Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Sunday, August 28, 2005


by Susan Wheeler

Imagine you
beneath the flue
should ventilate
with zest too great
and proximate
a fire bait
without equip,
a nozzle, tip
and creosote spray
to save the day.

The whoosh of air
and ignition there
might shake you so
you'd have to throw
yourself upon
a rug or john
and roll or splash
the flames that lash,
then up and go
to the right window
for the fire escape
(you painters, scrape!)
open it and leave
so I not grieve.

For though you be
immortal, He
guards the few
in His purview
whose hubris pales
before they fail.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Next Time, Warn Me About the Playground

The windshield wipers on J*'s car are still dysfunctional. She can go where-ever she wants when it's sunny.
Tuesday, there was a threat of rain. I rigged the wipers up in such a way that you can twist some wires together and they kind of work, if you rub the wires together first and tap the wiper motor and are lucky. The point is, I ended up taking her car into Weaverville to get I* from daycare.
She gave me a few dollars before I left, to fill the tank and to get I* a "little treat" for the ride back.
"What does he like?" I asked.
"Well, I hate to admit this, but: I usually stop at McDonald's and get him some french fries."
Well, I'd do anything for the little shaver. So I drive to daycare, get I* and head for the drive-thru. That's when he pointed to the large plastic objects with-in the McDonald's, the neat array of plastic cubes in primary colors that glow out the plate glass and beckon two year olds.
If anyone saw a rusty old Blazer speeding away from the Weaverville McDonald's with a screaming two year old late Tuesday afternoon, thanks for not calling social services. He wasn't that upset, really.

Note to the Blogosphere: I attempt in this space to portray my daily life in as accurate a fashion as I dare, and this includes occasional references to our family life that are not altogether flattering, and are not altogether socially acceptable in western North Carolina. I make these references with the assumption they will be received by all you internets with love and trust. Therefore, now that you know my sister's dietary interest or lack thereof for her son, please do not lord it over her, nor direct toward her smug remarks. That will necessitate the unfortunate bowlderization of this space and we will all be the lesser for it.
P.S. Tomorrow, we're going to the circus. Take that, you new age freaks!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Another White Russian?

This is the third time I have referenced or heard referenced The Big Labowski today.

Friday, August 19, 2005

And Then Orville Said, "Let's Try Putting Wings On It."

Dare I confess to eating seven 'mater sandwhiches today?
And I've loved each and every one of them.

Okay, so this was my inspiration: Move the fan from on top of the broken refridgerator, where it's out of the way and blows straight through the house to where I'm usually sitting on the couch, to the window sill, where it can draw cool air in from outside and fill the house with night-time. (!)
Only took me three months.

Another baby shower in the offing. This will be my first repeater. I will have been to both baby showers for both of this person's kids. The world's filling up ....

Market tomorrow. I'll cover my table with cherry tomatoes. Cover. Like the old days.

And we may as well start canning.

I'm starting to think about chestnuts - it'll be awhile before they drop, but they can be seen in the trees, getting bigger and bigger and ....

The days are hot and sticky. The creek is cold and, um, cold. A perfect match.

And a shout out to my hypnotherapist. No, I don't want a cigarette so bad that I want to put my head through the computer screen. Instead, I'm feeling quite placid right now ..................

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Title-less, But With an Aquatic Theme

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink
is the usual misquotation of Coleridge, and I confess to having been tempted to use it or a portion thereof as either a title or an epigram for this post.
But no, I decided. Spare us all from overused literary references. I don't want to hear it. Think up something yourself, I say, or shut up. Entire conversations can consist of nothing but regurgitated movie quotes and ... oh, you know, you've been there.
Let's examine this more fully, (I'm worked up just enough to say,) and then I'll tell you why I've been thinking about water. What was Coleridge saying here? (Coleridge is best read outdoors, standing up or on top of something or at least in a place that affords a view of the surrounding countryside, and, most importantly, he is best read aloud.)
An albatross has been slain, you may recall, and a ship lies motionless in the middle of the sea. All aboard bake under the sea and go a bit stir crazy. This is where Coleridge whips out his water water line. A line that would forever be bandied about mindlessly in countless conversation, headlines and blog posts, by those whose minds have ossified like a ship stuck on a windless sea.
Then he says:

