It was a quarter acre of pure misery. We were young, it was our first home, no one told us that landscaping costs as much as a luxury sedan! And we drive old beaters! So after the sprinklers, sod, and cement curbing were in…. Our yard budget was gonzo. But that’s not all folks; your 26 pallets of Southern Utah Sod come fully loaded with GRUBS! Root sucking, brown spot making, grass killing grubs. Once the sod was down, we had no money or willpower left to plant flowerbeds.
Since pricey perennials and budget busting bushes weren’t in our future, we converted our flowerbeds into our very own urban farm. The kids helped me make plant stakes; we dug holes and filled them with seeds together, and waited or the magic to happen.
Apparently we are geniuses at growing hot peppers, cukins, and roma tomatoes. Seriously- who needs 3 bushels of cayenne peppers? The kids were two and four at the time and the spiciest food they ate was ketchup. What is a cukin you ask? It’s when Dr. FrankenGarden plants your cucumber and pumpkin so close they get married and have a baby. Let me describe the offspring. It was small, orange, and round like a mini pumpkin on the outside but the inside was pure cucumber. “It’s alive!” “It’s alive!”
Who knew that a dozen Roma tomato plants was about 11 too many? Halfway through summer we found restless natives living among the lush rainforest that started out as tomato planes. They were happy and they knew it. I’ll chalk that one up as a rookie mistake.
Rookie mistake number two was planting more than one zucchini plant. By the middle of August we were doorbell ditching Volkswagen-sized zucchinis on front porches and making our escape running as fast as our wheelbarrow could go.
I think you urban farmers out there will feel my pain when I mention that after months of staring and casting spells on my green pepper plants (I have NO luck with green peppers… Why can’t they grow like their cousin the cayenne?) I finally had several not-quite-ready-but-almost-there peppers on my plant. Victory had bloomed and we were proud parents.
Until… my neighbor’s son picked them all. Every. Last. One. They made perfect ammunition to throw at his older brother. His mother made a kind effort and bought me a bag of three peppers to replace them, not really understanding. I COULD HAVE GONE TO THE STORE AND BOUGHT PEPPERS, it was the process. I was so frustrated! And I had to remind myself- I CAN GO TO THE STORE AND BUY PEPPERS, the process wasn’t lost if after a sneak pepper attack on older brother killed all hope of growing my own.
We still had fun, even if the green pepper plants were basically decoration, and all of our pumpkins were still green at Halloween and even if 99.9% of all the cayenne peppers were turned into compost. (The .01% was sampled by the oldest child who still has not fully recovered.)
As much as I hated that darn yard, I loved our attempt at vegetable plants in the flowerbed garden. We’ve long since moved from our first home, but our neighbors never really forgot the bounties of kindness we left on their porches back in the day. What comes around goes around. We seem to find anonymous large squashes (we have no use for) gracing our front stoop. That’s when I put on my rose-colored glasses and refer to it as “Paying it Forward.” One good deed deserves another right? And so the vegi-go-round continues in our neighborhood harvest.