Wednesday, August 26, 2009
April is the Cruelest Month...and May Through August
Statistically speaking I dropped off this whole blogging thing at about the right time. Half a year and I checked out. I can go on about the reasons why I did but what's more interesting are the reasons why I'm writing again, which will hopefully not be just another whim. But hey, who knows? Life is long and full of impediments.
Let us take a journey back to April then, that far flung month of Fools and sudden flurries. It was wet, it was cold but Spring had reached out to tap our shoulders and say, "Hey, wait up I'm coming! Don't go without me!" I looked out at the sagging broken bits of my garden and thought, Let's do this thing. Earth was turned, leaves composted, cement swept and the great Craigslist search began. First to build a garden box you need wood and free wood is the best kind.
My roommate Claire and I met up on a desolate street a hair's breadth from Red Hook then followed a strange woman into her warehouse, using a flash light to pick through her debris and find chunks of wood of an approximate size to one another. They were all different finishes, some actual lumber, some just the hacked up drawers of an old bureau, some were lined mysteriously with cloth that no force on earth (barring industrial solvents) could remove. We bungeed what we could to the back of Claire's bike and the rest on a tiny black hand cart and walked the forty or so blocks to our house, with the weight of the wood tipping their conveyances over every ten feet or so. Tenacious C, as I like to call her, urged me on as my shoulders separated and we finally made it, April wind whipping our faces and the clouds rolling over.
Aw, look at this photo. I'm so glad my Nalgene is pictured here. I lost it a few weeks ago at a yoga studio. Never forget!!
When we finally got to hammering all this garbage together we noticed our boxes were perfectly coffin sized, if you were being buried 150 years ago in the Old West.
There was one for me as well but I like the power to the workers tone of Claire's pose here with the hammer and all.
Hmm, now we have boxes. Where to find dirt? Until you need large amounts of it at once you assume dirt is the most readily available commodity out there. I mean everywhere I look I see dirt, right? But no. Craigslist again! This time it lead us to a bar on Fifth Ave. where the proprietor had been digging out his basement, hoping to make the ceiling a habitable distance from the floor. One day it will be a music venue but that particular day it looked like where we were going to be murdered. It didn't help that in the corner sat two hundred partially filled black garbage bags under a caged bare bulb. These turned out to be full of dirt, not body parts, and we started hauling them up the perilously steep basement staircase. Another surprise about dirt-it's pretty fucking heavy! It took the both of us to manage certain bags and when we peaked in one we saw why. This wasn't loamy compost full of rich organic matter. This was red silt, the clay earth of old Brooklyn sitting under the pressure of a building for a hundred years. Not entirely sure anything would even grow in it we loaded down a friend's car until it sagged and drove the bags home to go through another back breaking session of moving them down the long alleyway to our apartment.
Now the fun part! Slashing the bags with a razor blade filled me with glee. Because I'm deranged. Claire upended our compost bin over the red clay, ignoring un-composted bits like corn husks and what we'd just eaten for lunch, assuming it would all work itself out in the end. We mixed the two together hoping to create a hospitable environment for our seeds.
And such seeds. I had it all worked out. I was gonna grow a whole season's worth of food and have enough to can and jar, freeze and dry, and subsist on all winter. I dreamed big, baby. Tomatoes, snap peas, kale, carrots, green onions, potatoes (Including the purple Magic Mollies I'd hoarded in a paper bag all year. When I reached my hand in to get them I shrieked. Their eyes had sprouted and the stems caressed me like antennae), strawberries, five kinds of basil, rosemary, thyme, beets. All of these I planted in peat lined trays and covered carefully with clear plastic. I worried over them like a mother. A negligent, inconsistent mother but somehow they sprouted. I built a trellis over the boxes out of old silkscreen frames for the climbing peas and sat back waiting to reap what I'd sown.
Then the blow! My landlord wanted my house, Tenacious C was moving out and I had to find a new place to live all of which is a saga for another day. I suffered in a few ways, throwing out most of my personal belongings, losing money etc. But the hardest thing was saying goodbye to my garden that I had planted and tended in good faith and which now was reduced to a charge from my landlord. Removal. He trashed it all. All our work in a dumpster just like that.
That's assuming he didn't just charge me and keep the beds in his new yard anyway, which I'd really be glad to hear.
So here I am, in upstate New York again, a part of the world that first inspired me to begin writing about food and the outdoors and growing things. And I said this was going to be a post about why I've started writing again not why I stopped but it seems they're the same story, really. I stopped because my garden was taken away before it could be anything and I'm starting again because writing about food and life and plants brings it back to life, allows it to stretch its tendrils out and climb that trellis where it can unfurl and bear fruit.
Metaphorically, I mean. Because it's actually in a landfill now.