How to Make a Garden, Vermont-Style

First you go to the nursery after the long winter. And you feel a little woozy because of all the flowers and vegetables and herbs and how colorful and alive and seductive they are. You can't stop yourself from filling up your little wagon with zinnias and basil and tomatoes and eggplant and flowers you can't identify but are too beautiful to leave behind. The gardens you have become full very quickly and you find yourself looking around thinking, "Hm. Maybe we should add another garden."

You ask Sean if he has a rototiller you can use and he tells you his is broken. You ask Mark if he has a rototiller you can use and he tells you his isn't working. You call the rental place in Manchester and explain to them what you need a rototiller for and the person tells you that you need the big one and that that requires a trailer. So you ask the boys if they will ask their dad if you can borrow his truck. Instead their dad, your former husband, gets his dad's old rototiller and fixes it up a little bit and brings it over and on a nice Saturday in May your former husband and your son till up the earth for two new gardens.

You need compost. The soil is good, but not great. So you ask Ellen about compost and she tells you to call Jed Rubin. Jed tells you he's waiting for the rain to stop.

"You've got some pull in that department, don't you?" he jokes with you.

It's a funny thing, being the pastor in a very small town in Vermont.

The rains stay. Jed can't bring the compost.

Then the sun comes out and a few days go by. Then a week. One morning you and Coco go to Sheldon's to get some eggs and bacon for breakfast. Jed is sitting on the porch with his pals, so you sit down beside him.

"You still waiting?" Jed asks you. "Yes sir, I am" you tell him. "Any chance you could come by today?"

"I think I can probably do that," Jed says.

A few hours later Jed pulls up in his truck and backs up to the new garden place and dumps some of the richest compost you have ever seen there. He charges you forty dollars.

You wait a little while to think about what you might want to plant in your new garden spaces. One evening you and the Nate and Coco get to work on the round one, edging it with bricks and raking the soil. Giving it some love, imagining what might go there, dreaming and planning.

A few days later Chris Ross is driving by your house in the morning in his blue truck. He passes you working in the backyard and then stops and backs up. "You want some peppers and tomatoes?" he shouts from the road. You walk over and tell him that just the night before you and the kids had decided that you needed more tomato plants and maybe some other vegetables, for the new gardens. Chris tells you to get in the truck and he takes you to his greenhouse in his backyard and tells you to take whatever you want. 

You take some broccoli plants, some pepper plants and some tomato plants. You cannot believe your good fortune, that Chris has driven by, on the summer solstice, and offered to you as many vegetable plants as you want, for your gardens. 

In the cab of his truck you joke with Chris about all of the empty Pepsi bottles. "I haven't had a beer in four years," he explains. And the two of you bond over something more than gardens. "Six years for me, this Friday," you tell him. And then you talk a little about life without booze and how nice it is.

Chris takes you home and tells you to come back and take more plants, but your heart is already full with gratitude. The plants he has given you will be enough to feed your family, and then some.

You put the plants in their new home, in the earth tilled by your generous former husband, in the dirt made rich by Jed's farm compost, in the gardens laid-out by the kids.

It is the first day of summer and that is how you make a garden, Pawlet, Vermont-style. Amen.


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