Lessons From the Garden

February is nearing its end, and while most of the country is buried under ice and snow, here in Oklahoma, we're coming upon a string of freak 60-plus-degree days. Aside from allowing us to leave the doors to the shop propped open all day, the unexpected warm spell spurred my husband Ryan into getting an early start on our garden.

Part of me is surprised Ryan likes to work in the garden - he dislikes mowing the grass so much that we finally broke down last summer and found room in the budget to hire a lawn service. But we've recently realized how much peace there is in routines and rituals. 

Every day is made up of to do's, and the way we do them matters. Over the past year or so, Ryan's taken a few daily tasks and made them almost meditative. For example, grinding fresh coffee, boiling water instead of microwaving it, and making coffee with a Chemex pour-over elevates the mundane-it's a way to enjoy taking care of yourself. Ryan does the same with cooking andgardening. I respect it and see how it gives energy to his day. And it definitely benefits me; our dinners are that much more tasty and healthy from the backyard to our plate.

We've talked a lot about what lessons we've learned from gardening:

1. Appreciate how things are made - when we first grew lettuce, Ryan kept catching me in the backyard just touching it. It's so soft, and it is so amazing that it comes from the ground. Lettuce at the grocery store could have been from another planet until I actually saw it coming out of dirt. It's priceless to find touching lettuce fascinating. 

2. Learn to do things yourself - have you noticed that a lot of current pop culture is focused on survival in a post-apocalyptic setting? Implanted in each of these plot lines is a critique of our dependance on others to provide us the things we need to live. I guess it's getting to Ryan, because for the last few years he's insisted on understanding how to do something, even if he plans to pay someone else to do it the next time - he's learned to change his oil, wire our light switches, fix the plumbing on the sink, and grow his own vegetables. It's strangely satisfying to know you can take care of yourself at a very basic level.

3. Plan and adapt - the first year we had the garden, we went about everything haphazard. We planted the wrong things too late into the summer, watered sporadically, misjudged harvest dates, and ended up with only a few leaves of lettuce and a single melon. Now, three years later, as soon as the weatherman declared we'd (hopefully) seen the last of the ice and snow, Ryan was hunched over his square foot gardening manual and moleskin notebook, a dozen tabs worth of online seed catalogues pulled up on the computer, calculating what would go where, how much space it needed, and how many days until he could pull it from the ground. 

4. Appreciate that sometimes things just go wrong - for the last few years, Oklahoma has experienced a record drought, as bad as the drought that helped fuel the dustbowl, brutal summer heat and swarms of garden pests whose populations had boomed in the warmer-than-average winter months. Nothing, and I mean nothing, would grow past June. So rather than fight nature with shade canopies and budget-killing water bills, we let everything die and started fresh in the fall. Sometimes you have to cut and run.

Do you garden? Is touching lettuce meaningful to you too? Meseidy, do you grow anything?