Designin a Sustainable Future Together

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Amber's Blog

Maybe next year...

Posted by Amber Lehrman on May 7, 2012 at 11:50 AM

This year feels like it is caught in stasis smewhere around March for me.  I realize that we are actually May and the plants think we're in mid-June, but for me all the normal cuies of spring and summer are missing.  I don't have a garden this year.


I normally mark early spring with hundreds of plant starts in the living room.  Every morning before work, I go in and turn on their lights and inspect each one to make sure it't healthy.  I pull up little sprouts of crabgrass that have come in with our home made compost mix.  Usually its still cold outside and as I bundle up for work, I look at my seedlings and know that spring is coming.  Those tiny plants create a bubbling sense fo overwhelming joy inside me every morning.  I face the cold with an eager smile knowing that winter is losing its grip and the warmer weather is coming.  Slowly the weather warms and more seedlings get started until I have a seed starting stand and a greenhouse full of plants waiting on the right time to go in the garden.  Then comes the busy season of planting - hours spent joyfully digging in the dirt, mulching and otherwise being outside in the spring.  By this time of year, I should be transplanting tomatoes and peppers, marveling at the growth of green peas, potatoes, cabbage and spring greens.  We should be enjoying our first meals mostly from the garden and thinking about what we want to can, freeze and dehydrate this year.  Then comes the annual marker of summer - creamed peas and new potatoes straight from the garden.  This meal more than any other says that the beginning of summer is here.  We've eaten it with the first green peas of the season every year since the garden started.


There's more than just the work and fun of the garden that is missing though.  I would usually be working to organize the Lawrence Food Garden Tour (  This too starts in the cold weather of early spring with the first emails out to past participants.  This time of year, there woudl be a growing urgency to getting things organized - getting the brochure printed, the event posted, all the gardens lined up and ready to go.


My conversations with friends take on a new flavor in the spring and summer too.  Our talks ould be laced with "What have you been planting?", "How are your plants growing?", "Have anything new this year?"  These conversations with others who are doing the same work but often doing it differently encourage us, give us new ideas and help to bind these gardening relationships together.  It is like living a friendly experiment - these friends are trying this new method/variety/plant and we are trying these others.  We'll check in over the season and see how it goes and then next year we can all use the best of what we have collectively found.


Instead of these normal markers of spring and summer, we are moving.  I am not planting in my garden, I am digging it up and moving it 20 miles away.  Instead of starting seeds this spring, we removed wall paper and painted to get the house ready to sell.  There are no spring crops beyond the few lettuce plants that volunteered and some leeks that overwintered.  I didn't start any seedlings this year (ok, I started a couple of tomatoes - couldn't help it).  There was no seed stand in my living room at all.  Instead of a greenhouse full of tomatoes and peppers waiting for their chance in the garden, I have a greenhouse full of plants waiting for me to make a place for them on the farm.  There are no green peas or potatoes so our beginning of summer meal won't happen this year.  There won't be any canning for me this season.  Even if we planted summer vegetables, I don't know that I will have anywhere to store food come winter.  I am not organizing the LFGT this year - Caryl Hale has generously taken it on and is doing a great job.  I miss it though.  I'm not having my usual talks with gardening friends.  As they share what is happenign in their gardens, I can only respond with "Maybe I'll try that next year."


It feels like I've lost a friend.  My senses are waiting for the seed stand to come back, for the little seeds to poke up out of the soil and show me that its spring even though its now firmly summer.  The fact that I had the first sweet cherry off of our sweet cherry tree hasn't even convinced my subconcious that it is in fact summer (neither did the awesome sunburn I got this weekend while moving dirt to the farm).  The rhythm of the year is just off for me.


It's not all bad.  I'm sure that I will write about all the excitment of building a new place, the plans for the garden-to-be and all the many things that we are doing to create our future homestead.  Did I mention that there are plans for next year's garden?  But right now, in this moment, with the rain coming down and the urge to plant burning up inside me, that excitement is buried in melancholy.  I want my garden back.  Summer just isn't supposed to come without the seeds, the plants and the creamed peas and potatoes.  But it has.  Summer is here and my garden is not.  I suppose my only consolation is the perennial garden refrain "Maybe next year."  Maybe next year the garden will be back better than ever.  Maybe next year the seeds will be back on the starting stand, the plants will be waiting for the garden and we'll have our creamed peas and potatoes.  I hope so.

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