The epic saga of sadness and destruction now dubbed Operation Garden Terrorism continues. Today I went outside to discover a patch of plants had been crushed along with two sections of the bamboo fence that we built in the early spring. The fence had been kicked in and broken in two spots. What is going on?
I really need to make a sign like this for my street garden. Except mine would include an assortment of choice words and threats… all the things I want to say to the various offenders but can’t because I never catch them in the act. Threats such as, “If I ever catch you urinating in my garden you better have jets on your feet.” My neighbor once relayed the story of coming home to find a business man had stepped out of a limo and was urinating on our front steps. Now we’re not in the middle of nowhere here. There is a coffee shop right around the corner just a few steps away. Instead of shouting threats or calling the guy out he just walked up, stood alongside him and pulled down his zipper. “Watching you makes me feel like peeing here too.” he said to the startled and confused public urinator. I’m guessing that as a female this tactic would not be effective for me.
I often stop to photograph signs like the one above wherever I find them. And I find them more often than you’d think. It would be nice to believe that everyone appreciates the hard work gardeners put into making something beautiful that everyone can share in but the reality is that some people are messed up and those people sometimes feel resentment towards other living things and acts of beauty. Maybe it hurts them too much? Maybe they don’t feel like they can share in it but rather that it is just another thing they can’t have in their lives? Maybe they’re just angry as hell and need to take it out on something? Maybe they just need to pee RIGHT NOW and they don’t care where and they don’t care how? I don’t know or even understand all of the motives but I do know that just about any city gardener has a story and we’ve all learned an unexpected thing or two about human psychology via our gardens. Although I never would have thought of it, I really dig the signs that threaten karmic smiting. However when it comes down to it I find that I can’t wait or even believe that the “universe” will take care of business, I want to be the one to deliver the blow.
When bad things happen to my garden I sometimes feel angry enough to cut some heads off. Metaphorically of course. But other times I just feel sad. Defeated. When my garden was most recently viciously assaulted my response wasn’t to get angry or violent. Instead, uncharacteristically, I crumbled. I decided to tack up a letter addressed to the perpetrator but all I could muster up was a sad and pathetic, “Why?” This time it just hit me in a way that it hasn’t in the past. This person didn’t just clumsily fall into the irises or trample the lilies on their way to a semi-private pee spot against the back wall. This person maliciously and purposefully took out every globe thistle in the garden. The thistles were big. They were tall and just about to bloom. This person very meticulously tramped every single stem in such a way that the stems were crushed right to the ground like crop circles in a corn field. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that this was not the cruel work of a tiny spaceship or a troop of little greys but the calculated act of a real human. I couldn’t believe it. Of all the things that have happened in and around that garden this particular act just floored me, leaving me feeling sad and powerless in a way that I did not like. So much so that it has taken me 4 weeks to coherently write here about this event. I mean I could get angry and throw stuff but who do I direct the anger towards when they are a faceless phantom? And what made it worse was how the purposefulness of it felt personal, like it wasn’t just the plants that were destroyed but that I had also been kicked in the gut and left to rot. And that no one did anything about it in that way that people will watch an assault on the street and then shamefully turn away from the victim rather than reach out or help.
And it gets worse. I know the attack happened during the day when there is always at least one or several people from the law clinic standing around shooting the shit and smoking. I know because I am never without an audience as I bend over to work on the garden. And they never say a peep and turn away when I look in their direction, never engaging and then when I am not around throwing their butts into the garden. To top it off, when I went outside that day and discovered the destruction I stood there for several minutes in shock. And then the emotions started to come. And as I turned around I caught a woman standing inside the doors of the law office gawking at me! Thanks lady!
About a week or so after the incident, I had finally got up the nerve to go out there and begin cleaning up and moving on. The thing is, what happened sucked but I’ve been through a lot with that garden, worse than this. And I’ve been through a lot in my life, much, much worse than this. And after a certain point I can’t not get back on the horse and keep going. Thankfully my stubbornness knows no limit. As I was getting ready to leave a man stopped and called out to me from across the street saying that he loved the garden and was glad to see that I was able to get back on my feet and keep going after what had happened. I was feeling too overwhelmed at the time to say what I felt but I want to tell that lovely man how much I appreciated his words and support. That seemingly small and simple act of kindness from a stranger really turned things around for me because he had acknowledged what had happened, saw how it had hurt, and turned towards me instead of looking away.
I had big plans, HUGE PLANS, to use this post to write about exciting topics that were guaranteed to delight and amuse, but then we popped over to the community garden this evening to check on the first zucchini — which you can guess by now began as a simple task but quickly turned into a marathon work session. I have been waiting on eggshells for the first little miniature penis-like thing to be pollinated (incidentally this phallic-like thing is the female flower) by the pollen from a male flower and evolve into a full-grown zucchini. Before someone says it, yes I could have pollinated the female flower myself but I was not at the garden when the flower was open.
