This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozark Hills. Sad to say, but I guess we’ve seen the last of the gardens for this year. And as this post falls a little too late for Halloween and way too early for snarky remarks about Black Friday and the Christmas decorations already on sale , I’m left to dream up my own topics. That’s seldom a good idea because I’m old and I tend to wander off. So far, though, I’ve been able to find my way back. And that’s just what I’ve done. Because even as I said the words I knew in my very soul that we, or at least I, had not seen the last of the garden. Oh sure, it froze to death last weekend, most of it, anyway. But, over by the driveway in a sheltered spot, just lying in wait, there are a half dozen well started broccoli plants, and some kale, several leeks and other tiny assorted greens.
And out in the corner of the garden untouched, because there was nothing there to freeze, is the little halfway assembled hoop house, where next week the plastic will go on and it will be enclosed, and the little plants and a few hundred seeds will take up residence for the winter months and early spring. I just can’t help it.
The good news is that I’m not totally nuts. It’s an addiction, sure. But there are reasons for it, and actually a scientific basis, if you’re one of those who, like me, prefer living in a reality-based universe.
You may remember that sometime back – a year ago July, if you want to look it up in the KSMU archives – I spent a whole program talking about a new discovery by scientists who identified a specific soil microorganism the ingestion of which, either by eating it along with a fresh-dug carrot or by just getting it on your hands and then on to your mouth, had the documented effect of making us happier and smarter. So I am happy to confess that I am addicted to dirt. I admit my sin, but that doesn’t mean I wash my hands of it. It calls me. Some more years back when I also was moved to confess I was getting old, I cut the size of my garden by half. But in the part I abandoned, there was all this dirt, unused. Empty. It was too sad. So I planted a few strawberries, then a few raspberries, then someone gave me some thorn-less blackberries, then a nursery had a terrific buy on blueberries. I filled up nearly all of it. This year the only remaining unused area is being taken up by the hoop house. So you see how it is.
And that’s not all. It’s not just the dirt. In my very favorite of all his books, “The Botany of Desire,” author and gardener Michael Pollan writes about the addictive qualities of plants, not just psychedelics, but plants we would never, NEVER, think of as addictive. It’s not that they have properties that we come to crave; it’s that they do it on purpose. Like the burdock spreads its family by creating seed clusters that cling to clothing and animal fur, and the dandelion makes little parasols atop each seed so the wind will carry it, some plants make we humans offers we can’t refuse so we will grow them, tend them harvest them and take special care to make sure they survive through the s. The examples he uses are the Potato, the Apple, the Tulip and Marijuana.
Well, as for marijuana, that’s just a duh. But potatoes? Let’s not forget that potatoes became such a ubiquitous crop that a good bit of a nation’s farmers died when a disease attacked the most widely grown variety In the Irish Potato famine.
And the craze for new colors of tulip strains caused people to spend millions on a single bulb - until it was discovered that the disease that was killing the tulips was also the cause of the color variance. Then there’s the apple. Johnny Appleseed. It’s a great story for children, except most versions leave something out. In a nation on the frontier, beer deliveries are mighty scarce. And every culture finds a way to relax, divert their minds from stress of the day and just hang out for a bit. On the American frontier, that product was not applesauce. It was cider, hard cider. Even in the Little House on the Prairie, the Ingalls family sat around the fire in the winter reading, knitting, whittling, popping and eating popcorn, and sipping cider. Every last one of them, far into the long winter evenings, far beyond when the liquid in the cider barrel in the basement had begun to fizz and to turn.
So I’m addicted to dirt. And to the plants that persuade me to grow them, and when I went up to Brighton to Gardener’s Orchard last week to get my yearly half-bushel of Jonathan apples to make applesauce, yes, I lugged home a gallon of cider, sweet right now, but what will it be like in February, I wonder.
This is Marideth Sisco, celebrating the beginnings of a long and wonderful holiday season and wishing the same for you, whatever your traditions. And a fruitful harvest, of course.