March 23, 2021
Over the weekend, I opened the upstairs windows to air out the house and enjoyed the birdsong streaming throughout my home. With the first cup of coffee in hand and the sun warming my face on the kitchen porch, I smiled. Welcome, Spring.
Fully caffeinated, I pushed open the shed door and like a wizard, I twirled, swirled, and captured copious spider webs with my broom before entering. Sorry, spiders. I took inventory of pots and potting soil, brought them outside, and checked the vegetable and herb seed packets. I cleaned off my garden spade and inspected the vegetable and herb plots for new growth from last year. The celery I planted at the end of summer has new green growth, and the rosemary, thyme, and oregano plants wintered nicely. I snapped off brown twigs and turned over the rich, dark soil in my garden plots, praying my area is past the possibility of snow flurries, for on this day, two years ago, we had a few inches of snow. Nope, none of that, please. I’m ready to get my hands dirty in the garden and to feel the sun on my bare shoulders.
On Sunday morning, I perused the first Burpee catalog to arrive in my mail box–my sign that spring has arrived. The catalog brought back joyful memories of the day the Sears toy catalog would arrive at my home before Christmas. There was no greater joy as a kid than to pore over the pages and dream of the perfect toy, doll house, or Barbie doll. I feel the same way about gardening catalogs.
I finalized my first gardening order of the year: an apple trees, two Concord grape twigs, and lettuce, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard plants because I want a head start this year. The seedlings did well from seed to garden, but I want instant gratification, smile. I added a white clematis I hope will take over the kitchen porch by early summer.
The Concord grape vines I found when I bought this old house have sadly not produced healthy grapes for three years. I held off pruning the vines for eight years (afraid I’d make a mistake) and had healthy harvests year after year. The first year after I pruned back the vines, not a harsh pruning as I’d been instructed, a virus was introduced. It was devastating. The healthy, heavy bunches of Concord grapes of the past were not to be.
I still enjoy the gorgeous growth and welcome shade of the grape vines over my courtyard dining area, but I must do what I don’t want to do–pull out the old vines, which I doubt will be easy to do. I find that heartbreaking. People passing by have told me the vines have been in place since the 50s. Heartbreaking. So, I’ve decided to prune the vines back to the first major knot and like a good haircut, I am hoping for new, healthy growth before I am forced to pull out the vintage vines.
If you know about growing and pruning grape vines and can offer tips, please let me know. Thank you!
This morning, I’m starting the vegetable and herb seeds in the two trays I purchased last year. I have two large bags Miracle Gro Vegetable Soil and dozens of plastic pots in many sizes for later. Of course, I’d prefer clay pots, but they are expensive and heavy to ship. Plastic pots aren’t used that long before the baby plants are in the garden, so that’s not quite a rush at this time.
I’ve often thought of how much gardening resembles the writing life. There is research involved, preparation, learning the basics, and just doing it. I’ve met writers who do the necessary research, join writing groups, learn, buy the books, and still don’t write. Or they begin and then stop for many reasons. I find it sad how many beautiful and important stories are never told and shared with the world.
Pruning resembles editing, rewriting, and proofreading. The most difficult phase of writing, but my personal favorite. As my writing mentor says, “Art is in the rewrite.” That’s where I am with my second novel The Laments and with my grape vines. I will do my best with what I know. If that means pruning hard or cutting out unnecessary or redundant portions of the novel that don’t sing, that’s what I will do.
To the fear of failure or fear of doing it “wrong”, I say–there is no right or wrong way to garden or to write. Seeds of creative inspiration and vegetable seeds want to grow! They will grow. Your role is to do it.
Stay safe. Wear your mask. Practice safe distancing.
Write and/or start your garden today by taking small, steady steps. Good luck to you.
ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, “A Decent Woman”, published by Winter Goose Publishing in 2019. Eleanor’s debut novel, set 1900 Puerto Rico, garnered awards at the 2016 and 2017 International Latino Book Awards. She is featured in the anthology, “Latina Authors and Their Muses”. Eleanor is working on her second novel “The Laments”, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. Her debut poetry collection, “Tight Knots. Loose Threads. Poems” is due for release in April 2021. Fingers crossed.