I don’t know what it is about that first zucchini that inspires such excitement although I suppose the first of just about anything worth harvesting from the garden is exciting. The first tomato, the first pinch of basil, the first onion, I can’t think of a single first in the garden that doesn’t inspire even the tiniest mental high five. Read aloud that makes me sound an awful lot like the dudes from “Gummo” as they glow with pride over a haul of dead cats. “I’m pretty smart if I do say so myself.”
Come to think of it I’d say that the other thing about that first zucchini is that waiting for it to grow becomes like a sort of death watch, a race between myself, an unknown mammalian critter who just loves to take a solitary bite from my zucchinis, and the developing fruit. Will I get to the zucchini BEFORE it is discovered by a mammalian critter (i.e. ground hog, opposum, cat) but AFTER the zucchini has reached a large enough size for picking? Who will win? Do I take a chance and leave it just one more day only to arrive the following afternoon to discover a ready-to-harvest fruit still on the vine but with a few scattered chunks and teeth marks cut into it? It’s all the thrill of gambling without any of the reward. First you get the zucchini, then you get the power. This has happened many times, and god knows I don’t enjoy it, but the disappointment of defeat is a lot more acceptable once a few good-sized zucchini’s have made it to the dinner table.
As you can see from the picture I did not take a chance and removed the zucchini even though it could have gone another day or two. But you know, it’s the first one of the season, it’s a reasonable size, and it’s edible.
I’m pretty smart if I do say so myself.
I just returned from my community garden plot where I harvested a ton of onions, garlic, and borage. They were all overflowing in the plot and some needed to be sacrificed for the good of the garden and future harvests. The garlic had already formed a few cloves each. I left plenty more that will stay put until the fall when they are fully formed. I’m figuring on some sort of soup for the borage. Something that would benefit from a cucumbery flavor. The flowers are good in fizzy beverages. The onions will become tonight’s meal, French Onion Soup.
I also harvested my first cucumber (‘Parisian Pickling’), radish flowers, swiss chard and lots of herbs including basil (2 kinds), ‘Golden’ oregano, variegated marjoram, and garlic chives.
The valerian plants were COVERED in lady bug larvae! So exciting! Sorry no photos. I took my film camera with me.
Not a day has gone by over the last month where our meals haven’t been prepared with some percentage of harvest from the gardens. As the summer heats up that percentage is growing. Filling the fridge (and our bellies) with my own harvest is very satisfying. It just never grows old. And neither does bragging and gloating about it.
The Scene: The sun is about to disappear entirely and my rooftop is now mostly illuminated by the painfully bright and orange security light next door. I am still outside moving pots around and pinching back basil flowers. My neighbor steps outside.
Me: I have been gardening for 7 or 8 hours straight. It started with a trip for some container soil and then over to the community garden to swap out a tomato for a tomatillo plant leading to hours of this, that, and the next. I can’t stop. I am unstoppable. Nothing’s gonna stop me now. Please make me stop.
Neighbor: Pete Flower Sunshine (not his real name but one of those local weather news garden experts with a cheesy nickname that I can’t recall at this time) says it’s gonna be a scorcher this weekend and that you should not do any gardening. “Do NOT garden!”, he says. “Stay inside and relax!”, he says. “Whatever you do, do not garden!”
Me: Well, I should have had enough by now. I don’t want to be gardening in 40 degree temperatures. Tomorrow I can be found laying around with a wet towel on my head.
The following morning I decide to watch an episode of Recreating Eden, a fantastic half-hour documentary show about gardeners and gardening that you should watch if you haven’t already. I am barely into the program before I find myself overcome with the urge to get outside and “finger some peas” [cough]. I MUST garden. No matter what I must get outside and garden. And so, just barely holding on until the end of the show, I rush downstairs to the street garden armed with worm castings, sea kelp, pruners, and assorted tools with the intention of doing just a little ‘light’ cleanup. Two hours later Davin and I are both extra sore, sweaty and covered in dirt having spent the entire time in full sun digging up a patch of daylilies that were recently crushed by yet another jerk looking for somewhere to urinate. In all fairness it was probably about 5-10 degrees cooler than the reported killer heatwave. But really, I have GOT to start planning my gardening activities and stop taking on large chores spontaneously. The garden looks just fine but I’m sure transplanting in those conditions was not easy on the plants. Do as I say, not as I do.
All-in-all I probably gardened for a total of 12-15 hours (I’m probably being generous here) over the course of 3 days. I could not stop. I had a lot to work out in my mind and a lot to procrastinate. Gardening is great for both. I didn’t come out with any solutions but I do feel satisfied with the massive list of activities that were accomplished and much less panicked about the things that were worrying me.
*In a recent Toronto Star article, writer Sonia Day noted that I was “fingering a pea vine” a phrase that sounds just a little bit dirty and one that I plan to use as a euphemism for gardening from now on.