Today’s Column — No Victory Garden

The first seeds have been officially planted in my family’s “Participation Garden.

“Having attempted to grow vegetables many times, I know that calling our plot a “Victory Garden,” like the Yes-WeCan-Cultivate Obama White House garden, just isn’t realis tic. A participation ribbon is far more appropriate.

True victory will belong to the weeds and weather, and to the rabbit legions. I felt their darting little eyes on us from undisclosed locations as we hopefully planted peas and lettuce and spinach Saturday. If there were a rabbit news magazine, our plot would be on the cover. “A Feast in Just Weeks.”

But it’s worth a try. And thanks to the Obamas, gardening is now a patriotic duty, like shopping or taking over the auto industry.

First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and school kids dug into the big White House backyard plot last week. They reportedly planted 25 heirloom vegetable varieties.

“It’s a real opportunity to reconnect with the land,” Vilsack was quoted as saying in Agweek online.

The land, I read, is in good shape. There were “trace elements,” augmented with “green sand” and “crab meal” from Chesapeake Bay and even some White House compost. (There’s got to be a great joke in that last one.) Nearby, bees are being kept to handle pollination. No word on whether the CIA will use Predator drones on insurgent rabbits.

“It educates (kids) how difficult food production is,” Vilsack added. Although a staff-tended plot with its own crab meal and resident bees does not scream “difficult” to me. But, hey, I’m glad the first family is giving it a go.

And it all plays well into gauzy American gardening aesthetic, all humble and earthy and mythic, like a Grant Wood print we have on our dining room wall.

It’s a copy of the painting “Spring in Town,” with a sinewy, tan, shirtless guy hand-cultivating his garden while his wife beats out rugs and a child plays placidly nearby.

Except gardening reality is a sweaty, fleshy Midwestern guy, like myself, who wouldn’t take off his shirt if paid handsomely, handtilling himself into a huffing, puffing lump. His wife pauses from cleaning out the hot tub to ponder calling an ambulance.

Meanwhile, his children take the first warm spring Saturday as a sign they should fill the entire lawn with colorful plastic junk, pulled from a deck box that holds roughly a metric ton of broken squirt guns, deflated balls and dysfunctional novelty sprinklers.

Now that’s a painting I’d buy. Too bad Salvador Dali’s not alive to do it.

Still, for all the woes of wilt and blight and blossom end rot and other stuff you didn’t want to know about, there’s something very cool about watching your kids plant seeds with abandon and get dirty and kidnap worms for their “worm house.”

Mine will watch excitedly for the first sprouts to break through. That’s worth something in this Nintendo-powered Nickelodeon world.

And if they get excited without stomping on them, that’s what I call a victory.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Today’s Column — No Victory Garden

  1. Mitch

    sinewy – good word

  2. JimD

    Great post – reminds me that I need to get started on our participation garden as well. The last effort from my wife and I turned out to be more Jackson Pollock than Grant Wood.

  3. Bruce

    If you need help in the middle of July, just call. I would love to come see how it is doing.

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