A couple of years ago I joined the Community Garden in our town which was just getting started. It was for completely pragmatic reasons. After deciding that I wanted to can a year’s supply of tomatoes, I got hard green tomatoes two years in a row. I thought it might be a good idea to have a back-up garden. Our farm is up on a hill and has its own climate. In the summer I drive down to town in my long sleeves and get strange looks. The last few years we haven’t gotten that long sustained heat that tomatoes love and need to ripen. We are also transplants; gardening in central New York is quite a bit different from gardening in Maryland. I’ve been gardening my whole life but in some ways it felt as if I was starting all over again.
The garden isn’t divided into individual plots. Everyone works on everything and everything is shared. I put honest effort into my work there but I don’t feel guilty if there is a Saturday when I can’t show up. There were weeks last year when I would set aside some time to go and weed, only to show up and have a hard time finding a weed to pull. And I have to say, this never has come close to happening in my garden at home.
It looks like one of those gardens from the past when people had ten kids and relatives and hired men all living on the same place, because, I’ve learned, that’s the secret. No one person/family can eat that much food or happily keep it all weeded. At home I have learned to relax and accept a certain number of weeds as a natural part of life. When life is feeling too complicated, the garden in town is good therapy with its straight rows and simple list of jobs hanging from a nail in the shed. My summer has become defined by the experience of working in the garden with a good friend a row or two over, but close enough to keep the easy conversation going. Our kids are close by too and maybe helping or maybe snacking through the paths.
This summer I find myself there mostly working quietly alone, a few odd moments here and there. I stopped by one evening this week to do a few chores on the list and met a nice guy named John who was working in the perennial bed, putting in some new flowers. In the shade of our water tank he planted a cutting of Orange Peppermint from a cutting, of a cutting he got years ago while he was working in William Penn’s garden. I wish you could smell this plant. So glad he took a bit with him each time he moved and that it finally got to our town and to my nose. May be worth a trip to Tully.