Hi there, Dark Dreamers,
I hope everyone had a fun Mother’s Day and is enjoying this Spring. Both of these events collided yesterday for me into a day of being pampered by my boys and planting my veggie and fruit gardens for this year under a beautiful sky. It was nothing short of glorious.
This is my third year of growing fruits and vegetables at home. Over time I’ve learned that I knew nothing that first year, but I’m getting better at it. In the first year, my eyes got much bigger than my talent. I figured my plants would barely grow or produce, so I filled my garden. To my surprise it did grow, but now my inexperience had created a jungle monstrosity where tomatoes and cucumbers twined together until you didn’t know where one stopped and the other started. They grew through my fence until our neighbors also had veggies. Basil and peppers grew for their lives, but were eventually choked out by the larger plants. I was able to can a great deal of delicious food to save and use during the winter and the rest of the year, but so much rotted and was wasted.
The next year, I learned from my mistakes. I put in two extra beds and made more space. I dedicated one whole bed to nothing but strawberries and planted two apple and one pear tree. I went down by a third on my tomato plants, planting them far away from the cucumbers and then, let everything grow. My success was greater, but the tomatoes still managed to grow so big that we couldn’t reach the middle. The cucumbers, without the tomatoes to grow on, didn’t thrive. I also tried new plants like corn and watermelon. There was a lot to learn. I cut back my strawberries and didn’t let them flower, like the experts told me to, and did the same with the apples. Again, I had an enormous tomato yield, but my inexperience led me to not much else, as I didn’t understand the right care for each. Also Japanese Beatles ate all the leaves off my trees.
This year, I’m at it again. With planting and growing, everything I’ve learned has led to many changes. I now have my herbs in gutter gardens where they can thrive and not compete. I have half the tomato plants I had the first year with cages and spacing that allows me to reach from all sides. I have much more room for my other plants and am even trying some new ones that don’t need so much space. I switched how I feed and water them. Finally, I got to let my apples and strawberries blossom. And we sprayed them with a natural oil that is supposed to keep the beetles at bay. It is still early in the season, but there is already something for me to feel proud and excited about. The very first apples are forming on my trees. On both the Honeycrisp and the Golden Delicious apple trees, baby fruit is happily growing. We will have to see how my work goes as the seasons turn, but so far so good.
This got me thinking about writing. Often my students and even other writer friends (and sometimes even I) believe that we have to be a success out of the gate or we’re just “not writers”. Not our game. Not our bag. Even going through all the drafting and revisions we talk about, sometimes we have to learn more to become the writer we want to be. My first attempts at writing were entertaining and decent ideas, but the execution was not good. I didn’t know enough yet. My craft was still forming. But now, year-by-year, word-by-word, I get better. As I’ve been working on the next book in the American Scions series, I am hit by the fact of how much better it is than the first. Don’t get me wrong, I worked long and hard on the first, but I am constantly learning to be a better writer, just like I’m learning to become a better gardener.
That leads us to this week’s question: What in your life do you do and enjoy, but are learning how to do it better each time? What’s growing in your garden?