Daddy Talk: Pickles are Cucumbers and Other Little-Known Facts
Aside from the backyard tomato plants that my dad occasionally planted in the summer, I would not characterize my family as a family of gardeners. However, my wife’s family on both sides keeps remarkable vegetable gardens going year by year, and it is often an event for us and our kids to help harvest the produce from those gardens. My father-in-law has even made the effort on several occasions to travel into Clinton with his tiller and help me and my wife set up a vegetable garden of our own. He comes in and calls the shots, I do what I’m told, and a couple months later, we have our own vegetables. It’s a great arrangement.
This year, my father-in-law couldn’t make it into town, so I took ownership of the garden project, selecting the plants and getting the ground ready, and at some point in that process, I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. A part of me confidently argued that I should be able to plop the plants into the ground and let them grow, but on the other hand, I had seen my father-in-law use soil additives and arrange the plants in a specific order in the past so meticulously that I just knew something would go awry when I tried it by myself.
And I’ll tell you, knowing myself to be the textbook perfectionist, it probably would have been easier on my father-in-law if he had just come to town himself. Because I was texting him all sorts of questions… Can I till the ground if it’s wet? Should I buy Miracle-Gro potting soil or Miracle-Gro garden soil? What’s the difference between better boy and heirloom tomatoes? Do peppers need a cage to grow in? WHAT?! PICKLES ARE ACTUALLY CUCUMBERS?! The main suggestion he made that I never was able to follow through with was the fact that we should get several buckets of manure to mix in with the soil. Neither Wal-Mart nor Home Depot had manure on their shelves, so I was out of luck with that one.
When I finally had a plan in my mind, I took the kids to the store to get all the supplies. When we arrived home and I announced that it was time to work in the yard, everyone ran into the house to watch the TV. The kids’ bailing out was actually kind of helpful, because I realized I needed to figure out how to operate the gas-powered tiller I had just rented. Looking back, the word “operate” is a misleading one. In reality, I ended up “wrestling” the tiller for the next hour or so, and judging by how sore I was the next day, I probably didn’t win the match.
Eventually, the rest of the family did join me in the backyard. My oldest son helped me wrestle with the tiller, the other two lay down in the hammock to watch. And my wife, looking at the receipt from the store, declared, “I don’t think we’re going to get $150 worth of tomatoes out of this garden.” I told her to just sit back and be amazed.
Obviously, she was right. If my goal was to win out financially with the 20 or so plants that we finally got into the ground, there is no way we’d come out on top. But all the kids did help with the planting and watering in some way. Having them work on a project together, the fun of seeing the plants grow and the satisfaction of gathering whatever meager produce the garden yields has its own kind of value. I don’t know what the dollar value would be, but $150 seems like a good deal.