new year, new me, who dis
2 thousand and 20 three.
It’s no accident that our year turns when it does in darkest winter. This snap we just experienced, that polar cold that razed our landscapes and melted our tender gardens, was no freak event. That’s how it goes and has always gone — forcing a ground-up reset by the terrible and unforgiving violence of winter. Sure, the weather is changing, and the climate weirding, but in its most basic elements it remains the same: the stifling heat of summer, the sterile-making frosts of winter.
The turn of one year to the next is as good an excuse as any — and a better one than most — to take stock and evaluate where we’ve been and where we’re headed. We tumble through our lives like a stream over stones, bouncing from event to occurrence, pitching toward oblivion from the moment of birth, and it is only in the arbitrary intervals that we invent and seize for ourselves that we can step outside of the stream and evaluate our course thus far and make any necessary corrections.
So let’s do.
First, the past:
What has happened in this last year? Too much to report, of course — we live a thousand lifetimes every day. Still, a few things stand out.
We got the Big New Greenhouse up and running, filled it with plants and other growers, and are working on a plan to transition ownership of the property/structure out of our own hands and into the hands of a nursery-growers-collective. This is something we (I) have talked a big game about for a long time, and it feels good to be making concrete moves in that direction.
We’ve grown and sold and given away a ton of plants, old standbys as well as some new favorites. We’ve somewhat honed our process of seeding and watering and going to market and all that, but there’s much room for improvement.
This year we started to get really into and read all about vegetable crop breeding, but we kinda missed the boat on really embarking on that project this past season. So we’ve been scheming and planning and will hit the ground running on some pretty cool stuff for the coming year. But I get ahead of myself here.
Among the most exciting developments has been our relationship with our friends at Rotglow Farm, sharing tent-space at market and other resources, selling mushrooms and plants together. Exciting also to see where this will go, how else we can help eachother and share in our ventures. We’re planning to get into flowers together. Mushrooms, flowers, plants. Real home-spun, countryfied bucolic type stuff.
What else? We’ve been in therapy most of the year. I’ve made some modicum of progress toward learning How to Deal. The Dog turned 6, the Cat turned 3.
Second, the future:
And what of 2023? Some things will happen as a matter of course, whether we want them or not. Tonight the Joan of Arc parade will roll and Carnival begin. We will get another cold snap, at least. I’ll be 33 — L’age du Christ. Mardi Gras will come and then go. The soil will warm and seeds will sprout. By the end of April Maggie and I will have been married 8 years and I’ll have been sober for 3. The termites will swarm come mothers day. The summer will be hot and wet and will go on for ever, until it ends on halloween, when the weather will be nice again till winter.
Then there are the things we wish to happen, and must take conscious steps to facilitate. As I sit in the living room typing, maggie is in the back seeding peppers and tomatoes and eggplants. Most of these we’ll bring to market, but some will be grown out methodically and under various conditions as part of our vegetable breeding schemes, which I hope to see come fully into their own this year. To that end, we also intend to put our money where our mouth is more than ever before as regards shared/decentralized garden projects, mutual aid efforts and, again, breeding schemes.
I hope to see the Greenhouse collective really come into its own this year. This in large part will mean infrastructural basics like building tables and rigging irrigation, but it will also mean organisational decisions and discussions (re: co-op/shared ownership structure, profit/resource sharing, etc etc), as well as engaging in more community-facing efforts, be that joint plant sales, mutual aid projects, community gardening or anything else we might dream up.
As mentioned, were getting into flower-growing this year with the homies at Rotglow. This is exciting because flowers are beautiful, and because we’ve got to sell something to live, but also because it provides us a way out of the inward spiral of the two-three families of plants that contain generally every western vegetable. Don’t get it twisted now, we love vegetables and vegetable gardening and always will, but I sometimes feel it’s gotten us just about as far as it will in the world of botany. I’m psyched for some weirdoutlandish plant taxonomies with wacky anatomies and secret techniques of horticulture. Bulbs? Corms? Peduncles and bracts? Ranunculaceae? Yes please.
Before we go, though,
A Few More Words About the Weather
That was some freeze eh?
The whole southshore is still — even now, days later under warm sun and blue skies — covered in liquefied remains of herbaceous annuals decorated only by the windworne sticks of leafless trees and those few hangdog shrubs only some of whose cells were exploded by wet and cold. Outside is mars.
It got a little hairy there, in the cold, holding the line between inside and out. Every crack in the the greenhouse, every gap in the floorboards, each worn or missing piece of weatherstripping further blurred that line, letting the outside in, the inside out, permitting the two to mingle and melt away into nothing. We failed to seal one spot of length at the greenhouse where the plastic wall meets the earth, and the tomatoes inside along that line froze solid, just feet away from tender tropicals that will live to see another winter.
I think about this: inside and outside. Being indoors during a storm is a hell of a thing — we are in here, and it is out there. The world outside is mars, inconceivably cold and hostile to life. “Inside” is really just the opposite: the world outside is the world, and by retreating indoors what else are we doing but (attempting to) remove ourselves from the world entirely. The outdoors is reality, the interiors we have built ourselves are only artificial points outside of natural reality. They are a place where we remove ourselves from time and space and “wait it out” (the weather, the cold, the chaos).
We experience discomfort as that barrier is compromised — those misfit slats, sagging floorboards, leaky roofs. Because the cold and the wet are uncomfortable certainly, but also because it is that very barrier (so we have decided) that makes us human. As it falters or wears away so too does our notion of our own humanity: what else is a chicken coop or a dog house but a domicile with a compromised boundary between in-and-out? (note: this conflation of humanity with inside-ness [insiditude?] is false and I do not endorse it. I am merely describing the conflation as it happens)
And yet it won’t do to wall them off from eachother completely either. Sealed too tight, the inside goes rank and musty and smells like sleep. It must be aired out; or, put another way, we’ve got to let some air in.
So what are we saying? What is the point here? I truly don’t know, other than to say (as we do in every month’s newsletter) that the dichotomy will not stand. How and when and by whom in what fashion the two (inside v outside) will be reintegrated, I cannot say. But reintegrate they must. So, take that with you and do what you will with it. Have a good year, a good month, a good day. I’ll see you at market soon.
This is a gardening newsletter.