February 22, 2010


February 22, 2010 - Categories: family, gardening, life, passion, reflection

It was sunny and almost spring-like on Sunday. I rode my bicycle 5km to the Artscape Wychwood Barns, shedding my winter jacket and fleece along the way, enjoying the ride in a light turtleneck and thermals. That 5íC is warm must speak to the reality-distorting powers of winter, which will make a return in the next few days. But today was like spring.

I wanted to check out the Seedy Sunday event Iíd learned about on one of my favourite Toronto gardening blogs. The converted barn bustled, hundreds of visitors flipping through seed packets and comparing cultivars. I slipped into the attached greenhouse for a seminar on seed starting, marveling at the rows of young plants sheltered from the cold. After wandering around to see what was available, I bought almost twenty seed packets: cherry tomatoes, assorted carrots, bok choi, bitter melon (W- loves it), and various herbs.

With the exception of bitter melons, equivalents for the herbs, fruits, and vegetables I plan to grow are readily available at a supermarket thatís within walking distance. I can buy bitter melons in Chinatown or ask W- to pick up some from Lawrence Market on his way home from work.

But thereís a certain thrill in turning over the soil and watching earthworms squirm back into the ground in search of more nutrients. Seeing something grow and remembering that just last week that patch of soil was brown and bare. Tasting something fresh and knowing that it doesnít get much better than that.

Also, the supermarket doesnít stock purple carrots or yellow cherry tomatoes. =) And I hate throwing away herbs if all I need is a small bit of it (Iím talking to you, parsley). Much nicer to just snip a few from a plant that can keep on growing.

This year, Iím learning how to plan ahead. Iíd like to start as many plants from seed as possible instead of buying plants from the nurseries of nearby hardware stores. It promises to both be cheaper and more wide-ranging. Itíll be fun. And if it doesnít work out, I know where to get plants that are ready for transplanting, and I know those will work in our garden. =)

I suspect gardeningís one of those hobbies Iíll grow into. I want to be like that older lady down the street, the one who grew rows and rows of bok choi, tomatoes, lettuce, and other assorted goodies in the front yard of an apartment building. I always peeked at her garden whenever we walked by.

I enjoy gardening a little bit now, and I can imagine how much more fun it will be when I can appreciate the difference between cultivars and know what kind of environment I should provide to help the plants flourish. It all begins from a seed of interest.

Looking back on her years, my mom wondered what she did with her free time and why she canít identify any particularly physical hobbies. She ran a business and raised usóthat must count for a lot of time and quite a lot of exercise. But of the different hobbies she explored, she wrote:

Embroidery, sewing, pottery, carpentry, cooking, baking Ė Iíve tried them all but could not go beyond introductory levels Ė there was not one that I was passionate about to pursue through the years.

What Iím learning about passion is this: most of the time, it doesnít spring full-formed from the ground. Passion comes from skill and appreciation. The more you know about something, the more you can appreciate it. Itís okay to be interested but not passionate about something as you explore it.

Iím interested in gardening and sewing. I enjoy baking, and Iím getting better at it. Theyíre not my passions yet, but perhaps someday, they will be. Iím passionate about helping people connect and collaborate, and about sharing ideas through writing and presenting. It took me a while to be able to really enjoy it, but now it totally rocks.

Passions develop from seeds of interest. They benefit from a little care, thought, and time. Maybe some potential passions have longer ďtimes to harvestĒ than others. Some seeds donít germinate at all, or they grow and they donít flourish. Others are like zucchini and can take over the rest of your garden if you donít pay attention. Some passions go well with other passions, like companion plants. Other passions donít go well together at all. So you do a little planning, but you canít plan too much, because life happens and you just need to figure out how things work out.

Sometimes you need to put in the right support structure. Sometimes you need to build a protected environment Ė a greenhouse of time and motivation Ė so that new interests can survive until theyíre self-sustaining.

Cultivate the ground, plant seeds, and see how things grow. Keep what you like and think about replacing what doesnít work out. And enjoy the process, always. Itís not about the fruits of your labour (although thatís yummy!), but also all the experiences along the way.

(Tangent: My dad is an awesome gardener of opportunities. ;) )