Sunlight penetrates my eyelids, turning the darkness underneath soft pink. I turn away from its unforgiving gaze and snuggle in a little deeper. My partner sighs and allows me to wrap myself around her, pulling her beautiful body close. We fit together, every bend and crevice melding together as a godsent gift. After a moment, the July sun makes me too hot to snuggle or sleep anymore and I turn to look at the clock. 8:30. A huge sleep rumpled flamepoint cat crawls from underneath my bed. He stretches his long majestic body and opens his gaping maws of death in a terrifying yawn. I follow suit. His girlfriend, Cleo, leans out from her perch on my pillow, tilting her tiny Siamese head to check out Rhett’s movements and giving a soft meow of protest to me at the same time. I kiss my partner’s soft shoulder, secure her tea request, and rise to make our morning cups of hot tea, Earl Grey for me and Irish Breakfast for her.
Ah yes, the midsummer gardening slump. We are finally at the point where my planting is done, the weeding is never done, and watering is a way of life. Waiting is the name of the game. For some reason, I can’t get my garden to start producing a little at a time during the summer. My way seems to be to have the entire garden come in all at once at the end of the summer, overflowing my cupboards, and sending me on frantic searches for canning supplies. But now, I can take some time to relax.
Gardening season starts in early January, when the seed catalogs come in. I pour through the pages like a heroin addict on a jones. Johnny’s, Seeds of Change, and Burpee feed my soul with their bright colors, gardening instructions, and the promise of spring seedlings. I find myself attracted to strange new plants that would never fit into my color scheme and eventually are crossed off the list as too expensive and unneeded. Lots of ornamentals go this way. I think I have a thing with flowers. Vegetables, fruits and herbs seem necessary since you eat them, but flowers seem so…frilly. Every year I go through my seed catalogs with my little pencil and circle the seeds I want, going wild in the flower section. Every year I say to myself, only a couple of flowers, we can’t spend that much money. Every year I am very disciplined about how many seeds I will allow myself. So every year, I end up buying at least one flat of flowers to fill up an empty space in my yard.
I am a young gardener. I haven’t recognized my addictions yet.
The excitement mounts when the actual seeds arrive. I rip open each envelope (or box!) and run my fingers over the packets. Stephie is called into action as I shove each packet into her face saying, “Ooh! Ooh! Look! Here’s that tomato I told you about. And what about this pepper? Isn’t it going to be fantastic? Oh jeez. I forgot I ordered this. It’s a surprise for you, sweetheart. Johnny-Jump-Ups.”
At this point, she is required by law (Lesbian Law #11: Value and treasure every remark your partner utters (serious or silly) and back her up, if need be.) to say, “Oh sweetie. Thanks,” before she escapes back to her work.
I hop around the house for a couple of weeks reading planting instructions, gathering supplies, and scheduling plantings. As I start the actual planting, I get to feeling a bit guilty because of the sweet little seeds I’m having to leave out of the earth for a time, but I know it will pass. I would feel worse if I planted them too early and they never came up. Tomatoes get to be planted right away, so maybe this year they will come out earlier. All the herbs, too! They can be transplanted into pots easily and are usually the first to be removed from the growlights and put under natural sunlight. Peppers need to wait until March, depending on your last frost date. It gets really confusing sometimes. But always wait and plant your pumpkins, squash, zucchini, and peas directly into the earth. I learned this the hard way. I killed my zucchini and my transplanted squash was the size of a small orange. You have to work at that in Colorado.
Now, as my little seedlings expand, I start preparing my dirt. Nothing can really compare to working directly in the earth. When I was a small child, I used to play in the dirt, like we all did. One day, however, I was playing with my little brother in a big mud puddle and somehow we got this idea. Mom always encouraged us to finger-paint, so what was the difference between using finger-paint on paper and mud on the side of the house? Unfortunately, we chose the side that faced the church and a section near a window where Mom was doing whatever Mom did. I was five. I had no idea. Needless to say, I learned my lesson and now I use a spade fork to turn dirt, a shovel to move it, and compost to fertilize it. Never, never, never do I use my dirt to paint handprint turkeys (since they are so easy to make) on the side of the house. Especially since I am the one who has to clean it up now.
However, I do, sometimes, run through the sprinkler on hot days.
We can’t be grown up all the time.
Now that the soil is prepared and the seedlings are bursting from their pots, it’s time to put them in the ground outside!!!! After a hardening off period where I slowly expose my babies to the harsh outdoors, I carefully put each seedling in its own special place which I have mapped out on my mini gardening diagram. During formation, this diagram has more drafts than any other piece I have ever written. I move things around and try to decide where to put the tomatoes and the peppers and wouldn’t the little patch of Johnny-Jump-Ups look great by the garden?
Okay. I’ll put them in the sidewalk boxes. The diagramming process hopefully occurs before you start ordering seeds, of course, but I always find myself rearranging up until the very last moment. I’m so wishy-washy sometimes.
Anyway, I plop each tender seedling into its predetermined place and then, the only thing to do is wait, water, weed and protect, if I need to. Of course, in Denver, I always need to. I have been surprised by more chilly June days and early September snowstorms than anyone should be.
But now it’s July, and only the sun inhabits the sky. The temperature has leveled off in the high eighties and low nineties with occasional forays up to 100. Nights are cool by comparison, falling down to the seventies. It’s going to get a bit hotter in the dog days of August, but soon, soon will come the harvest and all of my hard work will be rewarded with sweet warm cherry tomatoes eaten straight off the vine, fresh chili rellenos, and buckets of pesto from our special basil patch!
It’s time for me to get to doing what little work I have to do now though. After I finish my tea, I’ll saunter out to my little garden areas, weed, and soak the whole bunch with water. Just keep remembering Lesbian Law #1: Never Underestimate the Power of a Lesbian Housewyfe.
I can create life, even without a man.
Except maybe the guys from the seed catalogs.
And Jim from next door who gave me some great dirt.
Okay, maybe not.
Back in the early ’90’s, my sweetie and I rented a house in Denver where we had the space for a garden. This piece came from that experience. I gardened up until the time we moved to Steamboat Springs, and then I became sporadic in my summer veggie gardening. Now that we’re in North Carolina, I’m getting back to my gardening roots. The difference is that I know my limitations a little better.
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