November comes and November goes.
November 29, 2010


A sprout of our rhubarb chard.

It is early in the morning and we are in the garden.  I am pulling up weeds and she is giggling, poking at a couple earthworms I dug up for her to look at.  An orange beetle flies over to me, hovers for a moment, lands on my hand, so I stand up and walk to her.  EET! she says when I show her the bug, EET!  That’s right, I tell her, it’s a beetle.  Her attention is short-lived, which is just as well because I have no idea what sort of beetle it is.  In a minute, she’s back to poking at the earthworms.

The garden has not at all, not even a little bit, turned out how I expected.  The ground froze a few nights ago, but I still haven’t planted over half our autumn seeds.  We have onions, garlic, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb chard, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets, spinach, and carrots in the ground.  Some of it is growing and some of it is not.  The radishes and the garlic and the onions are taking off.  I have yet to see a single carrot sprout.

This makes sense, of course.  I planted whenever I had enough spare time to empty a seed packet, so the seeds that have been planted went into the ground over the course of the past six weeks.  Furthermore, some plants are bound to do better than others.  But I have to admit that it’s still surprising to me that some patches of my garden are six inches high and others are completely empty.

When I started planting, I hated it, hated every minute of it, because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.  It seemed like quite a bit of work and I wasn’t sure whether or not the rewards would be worth it.  But as time has passed, I’ve found myself falling in love with gardening.  I love plucking out the weeds and feeling the soil crumble between my fingers.  I love feeling the sun on my back and listening to the squirrels chattering in the trees.

Most of all, I love spending this time with my love.  While we spend time together in the garden, we babble back and forth.  And not just about beetles and earthworms, either.  I tell her what we will do with our day and sing her songs and explain photosynthesis.  Lately, I’ve been trying to share stories of the Tongva people (the tribe indigenous to where we live) with her, telling their tales as I dig into the ground they cherished long before I ever did.

And as the sun rises higher in the sky, I stand up and wipe my brow.  I brush off my hands and envelope my daughter in a hug.  It is time to go inside.  Time to rejoin the world.  Time to stack building blocks in the living room or run in circles through the house playing peek-a-boo.  Time to swing at the park or juice a few oranges from the trees out front.  Time to hike with friends or have a picnic lunch with her father.  Time to share a yogurt in the kitchen or make a muddy mess on the front porch.

November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

I pick her up, chanting that familiar Elizabeth Coatsworth poem as we go.  Whispering in her ear, smiling as she waves good-bye to her pile of earthworms.  Making a mental note to look up orange beetles later.  Seeing the dirt under my fingernails, feeling this is the first November that I have truly enjoyed.  And thinking that this vegetable garden thing is one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.


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  1. By Stephanie on November 29, 2010

    I’m jealous of the sunshine you get in November.

    Though I’m not always so big on gardening, I do love the end results. Some of my fondest memories are picking corn and blueberries and raspberries from the garden with my grandparents, and now my own kids.

  2. By on November 29, 2010

    I remember being very disappointed at times with my garden. The investment in seeds, supplies, the time. We had a very dry summer and things just didn’t take of the way I had hoped, but every time I pulled off a tomato from a vine or picked berries for a late morning snack it all felt so worth it.

    I’ve only had one season of gardening, but look forward to trying it all again next summer. I kept a detailed diary about when things sprouted, when I planted them, etc that will hopefully guide me next year.

  3. By erin on December 06, 2010

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has what appears to be a half-assed garden.  You and I both know it’s not, but in mine at least there are some seeds that didn’t take and some that did and some that are took 17 times as long to sprout as the package said they ought to and are JUST NOW starting to poke up even though I planted them two months ago.  And then there is the chard that is STILL going berserk and overproducing.  Maybe one day my garden will look like it is tended by someone who has an inkling of what she is doing, but I doubt it. :)

  4. By erin on December 06, 2010

    By the way, I detested working in the garden when I started also.  Now, there is not enough for me to do on any given day.  You can only tie up tomato vines so often before the work is done and all that is left to do is sit back and WAIT for it to grow so there is more work to do.  I love it.

  5. By Jessika on December 10, 2010

    Hey Sarah,
    I understand your garden frustrations—sometimes it’s as easy as putting a seed in the ground and watering, sometimes it’s far more complicated. I gardened for years in SoCal, and then I moved up here. ANOTHER WORLD. No water issues, but frostdates and sun intensity concerns? WHAT?

    having gardened for a while, I might be able to help out. But, even more likely, is for you to find your area’s gardening book. For up here, for eg, I found “Gardening West of the Cascades.“ A godsend, as it broke down vegetable-by-vegetable the various concerns facing that particular plant in my climate and geographical area. I was able to time my plantings and do them in a way to best get results. I was very happy with my yard this year.

    Before I go—did you plant garlic this year? It needs to overwinter, so now is the time. LOVED mine last year, and it was my first year of garlic. It takes a long while, but it is one of the most fantastic things to eat from the yard, I’m convinced!

  6. By kbreints on December 15, 2010

    oh how I enjoyed this post! So lovely.


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