Two days ago I started hardening off my tomatoes. I thought that an odd term until I realized what was hardening was my quadriceps from lugging 7 flats of tomato seedlings up and down my basement steps twice a day. I mean seriously. I am gradually exposing tiny little plants to life outside? Pray tell, how in the heck have tomatoes survived this long? Then there's the celery. An Eighteen inch trench is their habitat of choice. I guess their seeds really have to get lucky if there isn't a human sap around to dig.
The difference between my children and my garden is my children started to give back almost immediately; with their little gazes, holding your finger with their little hands, eventually smiling. Seedlings? Nothing. All those vegetables depend on my ability to predict being hungry in 3 months. Not only that, but hungry enough to eat vegetables, which, often I am not. This is probably why there are a lot more children than there are gardens. Okay that and although acquiring seeds was extremely pleasurable, it wasn't quite as satisfying as, well, you get my meaning.
"Start small", they said. "It's a lot of work", they said. Did I listen? Obviously not. But nurturing babies of any species requires effort. Those of you without children or gardens but who have tried to potty train a puppy are with me. Those of you who have never reared anything, smart thinking.
That said, there is an intangible remuneration that comes from caring for something. Plus, there's enjoying the process. While squatting in the sun digging in dirt doesn't sound alluring, it is. So is making the rounds assessing progress and keeping a watchful eye out for disease and pests. Weeding is almost agreeable in that you are protecting your charges with a vengeance. It's kind of an angry gratification. In my mind I tend to chant, "I've chosen that species NOT YOU!" It's a hard world out there, what can I say?
So I was being a bit harsh when I said my garden is giving nothing back. It hasn't given me any of the promised fruit yet, but it has provided a rewarding sense of accomplishment in how I spend my time, much the same way my children do. Unlike my children, however, the seedlings don't talk back.