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In the Heart of a Transplant – Lies a Lesson in Growth

Having neglected the garden all last week, weeds were in their operation take over mode.  I finally muster up the courage to face them and look over the potential damage.  To be honest, my weed problem, just happens to be tomatoes.  I know, it hurts me too to even call these wonderful, delicious fruits – weeds.  In my garden, they are.  Thanks to the compost.  It’s either that, or you can just call me the tomato farmer.  They are everywhere and part of my neglect is because I didn’t want to face the terrible reality that these tomatoes need to go.

You’ve got to understand, having lived in the Northwest, it was really hard to grow tomatoes.  It’s simply too cold for them, unless you have a greenhouse, and even then, it’s still a toss up.   Last years Tomato crop on the farm, from their lack of ripening, we had to make them directly into a sauce.  So, coming here and not only being able to eat Tomatoes right now, but to have them in over-abundance in my garden – I needed time to get used to this.

Now that I have, I look over my garden and face another harsh reality.  I not only have to weed out the tomato take-over, but I have some extra space and I am going to transplant some of the tomatoes into these areas.  So, it’s my job to choose who lives and who dies.  It’s a garden task I’m not really prone to -Thinning – used mostly when planting from seed in large quantities.  After germination, you have a nice row of small seedlings, it is time to thin.  Thinning creates nice spacing  between the plants so they produce a good size fruit/vegetable.

One must go through the seedlings and any that are too close to one another -it’s do or die time – one must be pulled. I was taught it’s best to pull the smaller of the two, but let’s be honest people, that’s not always the case and you literally have to play favorites with these little guys. Hmmm, playing favorites – not really my cup of tea;)

As I pick one by one, choosing the bigger, stronger ones, I can’t help but think about the potential of each one and “what if.”  Why does it always have to be that bigger equals stronger?   I don’t agree.  By nature, I always support the underdog, no matter what.  I dunno, maybe it’s  because I’m so small and throughout my life, many have judged my strength by my size.  However, anyone who knows me, knows – I may be small but I’m strong. Some of that strength, is my stubbornness, I admit, which I  actually like to think of more as perseverance 😉 but based on my own experience, the little can be mighty too.  So my heart goes out and I choose some of the little guys for transplanting just to mix it up…and be fair.

I’m in a rhythym and am feeling good about my diplomatic choices for transplants, when I hear two little voices from the yard next door.  “Hey, it’s the neighbor lady!”  Looking up, I find them running over to the fence toward me.  It’s Jade and Lily.  Two adorable little girls from next door.

 “You look like Dorothy today.”  Jade says,

commenting on my long braids and dress.  Taking it as a compliment, I say thank you.

 “What are you doing?”  They ask.

“I’m just weeding.”

“Can we watch?”


Lilly runs into my yard over to the swing hanging from a tree. Jade is still behind the fence watching and an idea comes to mind.  Just last night,  I was talking with my friend, Guisepi (Free Tea Party!) who was saying I should get some pictures of what I’m doing.  I told him there’s no one else around for help like that and what do you know, help shows up the very next day.  Just how Life works. 

I call Jade over and ask her if she wants to help with a very important job.  When she finds out it’s taking photos, she’s totally down.  After showing her how to use the camera, she begins snapping away and of course, Lily wants in as well.  When Jade is done with her job, she asks to help in the garden too.  “Of course you can!” 

Lily and Jade help me weed the tomatoes and transplant.  From helping her grandpa in his garden, Jade is pretty knowledgeable and knows the difference between what she calls “a real plant” and a weed.  Lily on the other hand, accidentally pulls out one of my watermelon plants after Jade tried to stop her.  It was too late.  Without me noticing she went right for it yanking the poor thing out.  We talked to Lily about the difference between a weed and a “real plant” and I think with time, she’ll get it.

The girls picked the perfect day to come over. The next task in line is building a cob wall and decorating it with large glass chunks that had been smoothed by a river in Germany. I’ve been hauling these around hoping to find a use for them.  I pour out the bag of river glass.  Their eyes light up as they pick through the shiney pieces with their muddy hands.  I tell them to have at it.  It was my turn to snap some photos.

Lily and Jade building the River Glass Wall

When we finish, it’s time for lunch. I thank them for their help and they promise to come back later to continue.   I think I’ve just taken on two interns.  It’s nice to have some kids around to play in the dirt with me.

From Jade and Lily’s unexpected help and company, it’s one of those days in the garden, I want to last forever.  I walk away feeling deeply happy and inspired by the experience.  It makes me question whether or not to leave all this and go to Europe for the summer as planned.  I know my questioning is just out of fear that I may never have days like this again or that I’d be missing out on something here if I choose to be there.

