I am a gardener.
Let me rephrase that. I love the idea of gardening -- the thick, lush flower beds; the clambering vines ripe with fresh vegetables. There is nothing better than eating a tomato plucked straight from the sun-soaked garden.
By the end of March, when the snow is lying in black, slushy piles along the road, I begin to imagine my garden. I pick out seed packets and think about the layout. My enthusiasm wanes a bit when it comes time to actually plant the seeds, and by the time harvest season is upon us, I can barely force myself to go out there.
I blame two things for my lack of interest in the garden each fall. 1. Harvest time coincides with the start of school when I am buried under mounds of paperwork, forms, schools supplies and cranky children. 2. Picking stuff from the garden would mean that I would actually have to cook it, and I hate cooking.
Every year toward the end of garden season, my husband gives his usual we-waste-so-much-produce speech. It begins with something about me not keeping up with picking stuff and washing it and packaging it and offering it to people. And ends with me promising to set up a vegetable stand at the end of the driveway (that never happens) and use the profits to pay for college.
The turning point came when our friends from Tennessee visited in June. They had just moved to a mini-farm and planted a huge garden with things like okra and kale.
I can barely get my kids to eat tomatoes, let alone okra and kale.
"So are you guys good about picking all your garden produce?" my husband asked his friend, giving me the let's-see-what-he-says eyeball.
"Oh yeah, [insert wife's name] is really good at picking stuff and cooking it and canning it," the friend says.
"Of course she is," I muttered.
"Reeeallly," my husband said.
Well, I took that challenge. This was the year that I would keep the garden under control.
Luckily some raccoons helped me out with the corn. They broke into the garden and stripped all of the just-ripe corn off the stalks. The cucumbers met with an untimely end (again not my fault) when they succumbed to some type of cucumber disease. That left me with the tomatoes, gourds, pumpkins, lettuce, carrots and beans.
I religiously trimmed the lettuce back every couple weeks insuring that it produced all summer. Or at least I made sure that the kids trimmed it back.
"Hmm, remember how you used to wonder why the lettuce was ready in June, but then gone by the time the tomatoes were ripe?" my husband asked. "I guess it comes back all summer if you cut it regularly."
"Hmpf," I replied.
"This lettuce is spicy," my daughter said.
I poured more ranch dressing on top of it.
While I was in control of most of the garden, the beans were off plotting their revenge.
Somewhere between planting the seeds and harvest time, they exploded. They climbed up the trellis, wrapped around the fence and the pumpkins and climbed back down the trellis. There were millions of them.
We ate them raw, sautéed, baked and boiled. We coated them in olive oil, garlic salt and sesame seeds. I peddled them to my co-workers and family members. People started avoiding me.
I even threw handfuls of beans into my kids' lunches. There's nothing like eating fresh, raw green beans at 10:35 a.m., my middle schooler's lunch period. (Of course, I'm assuming that they actually ate the beans and didn't just throw them away.)
My youngest daughter was waiting for me out in the driveway when I got home from work the other day.
"We made dinner," she said.
It was beans.
I sat down and started with the salad. Hidden under the spicy lettuce were more beans.
We're going to need a lot more ranch dressing.