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

They teach this stuff to kids in school, remember. The twisted vision of an opium addict who never left the house, who entertained bizarre mystical visions and was given to radical political ideas. But nevermind. Someone decided to shelve his books under Classics, and that's all the Board of Education needed to know. He was a sick fuck. But he at least foresaw the drought of conversation of withered tongues that his famous water water line would cause, and that's something. I damn near fell into that trap today myself, as I say, but resisted at the last moment. Here I am telling you all about it, but why do we inhabit the same world if not to share ourselves with one another?
Today's Aquatic Theme #1: I spent all morning setting up irrigation line because I figured that would make it rain. Today's Aquatic Theme #2: Half-way through this it occurred to me that if I fixed J*'s windshield wipers, it would not rain.
Today's Aquatic Theme #3: After getting the irrigation lines up, I felt close to passing out from the heat so drove down to the swimming hole.
Today's Aquatic Theme #4: About 7:30 PM, it rained buckets.
Today's Aquatic Theme #5: I offer half-baked insights into The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
My original intent was to flesh out those first four themes a bit, and provide you with yet another colorful account of daily life on this organic farm, but I lost sight of that and got hung up on Theme # 5. C'est le vie.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Who Am I and How Did I Get Here?

I'm going to make this brief because I'm not altogether sure I even want to talk about it. I'm going to, though - it seems like an easy tale to tell and may even be good for a knowing nod or a chuckle. I'm not impressed, though, and my interest in the whole matter is dissipating more with every additional moment I put it off. Here goes, just to get it over with.
It was fund raising day at the Spring Creek Volunteer Fire Department, and most of the valley made their way down to the station. The fire engines were polished brightly and lined up for show. There was gospel singing. There were pork sandwiches and cole slaw. People milled about and chatted with each other. T-shirts and baseball caps and license plates were being sold. The nuclear family was by far the most common group unit present. Tobacco growers, cattlemen, well-drillers, dump-truck drivers and back-hoe operators were represented, as well as home-makers and dental hygienists. I had a good time with I*. He threw a ring toward this thing that was supposed to impale the ring, and didn't, but he got a prize anyway. Then he ran around with a bunch of other kids and they all made noise. Then I bought him some ice cream.
We left as it started to get dark. A friend has just taken over management of a shop in Hot Springs and was having a Grand Opening, of sorts. Only it started raining between the Spring Creek Fire Department and Hot Springs, so there wasn't much of a crowd when I arrived. A few folks were sitting on the porch though, some in chairs and some just on the floor. Some were wearing shoes and some were not. Most had long hair. Innumerable sexual orientations were represented. Someone had a guitar. A bottle of homemade wine was being passed around. And what were they talking about? Seems like someone wants to put a cell phone tower somewhere near town. Everyone opposed it, and were plotting their strategy. Someone suggested a march. I sat in the corner with I* nodding off on my lap, sipping homemade wine and trying to make sense of it all.
Madison County, North Carolina. Home. Where, as a T-shirt says, Mayberry meets the Twilight Zone. But last night, I sort of felt like, well, I'm not quite sure. Like I'd driven from Brooklyn to the Serengeti in about ten minutes. Or something. And left pondering, where do I fit in? Who am I? And, how did I get here?

