Because I planted 200 seeds. In my kitchen. For food. I guess that with attrition, if I yield 150 seedlings I’ll be happy. One hundred-fifty isn’t that many. I mean, really.
I’ve watched over the years as the number of backyard gardens diminished. In my younger years, I didn’t think much about it. We always had a garden when I was a kid. I was part of a community garden in undergrad. In my early adult years if I didn’t have a garden, a friend or neighbor did and I was welcomed to play in the dirt.
Over the years, and with with many moves, my gardens became a collection of houseplants. Every spring I’d lust after the plants and flowers in gardening stores and in magazines. I tried a garden when I moved to Phoenix. I truly didn’t understand the strength of the sun in the Southwest. Things not only died; they petrified. I began living vicariously through the smart folk at the Farmer’s Market.
Fast forward a decade or so, we now live off-grid in Northern Arizona. And while I have come to appreciate the strength of the sun, I am learning about the stress of altitude, wind, and the short growing season of the high altitude desert.
My near 200 seeds have sprouted and have enough of a root system that it is time to transplant them into 4” peat pots. It’s still too cold to put them outside, so they take up more (and more) space on the kitchen counters. Things become more complicated when I buy some flowering plants and we have a series of freak snowstorms landing them, also, on our kitchen counters. Adding insult to injury, I need to go out of town and leave William with the responsibility of keeping everyone watered – and protected from our wily garden munching cat, Hops.
Poor William. My ex-military guy who likes, if not needs, to have everything “squared away” is working very hard to be ok with the kitchen-turned-greenhouse.
I get to Washington DC and am at the conference when I call William. He sounds out of breath and tired. After asking him what he was doing, he confesses that he is working on a project. In my mind I scroll through the projects we had discussed prior to my leaving. Pretty much all of those projects require the help of another or many more supplies. He is being secretive. He answers obliquely or changes the subject as I ask questions.
This goes on for a while and he finally admits he’s working on something for me that’s a surprise. Something not on the project list. Something he has created from scratch and it’s really cool. He’s proud of himself. I can’t stand it. I need to know. I ask nicely; I negotiate - no dice. I plead and wheedle. He relents by texting pictures.
He’s built shelves into the kitchen windows for the sproutlings. The shelves are gorgeous! He’s made them so I can pick up the entire shelf to bring the sproutlings outside to begin to harden them. I can very easily bring them back inside for the cold night. And he might say, best of all, we get our kitchen counters back!
William isn't feeling well. He is suffering mightily with allergies - worse than usual. What's blooming? Any major change in diet? Is it the altitude now that we're no longer in Phoenix?
"Honey, stop asking."
He's curled up on the couch under blankets with kittens draped across him. I do what makes sense to me: give him space and cook him food.
We have an organic roaster chicken - our lazy dinner courtesy of Whole Foods. We dug into it last night and I decide to cull the meat and use the carcass to make homemade chicken stock. I imagine an anti-inflammatory, herb-forward chicken soup to nourish my man by decreasing inflammation and down-regulating his system. Yes, in our house, food is medicine.
Dr. Christine Girard is a physician and educator. Prior to medical school, she worked as a sous chef and baker at a vegan, macrobiotic restaurant. She lives off-grid in Northern Arizona.