Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Down on the Farm

From the bean of Green Bean.

My back hurt. Something hard and pointed dug into my abdomen. My left calf cramped. Blood seeped slowly from a small cut on my pinkie.

I really shouldn't be doing this, I thought, as I leaned further forward and flexed every muscle in my body. Where was my husband or the kids? Or a neighbor? I cocked my head scanning the street. I needed help!

I shifted my weight slightly, contorting into the Reverse Warrior. Slowly, I eased my hand under, stretched out my fingers and, with my thumb deftly snapped the base of the cherry tomato.

Reaching to the left, I set the full basket on the stone walkway - next to three other full baskets. What was I supposed to do with all these, I wondered. In the distance, I heard a car engine. Darting over the picket fence and onto the sidewalk, I hoped to God it was a neighbor or a friend. The car slowed down as it passed but didn't stop. A stranger. I debated running after the car for help but decided I could wait. My neighbors had to come home or emerge from behind their closed doors at some point. When they did, I'd be waiting.

I sighed and crouched back down, angling under a lime green branch that had escaped the vanity cages in my front yard. I'd opted for wrought iron pyramids over the traditional cages because they would look prettier in my front yard garden. As I stretched for a low hanging branch of tomatoes, mingled in between the pumpkin leaves and cayenne peppers, I doubted if vanity cages were the best choice.

Last year, my front yard was mostly tame. True, sunflowers and pumpkins roamed along the sidewalk strip and the side yard, next to the driveway, buzzed and undulated in black, yellow, purple and red. A busy pollinator garden. But still, directly in front of the house, stretched a subdued greenish-brown lawn, peppered with dandelions and devil grass.

Late fall, I got a honey bee in my hand-knitted bonnet. We put in a fence, an arbor, a path and sheet mulch. Spring brought tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, a grape vine, watermelons and more.

Today, our front yard is a raucous orgy. The tomatoes tango with the cucumbers which intertwine with the peppers which lurk around the basil and beans which saunter next to the crookneck squash and so on. Zinnias, cosmos and marigolds pop up in odd places. Between the collard greens. Behind the pumpkins. Next to the potatoes and berries. Butterflies skitter over the yarrow, bees wander drunkenly from squash blossom to borage flower and bright yellow finches flit in and out of the sunflowers.

There's nothing tame here. Not even the amount of fruit and vegetables one year of gardening can produce. I'm picking over four baskets a day of cherry tomatoes. Think twice before dropping by the Green Bean household. You'll go home with full hands. Very full hands. Watermelon and pumpkins balloon in between the vines. Beans wave from their perch atop the black metal pyramid. I beat back the basil daily but cannot keep up with its slow onslaught upwards and outwards. It's wild here. The garden buzzes and churns with endless energy. It requires picking and wending and creative thinking and new recipes. It also invigorates and regenerates and lightens the step even as it fills up the baskets.

Uncoiling myself from in between the giant pumpkins and Early Girl tomatoes, I pick up my harvesting baskets. A neighbor pulls up across the street and makes off with a basket of my sungolds. Another neighbor brings her parents over to see what is growing. A passerby whips out his camera phone and snaps a photo. A landscaper working on a house up the street stops by to quiz me on the varieties of squash I'm growing. And, I hand off some basil to a friend dropping my son off from camp. My son in turn hefts up a basket and I, smiling from ear to ear, carry the two remaining as we walk back to the house.

I open the door for my son and then turn back to look at the buzzing, breeding garden. Life where once there was only lifeless lawn. Food where once there was empty space. Hope and happiness where once there was nothing. I square my shoulders and head inside to make dinner confident that everything is in order down on the farm.


The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

It must be wonderful to have you as a neighbor! You share and build community!

The Mom said...

It's addicting isn't it?

Farmer's Daughter said...

I was just thinking my garden was a jungle. I have to duck and contort to pick cukes or tomatoes. It's crazy in there!

ruchi said...

GB, can you post more pictures of this yard? It sounds awesome!! :)

Anonymous said...


This is one delicious way to get rid of some of those cherry tomatoes! Good luck and keep on growin'!

Conundrum Cupcakery said...

Yes! to more pictures please. And a question: how do you handle watering? Did you have a sprinkler system before? We just moved into a house with a big yard and a sprinkler system. I am hoping that some of the sprinklers can be converted to drip irrigation and that we can do this to the sunny part of our yard next year! Tips, step-by step, pictures...more please!

Pure Mothers said...

Great visual I just got - but would love to actually see your farm!

I just stepped in the house myself from filling up a basket of early girls and siletz tomatoes. Far too many to eat ourselves! I was going to make tomato sauce and can, but we're moving to London in less than 2 months. So, my neighbors will benefit this year too. :-)

Green Bean said...

4Bushel: Why thank you. I didn't actually think of that while writing the post but that is an unexpected benefit. I'm also out front a lot which means more chatting than if I were hiding in the house or back yard.

Mom: Totally!

Abbie: Absolute jungle. Bet its beautiful though. :)

Ruchi and Conundrum: Pictures never seem to do it justice but you check out some more recent ones on the Green Phone Booth Facebook site. There are photos of there of both my and Greeen Sheeep's gardens. I'll try to put together a more detailed post of how we transformed the yard, step by step in the next week. As to sprinklers, we had some already there and others put in before we started planting. I've chosen to go with micro sprinklers which can be easily and individually be moved around and turned up, down or off. I highly recommend this to anyone thinking of planting an edible garden. It is the MOST fun and most rewarding and easiest way to get a high.

Anonymous: You are indeed a superhero!! This looks awesome and the cherry tomatoes are slowly taking over the house so I'd better get cooking.

Pure Mothers: Moving to London! Ah well, yours neighbors will at least enjoy. :) As I said to Ruchi and Conundrum, please check out our blog's Facebook page and check back here for more photos.

kale for sale said...

You're going to turn into one of those neighbors that puts vegetables in mailboxes you have so much of it! This is a wonderful story.

Jared said...

I wish I had you as a neighbor! Please post pictures. You must be able to put together incredible edible arrangements and fruit baskets. Keep keeping the earth green.

Anonymous said...

Thanks soooo much for this well-written post, Green Bean. Really made me think about my reasons for food growing.

Cath in Australia

Green Bean said...

Katrina: Indeed. I've thought of that. Or at least on doorsteps or inside unlocked cars. ;-)

Jared: Thank you. I will post some pictures this weekend or next.

Cath: My pleasure. Now that I'm growing, I'm finding that there are even more reasons to grow than I initially had thought. Who knew one could feel so darn happy just after fifteen minutes in the garden.

Alison Kerr said...

Green Bean, you're an inspiration!

Now I feel doubly, or triply convinced that I need to find a way some day to grow food in my front yard. I can't build community from hiding in my back yard.

I'll be back to see the photos :-)

Daisy said...

I think it's Garrison Keillor who said that small town people only lock their cars in August: when they're afraid someone will fill them with zucchini while they're in church. He didn't mention cherry tomatoes...

Elizabeth B said...

. . Can I have directions? ;)

This is lovely. Thank you for another wonderful entry.

utahlawyer said...

My garden is much like yours. I am working on posting recipes for using garden produce on my blog. Check it out: http://greenfornothing.blogspot.com/.

Green Bean said...

Allison: Do it! You won't regret it. My husband, who's not a big gardener, was just commenting on what a good decision it was.

Daisy: I love that!!

Elizabeth: I'm thinking that I'll post some directions on what I did, at least, with photos next week some time. It has been such a successful, fun and rewarding move to plant out front and we've benefitted in so many ways. Why not share !?!

Utah: Thanks for the link. I'm heading over to check out your blog now. :)


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