Grandpa Conover, learning to persevere, and desert gardening
Gardening in the Phoenix area is almost impossible. Like I don’t have enough on my plate already, right? But, it’s in my blood.
My mother was raised on a farm; her father farmed until a few years before his death. My Grandpa Conover was a precious man about as wide as he was high — about 5’5″ in both directions. No matter the occasion, he was sharply dressed in pair of overalls, a plaid long-sleeved shirt, and a seed-supply “trucker” hat, with tufts of hair sticking straight out the back. He was hard of hearing but blamed everyone else for the fact that he couldn’t hear. He never called my grandma by her first name — always some term of endearment, usually culled from songs popular in the 1940s, when they were courting. (They never really stopped courting; they usually held hands and flirted everywhere they went.) Grandpa Conover would frequently break into song with his loud and lovely baritone, or, just as often, start quoting whole stanzas of Shakespeare. I loved him very much.
Too, I love the land where he was from: the Mississippi bluff area of west-central Illinois. Actually, I love all of Illinois. I feel very much at home there. Makes me want to cry, just thinking about it.
However, God didn’t see fit to plant me in the Midwest; I married a native Arizonan who had/has no intentions whatsoever of leaving this great state. I fought that, more internally than externally, for many years; my heart longs for green hills, big trees, and slow-moving, peaceful rivers. I’m now at peace with living in the desert.
Still, there’s more than a bit of farm girl in me, even though I personally never spent more than a couple of months (more often, only a week or two) at a time on the family farm, and then, only once — a few times, twice — yearly.
Farming in the desert, though, takes lots of time, lots of patience, lots of soil amendments, and lots of water. I usually pine for a garden, but don’t have a convergence of all of those things at once. I did discover that having a nursing baby AND gardening was just too much for me. No nursing baby this year… 😦 But, I’ve been working on my compost since late November, and ordered seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH (Southwest Endangered Aridland Clearing House). NS/S collects both native and heirloom (think Spanish explorers) seeds that have been prospering for a couple of centuries or more. So, they have the best chance for really thriving in the desert Southwest.
Now, in an ideal world — which, frankly, doesn’t exist — I would have had my garden in a month ago. But, my compost wasn’t ready, and I just didn’t have the time to research my seeds, and… I don’t know what else, but I just wasn’t ready. Because of that fact alone, I kind of am tempted to throw in the towel and not even try. BUT… I’m not going to do that. The Karen of five years ago would have, but lately, I’m trying to agree with God in that He wants to bring more persistence and perseverance to me — and less wilting, freaking out, or depression — in the face of difficulties.
So! All that to say that, today, I got about 40% of my 7′ x 21′ raised-bed garden soaked, tilled (with about half of my compost mixed in), raked, and planted. Woo hoo!! Forty percent was enough for 15 corn plants, one mound for squash, and 30 bean plants. I’ll need to start my chile, tomatillo, and tomato plants (for transplant) ASAP; I should have had those started a couple of months ago!!
I really don’t know if it will prosper. I half hope and half am shouldering an impending sense of doom. Seriously. ONE DAY of neglect in 110° weather can kill the garden. We do have an irrigation system, but it’s imperfect, and I just can’t trust it completely.
But. I DID IT, in the face of all the less-than-ideal circumstances. There are a few things going for it: I have a good patch for the garden — it’s a raised bed, and is mostly shaded from the most intense late-afternoon sun. I have compost tilled in. I purchased native seeds. I have farming in my blood.
Hopefully, that will be enough.