Patsy Porco

Posts Tagged ‘garden’


In Humor on August 21, 2012 at 2:35 am

Over the course of my mid-length and mostly unvaried life, I’ve occasionally been asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Until now, I didn’t have a response.

Today, while I was in my garden, staking tomato plants that should have been staked a month ago, the answer came to me: I can’t identify plants to save my life. That’s what’s wrong with me, and it’s been going on for a long time.

Because I can’t tell one plant from another, I only have tomatoes in my garden. Back in June, I planted cucumbers, beans, peppers, onions, lettuce, spinach, and God only knows what else. I even wrote what I planted on little plastic sticks and planted them alongside the plants. My dog, Rudy, decided the identifiers were toys, or food, so they were gone immediately.  I didn’t worry too much, reasoning that once the plants bore fruit, I’d know what they were.

I didn’t count on the damage I would wreak with my weeding, however. Even though I covered my garden with black plastic before planting, weeds and morning glories managed to sneak in. Weeds I can handle, but morning glories are the bane of my gardening existence. While they’re pretty, they’re a major nuisance. They grow on long vines and twist themselves all around every plant they can reach. I tried to pull them up as soon as I saw them, but their leaves are identical to the leaves of young cucumber and bean plants. Therefore, I must have torn up all of the cucumber and bean plants along with the morning glories. I also ripped up the peppers, onions, lettuce, and spinach in my haste. Somehow, though, the morning glories survived and are on a mission to strangle the remaining tomato plants.

I should know a little about plants. After all, I took a botany class in my last quarter at The Ohio State University. I learned all about the identifying qualities of leaves and how they indicated what plant they belonged to. My crowning achievement in that class was being able to identify a plant by looking up its leaf serration and flower attributes in my botany book. That was my final, and my correct identification probably meant the difference between my graduating or having to repeat the class.

The class met twice a week, in the summer quarter, from 8 a.m. to noon. During one break, I came back with several of my classmates and we were laughing about something or other. The teaching assistant, who was probably only a year or two older than I was, was not amused. He pulled me out into the hall and asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Unfortunately, stressful situations always make me laugh. I just looked at him while attempting to suppress my laughter. He turned a frightening purple color and said, “If you and your friends ever smoke on break again and come back in this state, you will all be automatically flunked.”

I was confused. This was, after all, a time when smoking was a college prerequisite. I just looked at him. “Why can’t we smoke on our break? There are ashtrays in the hallway.”

“You know that I’m not talking about cigarettes,” he yelled at me.

“What are you talking about?” I said between laughs.

“Pot,” he spit out.

“We weren’t smoking pot,” I said.

“Then why were you all giggling when you came back from break? And why do you stink of pot?” I didn’t answer him. I can’t recall, 28 years after the incident, why we were laughing, but chances were good that we were laughing at him.

“Get back in the class and tell your friends what I said,” he commanded. “This is your only warning. I would think that a graduating senior would not jeopardize her graduation by doing something so stupid.”  I didn’t say anything else, for fear of making the situation worse, and returned to my seat.

After the class, far from the classroom, I told my classmates what had happened and they laughed uproariously. “What kind of botany teacher thinks tobacco smells like marijuana?” they asked.

Anyway, that was the end of my botany career. I thought I’d never need it again in real life, like algebra, but it turns out I did.

Too bad I was smoking weed at the time, instead of paying attention. (I’m kidding.)


On Beauty, Slugs, and Homeopathy

In Humor on May 25, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Today, while cutting flowers in my garden, I found a pale green inchworm on a peony and I was thrilled. Later in the day, a rabbit ran across my lawn and again I was delighted. If I had seen a slug on the peony and a rat on my lawn, however, my reactions would have been very different. I wonder if there’s a parallel universe where slugs and rats are preferable to inchworms and rabbits?

I often think about why some animals are preferred to others—why we recoil from some, eat others, and keep certain ones as pets. I have also pondered beauty. We’ve all heard that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and I’ve witnessed this many times. One person will think a celebrity is beautiful while another will disagree. But neither of those people would call the celebrity ugly; well, they might, to make a point, but they wouldn’t truly mean it. They would actually mean that the celebrity doesn’t meet their criteria for beauty. What one person perceives as human beauty does not always mesh with the opinion of others. It might be due to one preferring blondes to brunettes, or brunettes to redheads. It could be related to what a person was raised to believe was beautiful. So why doesn’t anyone prefer a slug to an inchworm? Or a rat to a rabbit?

Speaking of nature, the other day, or maybe a few weeks ago, when I was driving to who-knows-where, I heard a radio ad for a homeopathic natural supplement that improves one’s short-term memory within 60 minutes. I wish I recalled the name of it, but I hadn’t taken the supplement, so just knowing about it did me no good. The ad got me thinking, though. In the recent past, whenever I heard the word, “homeopathic,” I would think of natural remedies. However, I looked the word up not long ago and learned that homeopathic remedies, if given to a healthy person, would cause symptoms of the disease that sick people are trying to get rid of. My brain shorted out when I read that. If people knew what homeopathic meant, I doubt they’d brag to their friends that they only used homeopathic drugs. I would venture to say that many people think homeopathic remedies are natural remedies. And anything natural is good, right?

Socrates might disagree with you. He was sentenced to commit suicide by drinking hemlock, a poisonous plant. There are plenty of poisonous plants found in nature. I would think that the perfect murder would involve giving someone a freshly brewed cup of hemlock that one grew in one’s garden alongside tea leaves. Persuading a jury that you mixed up the plants would be a cinch. This makes me wonder why our society looks on natural remedies with such a favorable eye. The medical profession is aware that certain herbs and supplements can be detrimental if taken willy-nilly or in tandem with prescribed medicines. Even grapefruit juice can interfere with certain medicines, and what’s more natural than grapefruit?

Today, I was filling pots with soil and my friend called. When I told her I was gardening, she asked me if I had lost my mind since I had already contracted ivy poisoning twice this year and it was only May. The outbreaks were severe and required heavy doses of Prednisone. I reassured her that my gardening endeavors today were pot-related. She thought that it was interesting that I was growing marijuana and asked me to tell her where the plants were located.

While this exchange was in jest—take note FBI— it also made me think about the beneficial plants in nature. Just as with beauty, opinion varies. I love string beans, but my husband doesn’t. My inlaws salivate over broccoli rabe while I would use it as a poison, in place of hemlock. Certain fruits and vegetables are universally appreciated like apples, bananas, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, lettuce, and potatoes. Others, like lychee, prickly pears, plantains, rhubarb, beets, rutabagas, turnips, and spinach are as much disliked as liked. The same goes for marijuana. Some don’t like it and some do—especially when they’re stoned. What’s not to like when one is stoned? Hell, even broccoli rabe is appealing. (Not that I would know this from experience, law-enforcement agents.)

So, we’re back where we started: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, except when it comes to slugs and rats. Although, I’m sure some will disagree with that statement. To them I say, “How’s the weather in your parallel universe?”

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