I'll do it the way I want to.
Just a Chingona. Dwelling. Digging. Dining. Daring.
Just a Chingona. Dwelling. Digging. Dining. Daring.
This post first appeared on The Chingona Homesteader,©2017 TheChingonaHomesteader.com
I feel like it's necessary for me to clarify something here. It's not that I'm completely out of touch with plants and what they can do. Both my grandmothers, in addition to being farmworkers for much of their lives, kept beautiful gardens filled with plants that fed and healed their families.
All my life, I've used plants like aloe, roses, mint and bougainvillea to help myself and my family stay healthy. I love plants and have devoted many, many hours to the study of herbalism-I even have some certification in the area. Really!
I believe in the power of plants. I've just never been able to actually grow any.
As we've been preparing to move into the new-to-us, 100-year-old house, I've wondered if I might finally be able to do any successful planting. Much of the house sits perched on a lush canyon, which in itself is like having a maintenance-free garden. Other than that, there's only an eensy dirt-patch to play around with.
Could I actually grow anything here? If so, what?
I have no idea. But I do know someone who does.
As soon as we knew we'd be downsizing to the bungalow, my prima Rina wanted to know what I was going to be doing with what she generously called, "the yard".
"Ummmmm..." I stalled, "I guess...I don't know...maybe some of that artificial grass stuff?"
She responded with a pitch perfect telenovela gasp of revulsion, worthy of Soraya Montenegro.
You have no idea how much I miss Maria La Del Barrio.
"You can't. No. You just can't." Rina insisted. "But you can have a yard! I'll help you. I have two green thumbs!" It's true, that girl can grow anything. So if she was willing to help? I was willing to accept.
She set up a time to come by the bungalow, survey the prospects (aka dirt patch) and determine what could be done. I must admit, I was skeptical. But the canyon is a tropical paradise! So we should probably plant there, right?
My cousin explained that the eucalyptus that grow in the canyon emit an oil that prevents most things from growing there. Then I remembered all the times I tried to clean that oil off of my car. I also remembered how, when my parents moved us into a home on this same canyon in the 1980s, they wasted hundreds of dollars on beautiful trees that were supposed to thrive here in San Diego. Our next door neighbor was an adorable old woman who had lived on our street since she'd been born there, around 1900. She had a lovely garden in the canyon and told my parents to water the soil with soapy water to break up the layers of eucalyptus oil. It worked! The next round of trees took and are still growing there today. But those were trees, not vegetables. Not flowers.
Which meant, my cousin explained, that this is what we had to work with:
Behold, the dirt patch. I had my doubts.
Rina proceeded to extol the virtues of the dirt patch. To be honest, I felt a little like someone who was being set up on a blind date with a dubiously suitable companion.
"This dirt over here gets full sun. That means vegetables and herbs." I suddenly understood why my attempts at growing tomatoes on my shaded New Jersey balcony had failed so miserably. Turns out vegetables need sun. Oh.
"See this bit over here? Perfect for flowers. What kind of flowers do you want?" Huh? This was the first time in my life I'd ever been asked this question. I don't even think I heard it when my husband and I were planning our wedding. I'd never considered that I would ever be able to grow flowers. What kind of flowers do I want? Roses? Dare I dream of growing roses?
"Roses would LOVE it here!" Really? No, but really? Here?
Rina started sketching out a plan of a lush, prolific garden, complete with paths, hanging planters...
Though I've made my living as a designer for almost twenty years, profiting from my rather acute (if I do say so myself) powers of visualization, I really couldn't picture it. I still can't. But that's okay.
All of this is to say: if we are all six degrees of separation from ANYONE else on the planet, that means we are never more than six steps away from gaining the knowledge we need. If you don't know what you need to know, ask and ask and ask and ask and ask and ask and you will. Don't be afraid of not knowing. Don't be afraid to accept the help of someone who does. Every one of us has something unique to offer, every one of us is the end of someone else's six degrees.
Stay tuned for updates on that dirt patch, though.
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