Our Previous, Pathetic Life

A few days ago we decided to organize our old photos and upload them into flickr, where we can enjoy them more. To our delight, we stumbled onto scads of pictures of our first house, the home we bought long before Maple Hoo was even a gleam in our eyes.

It was a relatively affordable townhouse made less affordable than we originally thought thanks to ridonkulous HOA fees. It was also a quiet little townhouse made lass quiet than we originally thought thanks to being tucked right under an I-95 off-ramp. And it was a delightfully yardwork-free house made less delightful over the months after moving in when we realized our belief that we didn’t want a yard was maybe just a bit misplaced.

You see, we’ve never been yard people. At all. Before buying our first house we lived in a rental in downtown Princeton that had a little spit of weeds in the backyard; we let everything become grotesquely overgrown during the summertime, and then would spend many miserable hours in the merciless heat trying to wrest the weedy patch into submission. That, as far as we knew, was yardwork. And it sucked. So when we were in the market for a house, we were thrilled to find this backyard:

And here, the full vista view to the other corner of the fence:

When we felt a hankering to grow things, our approach was to force the bulbs that Boomer liked to send us as gifts.

Here’s a look at the pre-Maple Hoo at its fullest bloom:

And here’s what the “orchard” there looked like — our two potted lemon trees, in the one bit of sunshine at our otherwise north-facing house.

We lived there for about 20 months before moving on to Maple Hoo, and during that time we thought we’d learned two important things about how we wanted to live: we wanted windows on all four sides of the house and we wanted a yard that looks like a yard. So when we found this yard, we pounced:

And as soon as we started thinking of this house as our own, we found ourselves thinking of putting in a garden. The notion came out of nowhere. The house just demanded it, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Literally the very first thing we did after closing was plant garlic in a bed next to the garage. We were hooked from day one.

One of the things we’ve discovered in our shallow forays into the gardening blogosphere is that so many people who love gardening grew up around gardens. They tell stories of learning about how to plant their grandparents’ favorite flowers just so, or how their parents grew unique varieties of vegetables that they remembered from their own grandparents’ gardens, or whatever. We come from the kind of family that encourages buying townhouses with entirely paved-over backyards. And yet… we’ve become ardent gardeners. The moral of our story? Growing plants really isn’t that hard. You can start from zero and still find great success. The fact is, Nature really wants plants to grow — our motto for our garden is “Let’s put shit in the ground and see what happens”, and you know what? It works.

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6 Comments

Filed under Garden, Lessons Learned

6 responses to “Our Previous, Pathetic Life

  1. well this story gives me and my black thumb (the only plants that I have not reliably killed are bamboo; I killed a cactus once. A CACTUS.) some hope. It’s good to know that you can, in fact, come into gardening later and still be successful – because you guys are surely well past merely successful.

  2. Elizabeth, I have also killed cacti! MORE THAN ONE!

    Our frequent refrain, when we look out at our garden or realize we’re spending disproportionate amounts of our free time thinking about gardening, is “I never in a million years would have thought we’d be doing this.” We don’t like being outside! We don’t like bugs! We don’t like dirt! And Pookie doesn’t even like vegetables! It’s so strange. But… fun. :D

  3. I think it’s much easier to successfully grow plants outside in the ground than inside in pots. Those lemon trees were given to us in 2003 as a housewarming present. In the meantime we’ve killed one and pretty much killed the other. If they were outside in the garden, they’d be lemon-producing machines!

  4. Douglas

    Those stone pathways in your garden are clever, since, with them, as you no doubt have appreciated, you can tend all your plants, regardless of the weather, without compressing the soil. If we may ask, does the dirt in the boxes in your garden go down below the level of the stone pathways into the soil, itself? Or are those just boxes in which the dirt ends at the level of the stone pathways?

  5. The soil goes a little bit below the old grass line in the raised beds, Douglas. We busted all that sod when we put the beds in. It was a ton of work at the time, but it’s paid off in the long run, since we have far fewer weeds, as well as being able to reach everything in the beds easily. The beds are 12 inches high, so there isn’t really anything that needs to grow deeper than that. I highly recommend raised-bed gardening!

  6. Aww, Maple Hoo is so pretty!

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