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Golden rod is in color under the powerlines. The joe-pye weed is blooming along the roadside. There's ironweed growing around the pond - no flowers yet, just a six foot stalk and a promise.
The grass in the back meadow and in the run between my place and J*'s is brown. Not brown, no. It's green, but it's not green like green in Spring. It's green like it has brown in it. The fields are dry like powder, and if I irrigate, the next day they're dry like powder. We got quite a rain less than a week ago, but the traces of all that wetness are nil. Galansoga has grown up between the kale and all through the potato patch. It's flowered and gone to seed and dried out and died. Walk through there with shorts on and it'll scratch your legs.
It's fall. Maybe in some parts of the world, or, in some people's minds, it's not fall. But here, on this little farm in the Appalachians, in a place some call Katuah, or, at the very least, about 36 degrees North longitude, it's fall. This explains it better than I'd ever be able to.
We've got the fall planting in: a bit more kale, some collards and lettuce. Brussel sprouts and kohlrabi. We put out one more squash planting - hope to have squash right to the end of October. I'll throw out some mustard seed pretty soon - like, in the next week. And then that's it. It's getting a bit too late to plant, folks, leastaways 'round here it is, if you want the plants to get to any size at all. It's getting darker, and it's gonna be real dark, soon. It's not exactly getting cooler, not in my book, anyway, not yet. But it's gonna get cooler soon enough, and I mean soon enough that if the plants aren't in the ground now they're not going to be big enough to eat before it gets cold.
August is dry and everything goes to seed and if you're not on top of your shit it's too late to do anything. That's fall. The earth seems to give up moisture faster than it collects it. Everything dries out. Even the ragweed, now in it's full evil splendor throughout the garden, feels dry and about to give it all up, it's mocking lush greenness not withstanding. The earth is dry and hard to walk on and you can't sink a fencepost. The weeds, too, know that summer is over. They germinate more slowly, now, and in just a little while, they won't germinate at all. They know the cold is coming, and know that if you've not already jockeyed into prime position to flower and scatter seed then there's no use trying. We'll go through the fall beds and weed once, and they won't be a problem anymore.
There's nothing left to plant, save for a bit of mustard seed to broadcast. We'll weed some more, but this time of year it is not the task of Sisyphean hopelessness that it is in "summer." So what to do? Harvest. It's fall.
The peppers are coming on and the tomatoes are in full swing. The squash is exploding (though all but the newest of leaves are dry and yellow and ... brown.) Pumpkins are comin' on. The tobacco across the road has been topped and will be cut soon. Silage trucks will be up and down the road before we know it. And I'm feeling like the major work of the year is over and we're ready to start shutting down. We'll put in garlic and strawberries for next year before too long, and cover the fields with rye and clover for the winter. I'll spend the rest of this month and most of the next fiddling with the equipment, and maybe even have time to work on the house .... Oh. yeah. And get some firewood. It's fall.
November, December and January is dark and cold and wet, at least around here it is. Leave some wet socks on the line, and they'll still be wet a week later. Winter.
Not too many people write poems about February in Western North Carolina, but, believe it or not, that's spring. I can see the rye really green up and even start to grow in February, and we'll get crocus and maybe daffodil. March really warms up, and the life all comes out of the earth and into the trees and the grass again. Some of the trees barely start to bud out. Others wait for April, when the whole world glows green and everything grows in leaps and bounds. The feel is still cool and wet, and we may even get snow, but above it all is a green promise of warmth. Spring.
May the frosts are pretty much over. Toward the end of the month all the summer stuff goes into the ground: tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, okra. It's more hot than anything else. The evenings may be cool, but it is a coolness that carries with it the promise of a hot tomorrow. Mid-day may even be a bit cool, especially if it's raining, but it is an early summer coolness that says one layer is enough and don't get spoiled. June the summer plants grow big and tall and the leaves on the poplars change from their early growth electric green to their sort of faded out I've been here a long time green. They don't glow with new life. They sit on the mountainside quietly and stoically, contemplating or perhaps tolerating middle age. July is Hell. Summer.
And that brings us back to -
Goldenrod is in color beneath the powerlines ....
Okay. I'm no Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and I don't pretend to write like one. Nor am I a scholar on Celtic or any other wisdom. This is Let It Grow, and nothing more. But I have noticed a few things here over the years, and I send them off into cyber-space for your perusal. That being said,
Here's Will Cuppy:

August 11

You might think a plant named Ambrosia artemisiaefolia would be quite a plant, but it's only the common ragweed, otherwise called tansy, hogweed, bitterweed, hayseed, and stammerwort. Nobody loves the common ragweed because it is responsible for many case of hay fever, and hay fever is not much fun. In the effort to do a little good by helping hay-fever victims, I have destroyed a great deal of ragweed around my summer shack. Or rather, the man who told me it was ragweed had evidently never seen any ragweed. Now I may never know what it was I destroyed, and I suppose it's too late too worry. Well, I was only trying to do good! And it might have been ragweed, mightn't it?

How To Get From January to December
Will Cuppy
Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1951

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fish Tale

It is an ill wind that blows in from the Atlantic tonight, and the ships at sea look down their long-lines with fear. The tourists are staying in their hotels, and there are no lines at the theme parks. Ice is melting on the docks, pooling up and flowing slowly back into the sea. The wharf rats are too stoned to function. Only the alley cats are out tonight, looking for one last chance. There is nothing more erratic nor stupid as an alley cat thinking he's getting only more chance to breed.
The fishmonger division of Let It Grow has, thus far, I believe, gone unexplained in these pages. It is now time to remedy that, before the sands wash back into the sea and before the fish stop breathing.
We started selling fresh seafood at our little Hot Springs market last year, and this year brought fish to the big city. J* sells fish at one of the Asheville markets, and I do, too, when logistics permit. If all goes according to plan, we'll pick up another market next year. We're the official fishmongers to a restaurant in Hot Springs, and may start supplying a few other places near here, soon.
D*'s been driving fish up from Kitty Hawk for a few years, now. D* or one of his friends. Somehow or another, someone, in some kind of vehicle, has made the fish run every week during the summer, driving from Kitty Hawk to Asheville with a half dozen coolers full of ice and fish. It's D*'s fish business, or, rather, it's his family's. Has been for something like twenty-five years. D* hit the road early, though. He wound up in Asheville, among other places, living on the street. Living on the street by choice, though. They called him Camper. He'd forage along the roadsides. He'd go into the woods for weeks at a time and live off the land. D* knows every edible weed and twig in the forest.
He did this for years. He'd go down to the coast in the winter, sometimes. Sometimes he'd stay up here. "One thing I'll say about foraging," he'll say, "you're not going to gain a lot of weight." Then he'll talk about everything there is to eat in the forest, and then talk about primitive societies and their dietary habits.
Sometime during these years, D* was down at the beach, and he'd even started a little herb garden for himself. Some Asheville friends spent some time with him there, and one day they decided to all come back to the mountains together. D* brought a few armfuls of herbs with him, thinking he could make back gas money by selling them to the Co-Op. He also brought a cooler of fish, thinking he'd have a big fish dinner for his friends.
"Well, no one cared about the herbs too much," he explains. But everyone went nuts over the fish. Everytime he came up to Asheville, he'd bring a cooler of fish with him. He started making regular runs. He or someone he was connected with started selling fish regularly at our Wednesday afternoon market.
That's about when his parents were diagnosed with Alzeimer's. He moved to Kitty Hawk to become a full-time care-giver. This is a decision he seems to have made overnight. He abandoned his homeless, foraging lifestyle and moved in with his parents. He stopped hanging out with his old crowd and stayed home. Once a week, he makes the trip up here with a truck load of fish and sells it at our market, and then heads home.
It's his fish that we're selling, where-ever we can get a market.
I make my call on Sunday night. I call D* and tell him how many pounds of fish I want for J*'s market, what kind of fish a restaurant wants, whatever special orders we have. Then we start talking about growing vegetables, or selling fish. We talk about foraging in the woods, or riding on trains, or various characters we've known over the years. We talk about friends who have kids, or the habitat of grouper, or the soil requirements for eggplant.
D* won't be making the trip up this week. His dad has been in and out of the hospital lately, and D* doesn't want to be away from him right now.
How's everything going down there, I ask him.
Oh, my dad's fine, D* says. Every day I ask him how he is, and he says, "Well, I'm still alive, so I must be alright."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Rain As An Obstruction To The American Way

