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  • Writer's pictureJohn R


Welcome to the Blind Pig edition of Schiddygarden. You know, like when something fortuitous happens that seems more dumb luck than skill?

Example #1—The Potato Plants.

I found a disturbingly ancient bag of potatoes that someone in our two-person household had let languish in a rarely accessed kitchen cabinet storage drawer for like months. They were shriveled and had sprouted haphazard shoots like a nonagenarian’s eyebrows (talking about the potatoes here, not the household members). They were real appetite killers.

But epiphany alert! Maybe I could plant these hairy tubers and grow actual potatoes. I reasoned that if Matt Damon could grow potatoes on Mars, then there was darn good chance that I—given an atmosphere with actual oxygen and warmth (thanks to various greenhouse gases that, while assuring the ultimate doom of the planet, currently make for genial growing conditions)—had a decent chance for success.

So I cut up the taters and planted six eyes. I watered with uncharacteristic integrity and watched. And lo and behold, after a couple weeks little potato plant leaves began poking up. Those first little sprouts began to flourish, and then there were chubby stems holding up fat, juicy leaves. I don’t know if you’ve had the giddy pleasure of watching a foodstuff you plant actually grow, but let me tell you around here it’s a rare and holy event. I’m tearing up a little bit just thinking about it.

Of course, we’re only partway through the growing season, and anything could happen. Some kind of potato bug could find our potato plants to be a gustatorial heaven. We could have a world-record drought (greenhouse gases again, in a much more sinister role). Somebody in our household could forget to water. Given our history of plant stewardship, disaster was a 5:3 probability (for the betting agnostic, those odds are not in our favor).

Potato beetles making more potato beetles.

There was also the nagging question of the end game—what to do with a plethora of potatoes? a surfeit of spuds? tumultuous tons of taters?

Baked potatoes, French fries, mashed potatoes with sour cream, potato pancakes (latkes, actually), rellenos con papas, hash browns, potato-and-spinach fritters with horseradish dipping sauce, beef stew with a plethora of potatoes doing the backstroke in a lake of rich, thick gravy. Potato dreams dance and pirouette in my forebrain—they hold hands (they intertwine their little sprouts, actually) and do a perfectly synchronized chorus line across the stage of my REM sleep.

So I nurture our potato plants, water them religiously, admire them often, have meaningful if one-sided conversations. They are my charges, and I am their protector. It’s good to be needed. And maybe, just maybe, these healthy starts will mark positive new beginnings for the fortunes of Schiddygarden.

Wait! There’s more!

Example #2—The Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata).

It’s in our backyard. It’s alive. It’s fantastically nice, adding clusters of delicate white blossoms to our backyard gestalt, such as our gestalt is. How did such a pleasing plant make its way into our botanical chaos? Good question! Answer: it was here when we bought the place. Since, we have done absolutely nothing to ensure its survival. Water? None. Fertilizer? None. Pruning? What? And yet it rewards our indifference with blossomistic bounty.

There’s an existential question in here somewhere, weighing the differences between focused garden management (potatoes) and not quite giving a damn (Mexican orange). Time to retire to the patio with an adult beverage to contemplate the fact that in a garden, hope springs eternal, whether planned or not.

Photos: Shriveled potato: Julie Shumenko; potato beetles: Christopher Joll

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