Isn’t that just life though? …

Making choices means you decide one thing over another and sometimes just for the time being.  There are no lost opporutunites, just what fits for now. Just like choosing the transpants – you got to trust the choices you make.  You can’t think about the “what if” or “what might’ve been.”  You make a choice and see it through. Some choices might bare you many fruits, while others may not bare you much at all.    But you still learn and just like in the potential of each transplant you choose, whether big or small – maybe it’s not always about what they bare or how much they bare, but how they bare it – growth.

My first sign of squash!Baby Tomatoes!!


The Great Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent … or Determent?

So it’s one of those picture perfect beautiful, late Spring days.  The kind that are hot enough to take a dip, but cool enough to be outside in the sun and not roast.  It’s been a much cooler week here.  When an opportunity to spend some time sunbathing in the beloved Vitamin D I’ve been missing out on over the years comes, I take it. An old friend invites me to hang at her pool, so of course my yard work responsibilities go out the window.  The truth is, I’d been slacking on my duties most of the week. So, in an attempt to feel like I accomplished something before I go, I choose to do laundry as I’m on my last leg of the “necessary under garments.” Might as well utilize the day I’ll be spending in my bikini…a perfect trade off 😉 I think.

Like I said before, I’m here experimenting with myself, finding out what sustainable practices I can implement and find I will live with and what I won’t.  Now, when it comes to laundry, I’m not at a point of washing my clothes by hand or anything so I still use the regular old washer.  If eco-friendly detergent was available I woulda used that. Promise. Instead, I grab the “#1 Pediatricians Pick” detergent left behind by the previous residents, my brother and his family.  It’s either this or some off brand detergent.  Somehow I justify the Pediatrician Pick to be “better” for the environment than the offbrand, gotta love marketing schemes, right?  Could I be anymore well trained?  Just to make me feel better I toss in some of my beloved baking soda (my favorite all-natural, all-purpose household product).  If any of you have seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,”  I am about my baking soda the way the father is about his Windex.  Trust me, it works for everything, the baking soda, that is.

Anyways, I say a quick sorry to the earth for not having bought another detergent by now.  It balances out with the fact that I I’m not using the dryer though, right?  hmmm… maybe, but probably not . So let’s make up for it:  I turn the cycle to the shortest, filling it with cold water and in my clothes go.  Geez… why does something as simple as washing clothes feel like such a moral dilemma?  I guess it’s the nature of the age as more environmental awareness and practices rise to take precedence over our consumerism and convenience we’ve so comfortably grown up with.  And so is, the nature of my experiment as well.

20 minutes later my clothes are ready and waiting for their own dosage of Vitamin D.  I get them out and put them on the line one by one to dry in the sun.  Why is it that a task so domestic feels so right and so good?  Feels like a task thats gotta be in the genes by now.  Maybe it’s the image of all those damn Downy commercials of perfectly white, bright, sun-dried linens blowing in the gentle breeze.  Or,  it’s just the fact that I know the outcome of my “hard days work” will give me a solid wardrobe again.  Either way, after I hang each piece, I sit back and take a look at the picturesque day with the sunlit clothes hanging so neatly on the line.  All the colors lit up from the sun’s glow look like my own little rainbow.  Aw … how perfect.  I take it all in.  Downy’s got nothin’ on me right now.  With a satisfied sense of accomplishment and semi-attempt at good will, I head out with some friends for a day at the pool.

One of the things I love about Northern Virginia spring and summer is no matter how hot it gets, we can always count on a late-day thunderstorm to cool things off for a bit.  So, while I’m enjoying good company, conversation and pool time, the voluminous, dark clouds begin to roll in around us.  At this point, my laundry was the furthest thing from my mind.  As the wind picks up and the thunder crashes around us, we call it a day and head off on our way into the dark sky.  Somewhere between the pool and town, the deeper blue and darker grey colors hovering over us suddenly remind me I need to get home.

The rain begins to fall the closer we get to my house and by the time I arrive, it’s pouring.  My friend Kristen and I race around gathering my clothes that once had been hanging so perfectly on the line were now strewn about all over the ground – casualties from the storms brewing winds.  Damnit… Downy’s got one up on me now… as the commercials always fade out focusing in on a cloudless, sunny sky.

Laughing hysterically at the irony of the situation while becoming just as soaked as the casualty clothing, we run around gathering it up.  If I’ve learned anything in life, it is this:  Life has one big fucking sense of humor –  and so can we. So … Laugh, take it in stride, enjoy the ride, do the best you can at the time and work with what you have.  Oh the how I love irony – so much for trying to help the environment on this one, into the dryer they go.  Maybe next time…