Early afternoon and I'm sitting down at the computer. That's right: it's raining.
Dishes are done and the floor is swept. Windows are washed (insides, anyway) and the laundry room is sort of organized. Mail has been answered and the recycling is neatly compartmentalized into glass and paper and aluminum. After I take these few moments to record my day's events, I'll try to give some semblance of order to the packing shed. Maybe.
But the lawn will not be mowed today, and the hedge will not be trimmed. Not unless it stops raining and the sun comes out like blazes. That is not likely, according to the NOAA website.
The feeling of satisfaction that the clean house gives me is muted by my inability to mow the lawn. It's Sunday, and on Sunday I mow the lawn. Front of the house. Back of the house. Sides of the house. You know, the lawn. It's a duty I take as sacred, most especially now that there's a kid around. I vowed, years ago, both to myself and to my creator, that this kid would not be raised in white trash surroundings. There will be no broken down vehicles around the house, and no dogs chained to trees. No poke weed nor poplar saplings growing along the front walk, and no washing machines on the front porch. I cannot claim that I have been successful at each of these goals, but I do keep the lawn mowed. Religiously. Sunday is lawn mowing day, and I undertake this task with solemn reverence to suburbs, weekends, and the middle class.
It's raining harder now. I don't need to be in the house today - I need to be outside where there are no walls and (perhaps) no obstructions. I wound up at a theremin recital last night. A theremin is some kind of electronic musical instrument that is the way of the future or at least is popular for soundtracks to science fiction movies. There were science fiction movies projected in the background. Classics from the Fifties about beings from other planets coming to visit us here on Earth, and, in the backdrop of each scene, as the people and other planet people walk here and there or drive here and there, was a neatly mowed lawn. There was all this theremin music welling up, a nebulous, formless sound that stayed on no plane and maintained no direction, but backed up, through the efforts of the recitalists, by an even paced xylophone, and a steady plod and plunk of a drum and bass.
I had no idea what direction the future would take, and this made me confused about my place in the present. Was I supposed to focus on the steady and reliable pace of the percussion, and, by extension, keep the lawn mowed? Or, was the sound of the theremin informing me that life is in fact not cut into neatly separated compartments but moves in no predictable direction? And, if so, what does this say about my lawn mowing habits?
A person rarely arrives at definite conclusions when pondering the future. It's a dangerous thing to even try, most days, It's equally dangerous to try to change ingrained habits. That's one thing visitors from other planets will never understand. They don't have lawns in outer space.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Summer Celebration

And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of gray and
Black and white
They don't look real to me
In fact, they look so strange
The Rolling Stones

