Thursday, April 8, 2010

A worm runs through it

In 1978, I wrote an essay of sorts for a career exploration class. Yesterday, while cleaning out my files I discovered what I had written.
An excerpt toward the end:
"During the summers in Utah, I was "turned-on," ... I loved the change of seasons and after moving into a small one-bedroom house with a large area for a garden, I planted my first garden [in 1970]. I was particularly proud of the garden, read and studied a lot about organic gardening, and became known among my peers as an organic gardener. A few people would ask questions about how to do certain things. An enjoyable lesson for me was when I taught a friend how to use hand tools and plant her garden. I learned something about myself...that a college education and culture aren't necessarily the keys to 'education' or skills in which to better one's life. I still have a strong desire to return to college, however."
In a sense, little has changed. A common thread runs through my life. The values I held dear at that time still resonate with me today. Not only in the gardening, but in my love of writing. I also finally finished that long-coveted degree in 2004.
I still enjoy sharing my gardening knowledge with others, although in a valley full of master gardeners, and about 100,000 gardening blogs on the Internet, I'm a small potatoes (pun intended) gardener in the large world of organic gardening.
I feel blessed to have had that first little garden in Park City, Utah. I remember going into the garden one morning and discovering an entire row of spinach had been gobbled from under the surface. Gophers! I stuck a hose down the hold to drive them into the vacant lot next door. I don't remember any more trouble with them. I dealt with the enormous slugs with salt in rows around the garden.
We moved to Heber City that next year and we were in the midst of tilling a very large garden, when I realized my life was about to take a serious turn. I left my marriage, my new home (such as it was) of a year, and "lit" out, so to speak. I moved to Sun Valley, Idaho for a summer, and then for the next several years I traveled, and spent time at the Maharishi International University in 1975-1976. After going to France for a "TM teacher training course," that nearly drove me nuts, I went back to California in 1978. I worked at a nursery and then for a landscaper for awhile, before getting a job at the University of California at San Diego in the biology department.
While working at the U, I started a small garden in my backyard in a rented house in Del Mar, California. Gina Catena, her two-year-old daughter, Angelica, and Ted (?) were my roommates. I started clearing a small two-by-three foot spot by the back fence. Soon, others in the house took interest. Then the landlord tore down the fence so there was more room for the garden. I don't remember how well the garden fared, but it was fun seeing it come together.
In 1980, I returned to M.I.U., where I worked for a year. I met Jared's dad, Tom, and by 1982 I was married with a baby.
We lived in Iowa City for two and a half years, and I attempted another garden, which met with marginal success. After moving to California a few years later, Tom and I divorced and Jared and I "lit" out on our own. We moved into a "cottage," (code for run-down house a friend of Jared's once dubbed a "shack") overlooking the ocean. The ocean view was the great part, including an avocado orchard on the property, an orange tree, and a cherimoya tree, an unusual fruit my grandfather used to grow, as well as avocados. There was a large lawn. Jared and I dug up a spot (he was five, so I'm not sure how much he dug) and we planted peas together, and a few other vegis.
Gardening is a lot of work, so we didn't have another garden while we lived there. I was busy being a midwife-apprentice and midwife, and raising Jared. But the dream of having a large spot for a garden remained.
So when we saw our current property on Nighthawk Lane in Selah, Washington, I saw the fulfillment of a dream. An acre of land to steward with a 30 x 30 foot plot to grow food organically.
Our neighbors, Kal and Mary, helped us build a fence around the garden plot. That first year Mary and I planted a garden. But again, I was working, raising Jared, and after two seasons of hip-high weeds, we all gave up. It was a mess.
The land lay fallow until last year, when we had a remarkably abundant garden. Mary and the kids, who are now older, contributed to the work effort, and Ben laid irrigation, which helped enormously.
This year, my friend, Sue Hillstrom, is helping me in the garden, and Mary may help later. If not, she will still reap the benefits, as she has gone through a nearly complete remodel of her home due to a fire and then a car accident, which rendered her not fit for gardening duty just yet.
The weather remains cold. Who knows how the peas are doing, and the frigid night temperatures have certainly had an effect on the onions we planted. But looking forward to working in the garden fills me with anticipation, just as it did when I grew my first garden 35 years ago in Utah.


brooklyntart said...

This is so beautiful. I've never had a green thumb- I'm so inept in the garden that I even killed a cactus, more than once. There's a lot to be said for a person who can plant a seed and know just what it needs to grow.

But pulling up weeds, that's something I'm good at.

JoyRainbow said...

Martha, I don't think I have ever heard so much history about your life! I have caught snippets in our friendship, but this was great to get a bigger picture of all the places you have been! I am glad you keep gardening. I still remember one of the summers you attempted a garden when I was a kid and that it was huge and you wore a huge straw hat! I really loved that hat, and the garden... except I remember hating kale (which I enjoy, now).
Love you!

Gina said...

Martha, Thank you for sharing that essay!
You tended the Del Mar garden earnestly, providing us with delicious salads and other veggies your raised in that ocean air! Our other roommate was Hal Koppel (with a different girlfriend each weekend), then Jim Jeffers moved in just before Angelica and I drove to Fairfield, Iowa. I have a photo of our group home. We were so "happy" in TM-cult naivete mentality! Ai!
As soon as my new scanner works, I'll scan and post that photo!
I'll bookmark your blog now.
Am likewise SO grateful to have the fractured pieces of life histories coming together! Thank YOU for connecting! Much LOVE, xoxo!