It is certainly not an activity that is likely to give any twenty-something street cred. In fact, you’re more likely to come off looking extremely uncool and, actually rather dirty. Not as uncool as the kids that wear their pants low enough to show a large thatch of underpants, but definitely less cool than the people with piercings.
Luckily appearances don’t matter and my love of gardening is growing faster than my spinach out the front. I love the digging, watching proudly as my seedlings shoot up and I don’t even mind getting little patches of soil on my forehead that stealthily stay there for hours.
I’ve probably got the grottiest fingernails in Charleville at the moment. Dirt is spewing out from beneath my nails and I seem to be leaving a trail of black splotches behind me, Hansel and Gretel style. But I can barely care, I’m just so pleased with my new plants. I keep popping outside to check on them, much like a dog would with a bone it had buried.
My love for spending time shoving my hands into wormy lounge rooms has deep-seated roots (ha ha). My brother’s delight in telling me about my knack of feasting on worms when I was a toddler. Unfortunately there is photographic evidence. Just a little blond girls sitting in the garden with dirt spread liberally around her mouth, all over her fingers, hands arms and down the front of her shirt. I wonder why I wasn’t wearing a bib, really or just what was my mum thinking, letting a small child loose in a worm factory?
I stopped eating worms, apparently, when my horrid brother – he’s not horrid anymore, but all brothers are bad news when you’re three and they’re older and insisting that you are not allowed to spray them with the hose – told me there was a juicy little worm on the driveway. For some reason the pale gray foot-long, translucent wormie that was stretched along the driveway did not make me salivate. I ran screaming from my nasty little brother and didn’t see the value in gardens until I started university, aged 18.
My sweet-as-a-barrel surfer boyfriend bought me a wee love fern to remind me of him while I was away in college. Of course, it was just a housewarming gift and nothing so sentimental, but I got immense enjoyment embarrassing him with talk about him giving me a fern that symbolised our unity. The joke was on me, ultimately, when I left the fern in my dorm one summer, forgetting that it needed attention or it would scab up and die. Fernie was dead by term three.
Jack and I made it through the death of our plant and tried again with a proper garden when we lived together briefly in Brisbane. We foraged for dirt at the local nursery, by far the least cool 20-year-olds I knew. The garden attendant even asked if we were married. We were mortified, but the man with the shovel continued, asking us if we had kids. Oh, it was laughable. And it jinxed the garden, I reckon. We were just country kids adapting to city life like a fish adapts to living on the beach.
At first the lump of dirt we’d bought gave off on a sinister grave-like look. The mound of freshly-turned dirt disturbed the poor lady next door, but the bush turkeys loved it. They loved the spinach seedlings, too. And the strawberries. The tomatoes were probably their favourite.
I’m not sure I ate even one vegie out of that patch, but I spent at least $150 trying to get some sort of edible greenery happening in my backyard.
I lost interest in vegies for a while, resigning myself to a life of buying plastic produce from the supermarkets. As an interesting aside I left a pear in my parents fridge when I went to China. It was still blemish free when I returned ten weeks later. Go figure.
The worm-eater within rose again when I moved into a house that already had a few herbs growing. All I had to do was water those suckers.
Soon enough I roped Pashmina Nick in to give a hand. Having an oldest brother with a horticultural business is very handy in the gardening game. I took advantage of his broken heart one Sunday and told him it’d be good for him to replace the dirt in one of my troublesome beds and then chuck some seedlings in. It was the most innocent fun he’d had in a long time, I’m certain, and while his liver was recovering my garden was flourishing.
The tomatoes and spinach coloured my meals nearly everyday. It was a happy time. Occasionally I’d take my morning cuppa to my garden and speculate on the future of my eggplant plant. I admit that sometimes I would have a quick chat to the herbs, but only the coriander, which is unashamedly my favourite.
I gave most of the garden away to mates when I pulled the plug on BrisVegas. I reckon most of those plants have sadly passed away now. Giving the lucky bamboo to the black-thumb, Sophie was certainly an error.
There was always going to be a garden in Charleville. Best of all, it would probably even be cool out here in the land of farms and utes and big hats. My dad got me started with a few trays of lettuces. They’re blooming out here in the Queensland sun. As he predicted, they have been good for my soul, quite calming and they engender a feeling of responsibility that I sometimes lack with my happy-go-lucky lifestyle.
Garnering a sense of satisfaction from those plants is almost effortless. A little water and a little love and BOOM, you’ve got some bloody lettuce.
Today I added spinach, tomato plants and some zucchini to my patch. It felt amazing to start something on a journey of life. This is how pregnant women feel, I reckon. Although carrying the over-sized bag of potting mix down the main street was not easy and did not make me look cool.
My garden is already good company. Of course, it won’t keep me warm at night and it certainly will not be the big-spoon. That would be pretty dirty, really. Instead it touches a spot that surreptitiously brightens my day, my life.