Saturday, May 18, 2013

Less Mothering, More Gardening

When we said good-bye to Nick in Ann Arbor last August, my husband cried but not me. I was so excited for my son to start school at  Michigan, my alma mater (BBA '84, baby!) We'd just moved him into South Quad - my old dorm - and I felt like I was bringing him someplace familiar and wonderful, not sending him away. Besides, he'd be back for vacations and the whole summer.

Or so I thought. Because Nick hasn't been home much at all this year, and this summer he's staying at school.

Nick's swims for the #1 ranked Michigan Men's Swimming & Diving team, and I couldn't be prouder. But swimmers train year-round, and most of Michigan's swimmers stay in Ann Arbor to practice and compete as part of their club team over the summer.

When I realized this was going down in January, the tears came full force. "I didn't know I was sending him off for good!" I wailed to Liam. "I did," he said quietly. Then followed a long, cold, quiet winter punctuated by my daughter Emma turning 16 and getting her driver's license. As I handed over the car keys, I had to face facts - nobody in my house needed much mothering anymore. I felt adrift.

Last fall we'd given our unused trampoline away, and the sad patch of dirt out by our garage was just another reminder of my impending empty nest. But as spring slowly crept into the North Shore, an idea began to sprout. I would fill that barren, forlorn space with life!  I would plant a vegetable garden!

I proudly shared my idea with my husband and kids.

"I don't really see you as the gardening type," said Nick, skeptically, over the phone.

"Well I'm going to be," I huffed. "You aren't coming home; Emma barely needs me. I need something to take care of around here!"

"Good idea, that will keep you busy" chirped Emma, then skipped off to her room to pursue her own personal hobby of throwing clothes on the floor.

Liam merely raised a dark Irish eyebrow at me and went back to polishing his bike.

It's true, I'm not really the gardening type. We have a beautiful yard, but it's all due to our dear friend and landscape architect, Jim O'Brien (check out his website, you will drool over his work.) There was no way I was getting into this gardening thing without his help. So O'Brien & Co did all the heavy lifting by transforming the trampoline patch into a beautiful plot of raised gardening beds. All I had to do was plant them!

After consulting with Jim and Liam, we decided that I would actually plant just two of the beds and O'Brien would plant the ones closest to the house. That way, there'd be a beautiful, flourishing display facing the yard, disguising the beds that I would experiment with.

Last week I eagerly tackled my beds. I decided to devote one to herbs and the other to vegetables. I bought herb plants - basil, thyme, tarragon, mint, rosemary and oregano, and planted rows of chives and parsley seeds. In the other bed I planted only seeds - carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce, and beans. I was amazed to discover that planting seeds takes about two seconds. Seriously, it's the easiest thing in the world - go stick some seeds in the ground right now! (Yes, I do realize that having professionally prepared beds teeming with richly fertilized and irrigated soil does ease the process a bit.)

It's only been a week and nothing has sprouted yet, but already my garden is deeply satisfying. As Emma squeals off in my car to the mall or soccer practice, I serenely wave to her from my garden as I spray a gentle mist of water lovingly over my beds. Those seeds need me! I just hope I can tell the difference between my emerging crop and the weeds.

Here are some pictures of the transformation. With any luck I'll be bringing you tomatoes in  a month or two.

The unused trampoline. No little kids here anymore.

The beginning of the transformation.

O'Brien's crew does all the heavy lifting.
My two beds face the alley ( in case they don't turn out so good.)

The finished project and my new baby.

No comments: