This morning I woke up early, and excited. Today was a big day on Reluctant Farm. It was planting day! I was going to become one with Mother Earth! I was up, straw hat in hand, bag packed with ice water bottles and a bag of freshly made bran muffins.
I was going to walk through Fields of Gold, a Goddess in Green, dropping seeds at precise increments into the rich brown soil. Oh, up and down the rows I would walk, my graceful hands in a choreographed swoop, feeding the fertile ground.
I knew exactly what it would be like. I had the picture.
Anxious and awaiting instruction from Brad, who had already finished a row of planting while I organized the muffins, fixed my hair and donned my hat at a jaunty angle, I waved excitedly and said “Let the Sowing Begin!”
Brad pointed me towards 14 tomato plants. That was my job. To sort the tomatoes into whichever way I wanted to plant them, dig holes for each, unpot the plants, loosen the roots, plant and pat.
” Um, OK. But after this do I get to sow some seeds?” I asked. Because I wanted him to take a picture of me walking the fields, looking serene. I needed to update my Facebook profile photo.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Just do the tomatoes and then we’ll figure out what we need to do next.”
So I sorted the tomatoes. Which was kinda fun. I sorted the San Marzanos together, as they are the pride of Italy, the tomatoes that would become the base of my near legendary marinara, and would also cook down into some truly amazing homemade tomato paste.
I placed the two yellow and green zebra tomatoes front and center, as they would produce unique, colorful fruits that would stand out in the midst of the deep red Marzanos.
Then I bent over, and started digging.
When I pictured planting, I didn’t take into account the digging and the bending. In New York, I think we may have had one wilting philodendron in our 3rd floor walk up, and a straggly geranium on our fire escape. Gardening wasn’t top priority in the Bronx. When we moved out west, our family had 3 peach trees. Our form of planting was walking outside, picking a peach, eating it and throwing away the pit. So I didn’t really have a clear picture of planting a garden. And certainly not one of the proportions that Brad intended.
First of all, I’m not the most physical person. I didn’t play softball or soccer or four-square. I did nothing at all with sporting equipment. I went to an all girls Catholic school. For PE we did ballet. And I was on the swim team. That was it for my athletic achievements. As an adult, I have a recumbent stationary bike and an elliptical. Both MUST sit in front of the TV. Otherwise I’m constantly looking at my watch and saying “Oh My God it’s only been 7 minutes?”
So bending down forever is not something I pictured. It sucked.
“Brad – this sucks. This hurts my back really, really bad, and now my knee is hurting. This can’t be what people do all day, because it’s impossible to bend over all day long and not seriously injure yourself.”
Surely there is an easier, better way? Then I spied the big white plastic bucket. A seat! I turned the bucket upside down, grabbed a bran muffin, and started planting my second tomato plant.
Then my butt bones started hurting. Obviously I needed a cushioned seat! I went to contemplate the situation, and eat another bran muffin. That’s when I looked down at my hands…
I felt myself getting weak, and my eyes rolling in the back of my head. I never considered myself a girly girl, but I never made a mud pie in my entire childhood. I never wanted a Suzy Homemaker Oven, but I had also never been in a physical altercation either. However, I could give a tongue-lashing so severe it would make your brain bleed. I’m tough, but in different ways.
I got on the riding lawn mower – the only piece of farm equipment I’m allowed to use after flipping two cars – and headed to the house. I scrubbed my fingers and brought back pillows, my rubber kitchen gloves and more bran muffins.
The digging was vastly improved with gloves, and the seat was infinitely more comfortable. So I finished my third tomato plant. And moved on to the fourth. And my thighs started cramping. “OMG Brad, my thighs hurt!”
“Susan, all I’m hearing is complaining. You are doing more complaining than planting.”
“I’m not complaining. I’m providing dialog! You can’t possibly think we are going to bend over all day and not way a word to each other. I’m your story. And if I die and they want to make a movie of my life, you’re going to need to help the screen writer with the dialog. And anyway, the bucket is too damn big and I’m not used to sitting with my thighs spread so wide apart.”
I head him mutter “that’s for sure” but chose to ignore him and continue with the friggen tomatoes.
“Brad – why do we have 14 tomato plants? How many tomatoes can we really eat? 14 plants? There’s only two people here. How much pizza and spaghetti can we actually consume? And you know what else? People who say they love gardening are LYING. This is not serene. I feel like I’m toiling in a rice paddy for God sakes. This is painful and not fun. I feel sick.”
Then it hit me. I had TEN tomato plants left. And it happened. I lost it. This doesn’t happen much. Last time it happened was decades ago with my first husband. He bought us a tandem bike and said, “let’s go riding!” I climbed on the back seat, and he wheeled us on a “little bike ride” – which amounted to over 50 miles. My knee swelled up to Elephant Man proportions, and I cried the whole way back. I could feel myself sliding into the same desperation.
It’s what happens when I feel like I’m losing control and being forced to do something I hate, that I just DO NOT want to do. My options were to quit, go to the house and watch a bad Lifetime Movie. And hear Brad call me a lightweight and tell me I need to work out to strengthen my core. Something I have yet to find and quite frankly, am not looking. Or stick it out and cry. I chose the latter.
I cried, I planted 14 tomato plants, and have decided to make my epic marinara, can it, and gift it for Christmas. I feel contented, and dare I say it? Happy.
So I may look more like this …
Than this …
And I still hate gardening, but I got a free dinner afterwards. And if you are on my Christmas list, wait until you see MY garden of earthly delights!
Note to self … do NOT bring bran muffins to eat when you are working in a field that’s a quarter of a mile away from the house. Not a good idea. At. All.