Published on August 6th, 2014 | by Richard Black


The Art of Gardening, Zen Buddhism and Why My Next Yard Will be an Asphalt Lot


The ideal garden

It’s taken me a good ten years but I now understand why those Buddhist Monks set up rock gardens with little Bonsai trees and spend hours making patterns in sand or pea gravel with little rakes.

For starters it’s good training for a lifetime of hardship and disappointment.  If you can manage to not lose your shit when half the bonsai trees you’ve nurtured for the past eighty years wither and die or keep from chewing off your tongue when a cyclone throws three weeks of well-raked gravel off the mountain then I imagine you’re well on your way to enlightenment.

Gardening, any gardening on any scale, is a remarkably frustrating pursuit and one that requires a special sort of mind, one honed by years of training as in the case of the Buddhist monks or tranquilized by a few ounces of medical grade marijuana. Unfortunately, and much to the detriment of my relationship with my wife, daughter and leafy wards, I subscribe to neither approach.

After gardening and landscaping my backyard for over a decade I should, in theory, have developed some measure of patience,  some measure of equanimity with the daily, weekly and annual frustrations of my little plot but I have not. Not even a little.

It is safe to say that when I think of my vegetable garden my thoughts are somewhat less than Zen. Every time I see a squirrel nibble at some tasty little veggie I’ve spent the past two months nourishing I am tempted to take a flamethrower to every tree in a two block radius in the hopes of knocking out a few of the little bastards.

This year I have planted sixteen tomato plants of varying types and have, to date, harvested one tomato. Growing any sort of vegetable in a yard that only gets about five hours of sun on a good day is a tough proposition at best. The regular dose of drought we see here in Missouri combined with the voracious appetite of the local population of squirrels, rabbits and various borers make that tough proposition one of Herculean proportions. No bookie in his right mind would give me decent odds that I’d ever be able to pull even a handful of cherry tomatoes out of my yard. Still I manage pretty well most years.

It’s the varmints I’m having trouble with this year.  The little bastards dine on green tomatoes (for water or so I’ve heard), butternut squash (which I’ve planted because squash vine borers do a number on zucchini) and even the basil (presumably because they enjoy a little seasoning with the tomatoes). They’ve even mowed down a row of my jalapeño peppers which I’ve always been told are pretty much resistant to anything. I’ve also heard the same thing about zucchini and have yet to harvest a single one after three years.

I built a set of chicken wire frames to keep squirrels and rabbits out of the beds last year but fuckers have apparently evolved into some sort of super species that can either teleport, or chew, through a heavy gauge wire.

Other than a few herbs, some asparagus I wasn’t able to harvest and is well past it’s prime, there is nothing edible in my yard aside from one giant eggplant and I don’t particularly like eggplant. Now that I think about it I really don’t care for tomatoes either. Butternut squash is all right but I’m not willing to risk a felony or the time it would take to camp out with a .22 and shoot any varmint who thinks he can get an easy meal.

That’s also assuming Laura would let me take potshots at small animals from thirty yards out of one of our windows while I’m ostensibly caring for our daughter.  She would not by the way. My wife is very accommodating to my neurosis but I think it’s safe to say she’d consider blasting away at little critters with a rifle grounds for an intervention if not separation.

And so, for the sake of my marriage, I will not be planting any vegetables next year. Instead I’m looking into what it might cost to have the whole thing bulldozed and covered in asphalt.  I hear parking have a good rate of return as far as an investment in concerned and, while I can’t think of any reason why anyone would want to park in my backyard, I’m sure I can come up with something.

That’s really all beside the point however. The real investment would be in my peace of mind. Rather than going through years of training in a small hovel somewhere in Nepal or indulging in near lethal amounts of illegal narcotics the thought that I will never again have to weed a bed or face the disappointment of finding a half eaten tomato is really quite comforting.


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