Those of you who follow my Facebook page have probably noticed that I’ve not been posting a lot of writing updates lately. That’s because I’ve not been doing a lot of writing lately. Fear not, work continues on A Man With A Gun, but it’s been slow and the words aren’t flowing lately. The story needs more time to gestate in those lower chambers of my mind before it can be brought to the page. Yes, I am a writer – but I am also many other things. Among those other things, I’ve been getting my hands dirty.
It may be a genetic thing. My parents were farmers, before retiring in recent years. Their parents were farmers, too. Hogs, chickens, tobacco, assorted vegetables, and so on. I imagine those who came before my grandparents were largely farmers as well – it’s just what we do, I guess.
Then again, maybe it’s not just us. Maybe it’s something intrinsic to mankind. The days start to grow longer, and frost becomes less common. The sun shifts its path through the sky, cresting the horizon earlier, and from a point further north each day. The Earth starts to awaken, and something that had lain dormant within us through the cold winter months begins to stir.
Let me be clear about something up front: I have no desire to actually be a farmer. It’s not the sort of thing I can make a life out of, despite that call that I feel. Also, it looks suspiciously like work. Frankly, I’ve grown up farming and it’s not how I want to make my mark. I love the people who do it, but it’s just not for me.
But, I do feel that call. Also, I like fresh tomatoes. Usually, I have no luck. I get a late start, I lack the equipment I need, whatever. However, last year I was able to have a little bit of success. I built a raised bed, only 4 x 8 feet, and about 2 feet deep, and crammed it full of tomatoes and a few other things. Okay, a LOT of other things. It started out looking like this:
And ended up looking like this:
It grew like a jungle! There were tomatoes everywhere, and the one huge plant sprawling on the corner (a German Queen) produced tomatoes nearly the size of my head and had vines spreading out over a 6 ft diameter area. It was insane – and very satisfying! Also, I discovered that if you have a jalapeno plant in your garden, your wife will put jalapenos in everything she cooks. But it was good, and we’re looking forward to more of the same this year.
This year, it’s not so crowded:
Just tomatoes and peppers in there this time, but several varieties. We’ve got Cherokee Purple, Cherry Tomatoes, Boxcar Willies, Jalapenos (both hot and sweet varieties) Aji Dulce, and one just for fun: Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper, the 2013 Guinness World Record holder for hottest pepper. This year there will be tomato cages as well. Tying them up to stakes was an exercise in futility last year, and it was way out of control. For those who are interested, all twelve of these plants were ordered through www.chileplants.com, and we’ve been quite happy with them so far. We’ll see how they fare in the hot North Carolina summer!
But, wait! There’s more! Since the raised bed is going to be tomatoes and peppers alone this year, there’s got to be somewhere to put the green beans, corn, potatoes, and other assorted odds and ends. This year, I made use of the tiller, and after this afternoon, I think the thing is going to kill me.
Yes, I cut my hair. Settle down. It will grow back!
That little plot isn’t much, but it’s probably enough to get some stuff in the ground and maybe soothe that itch to grow things. Before this afternoon, that was grass and weeds. Now, after much sweat and some blisters on the hands, it’s a garden – or will be in a few days.
So, that’s what I’ve been doing instead of writing. Or, at least, some of what I’ve been doing. Do any of you out there feel that call? Does some primitive part of your brain pull you out into the sun, drive you to till the earth, and watch things grow at your direction? If so, do you answer that call?