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A winter tradition: The perfect garden

Posted Tuesday, January 18, 2011, at 7:12 PM

The dark brown soil is warm and inviting. The gardener reaches down and picks up a handful.

It's soft and just moist enough, she thinks to herself. Not too dry, not too wet.

Finally, it is time.

The tiller fires up with the first pull and the gardener smiles as she sees the fresh dirt come out from under the churning tines. It works up like a fine powder. The smell permeates the air. Again the gardener smiles.

She seems to fly up and down the rows, seeing where she has been, looking to where she still needs to go. She could stop, maybe she should stop ... but she can't. It's all too gratifying. Unlike other parts of life, with this she has control. She can see where she's been, she can see where she needs to go.

She grabs the well worn poles and stretches the attached string tight across the brown pulverized dirt. Her hoe fits in the hand and glides effortlessly along the string, making a straight, two-inch trench behind it.

The gardener grabs the seed packet and shakes it for a minute, knocking the seed down to the bottom. She quickly tears the packet open and grabs the small pellets. She moves her fingers and drops the seeds as she walks along the row, making fresh footprints in the newly tilled soil.

The seed is sown as perfectly as possible, close together, but without doubles. As she approaches the end, she grabs the hoe and carefully pulls the soil back over the seed. Not too deep, not too shallow. She walks back over the row, packing the soil down as she tamps it with the hoe.

It seems like no time has passed and she looks back over her garden. The pellets, planted so carefully are now wispy vines of green. It's not a green that can ever be captured in a photograph or paintbrush. It is so green, so waxy, the plant itself looks edible. In fact she thinks to herself, the "vigorous 26-in. vines have given bumper crops of sugary, crisp 3-in. pods!"

The pods hang down, pregnant with new peas, just waiting to be popped open with the gardener's hand.

As she looks out at the garden, it is now full of green, straight -- perfectly straight rows. The plants range in heights and shades of green. Corn plants, green beans and pumpkin vines all stretch out before the warm sun. Blooms ranging from white, to purple to bright yellow, add color and drama to the scene. There are no weeds, no bugs, only perfectly tilled dirt, pulled up closer to the plant with the work of a gardener's hoe.

Her favorite, the tomatoes, have small green balls hanging from tender branches. She can almost taste the heirloom tomatoes they will soon become ... "Field's Favorite! Incredible flavor, perfectly balanced between acids and sugars" she thinks to herself, a little surprised by the detail in her thoughts.

Two rows are mounded high and from the top of the mound a jagged leaf plant stands sturdy, reaching for the sky. The gardener decides to dig from the side of the row, and "steal" a few new potatoes. She knows instinctively how they will taste: "excellent all-purpose cooking potato favored for its crispy, flavorful flesh."

As she picks the pods, she can taste the treat of the two together, simmered with butter, the first of a summer which will be full of delightful treats ....


A door slams, the gardener looks around and blinks a few times to confirm. She hears voices and feels a cold chill hit her.

She blinks again.

She isn't in the garden. She isn't in the dirt.

Instead, the gardener realizes, she's in her living room ... in a reclining chair. She sits up to look out the window.Two magazines fall from her chest, as she reaches to open the curtain.

The garden is black and white, the fluffy snow resting between the disked up mounds of soil.

There is no green. There are no plants. There are no tasty treats.

She reaches down and picks up the fallen magazines -- 'Henry Field' and 'Gurney's Seed.' They are brimming with pictures of record size pumpkins, brilliant red tomatoes and bright blue berries.

Ah, she realizes as she wakes a little more from her unplanned nap. It's still January. The seed catalogs arrived today in the mailbox.

It's become a yearly tradition of sorts for her -- drifting away and planting her perfect magazine garden. In that world work goes away, leaving only pleasure, beauty and instant gratification.

Now fully awake, the gardener sighs to herself, pulling another blanket over her cold feet.

"I should have known it was only a dream, my rows were way too straight."

Contact Marcia Gorrell at


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Yes Marcia--it's that time of year and always much more fun in January than in June when the weeds seem to sneek in overnight past that perfect herbaside that we bought that the directions said would keep them from showing up!! Makes my back hurt to think about it--dream on--but the dreamy flavors seem to make us do it again year after year AND the prices at the grocery store are a big motivation too!!

-- Posted by farmerwife on Sun, Jan 23, 2011, at 12:04 AM

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