The cats got in the house again and pissed on the carpet. I could corner them somewhere and stomp the living shit out of them, but then I'd just feel guilty. No, I don't want that. I want to figure out why the smell of the vinegar I poured all over the carpet makes me think of nothing but Easter eggs.
There's a reason for it somewhere. Someone, somewhere has studied the link between smell and memory. There's probably a whole field, Cognitive Cat Piss and Memory Processing, or something. I could probably find someone who could explain the whole thing to me, maybe even so I could understand. They'd go on and on in some learned way and I'd nod and nod and forget everything they said.
Nevermind. I don't want the details. No, I just want some kind of nebulous grasp of the concept, just enough to think I understand it so I can move on and think about something else. I'm a busy guy and I don't have time to finish anything.
This is just what I've needed lately. I've needed to be thoroughly confused by the smell of cat piss, or vinegar, or whatever, and I've needed to be left feeling helpless. I've needed to be left so confused that I can do nothing but grasp at some long forgotten Stones song and pray it helps me make sense of things.
It's been pretty dull around Let It Grow recently, folks. We're harvesting tomatoes and cute baby squash, actually selling them and paying the bills. I get up in the morning and work. That's about it: Work. I'm not suffering through life in a nicotine induced haze and I gotta say: it's fucking boring. I don't cough and I don't spit and I don't get dizzy in the heat of the noonday sun. I go in the house in the evening and make dinner - that's right: I actually eat the vegetables I grow.
I've read through my last several posts and I must say, dear reader, they're pretty dull. I seem to have lost the twisted edge that usually keeps me so entertained with life its ownself. My existence has been reduced to a monotonous day be day procession of contentment.
That all changed today.
Intern #1 had a nervous breakdown, thus maintaining the perfect record Let It Grow has established in past years of never employing anyone without severe mental problems.
So, I'm harvesting alone. Well, I'm harvesting with the evanescent assistance of Intern #3, of whom I have often wonder if he has corporeal form at all or if he is a figment of my imagination. Nevermind. Someone put the carrots on the box and it wasn't me. So, he must exist, just perhaps not in the same world occupied by the rest of us.
Enough about the interns. I have no time to turn their emotional inadequacies into literature. I only want to establish that I had to jump this morning, and jump fast. Ah, sweet disaster, where have you been?
So I head into market, and get there to find our parking lot full of SUVs with Florida plates. (Thank you, God, it was just what I needed.) B*'s there already, cell-phone in hand, calling tow-trucks. Well-dressed individuals with good credit emerged from an over-priced eatery just as the tow-truck was pulling a Lincoln Navigator across the parking lot sideways, and that's when all hell broke loose. They ran this way and that, heading off the tow-truck at the pass, and then scurrying back to their respective vehicles before another tow-truck arrived.
Oh, great fun.
It was Summer Celebration, you see. Our annual media blitzkrieg, where we hype up the hype and let the dogs and ponies loose. Look at us, dammit, we're sustainable! Somehow or another I volunteered to help, and had to do something like set up a grill for H*, the mad Hispanic chef of Asheville, who was going to dazzle the populace with masterly preparations of local, sustainable, organic, environmental, soul-enriching vegetables.
Only picking was a pain and there were SUVs in the way! Okay, deep breath. Calm down. And don't smoke. Set up the stand and get my veggies out of the sun. Go get the grill. Put the Cinzano umbrella over the grill. Hope H* shows up. Am I supposed to light the grill? Dunno. Fuckit. Customers are showing up. P*B* finally arrives. He takes charge of the grill. He pours briquettes into the thing and hits them with his flame weeder. Rock on! H* shows up and starts speaking some language he made up. Goats are running rampant across the parking lot. Kids run around with their faces painted. White people sing delta blues. People do yoga. People play hackey-sack. I drink too much. I don't smoke. I crave Benzedrine. My hypnotherapist shows up in the nick of time. Mild-mannered "activists" speak on the benefits of local economies. Skin-heads from WLOS news come into the parking lot with a satellite truck. We're ready to make speeches about local sustainable organics but they shut their cameras off and leave. The sun gets low. Market ends. Helpful people volunteer to clean up the grill and put things away. H* buys some squid and rides off into the sunset, speaking his own language. My God! This is what I've been missing! The twisted and the bizarre and the depraved!
I pack up and hit the road. I go to Target for more nicotine patches, then to Ingles for laundry detergent and cat food (ingrateful fuckers!) Coming off 19/23 in Weaverville I lose the clutch, can't stop the truck but manage to cut the ignition and skid onto the shoulder. Damn near launched Intern #3 through the windshield, but he's expendable. Okay, how to fix this thing? What do I have laying around? Aha! Metal stock from the drill press I helped T* get home. I knew there was a reason I was keeping it in the back of the truck lo these past six months. Jam it in the fork and see if the pedal works. Yes. Drive home. And here I am, celebrating summer.

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