Last weekend, Cameron and Anita were over at my house with some other people, and just after Cameron fixed me a very excellent Manhattan, I asked him about the raised beds they’d just installed in their back yard.
They were ready to plant, he told me, and I suspect my eyes widened a bit. See, I’m still not quite used to the weather situation here. Granted, there’s snow falling this week in the Sierras, so it’s not like winter doesn’t come a-callin’ in California, but down here by the Bay? It’s not that cold.
(I know those of you who have lived here for awhile are scoffing at me, and I will admit my windbreaker was not appropriate clothing for yesterday’s chilly air, but people, really…)
Regardless, the only planting one does in Iowa in December is one’s ass. In a chair. Preferably under a very warm blanket. Because it’s already snowing there and people are already not going to work and sliding in the ditch and piling up their trucks and shutting down highways.
Planting in December? This I had to see.
“Do you need any help?” I asked.
“You would help?” Cameron asked right back at me.
“If I can blog about it, yes,” I said. I am prone to negotiations when the situation requires it.
A plan, underway
The next day, following the Manhattan and a few other cocktails that shall remain in the mists of memory, Cameron asked me if I was serious about the whole helping thing. I was, so we affixed a date.
There was a corollary plan. While San Francisco is a city of incredible restaurants, there are a handful of absolute stars that have been on my yet-to-be-tried list. Among those were SPQR and Range, two that I knew are particular faves of the Married With Dinner consortium. We agreed planting, followed by dinner at SPQR, would be an excellent way to spend the afternoon and evening.
Cameron suggested I arrive at the closest BART station at 1 p.m. so we could be sure to have enough time to get everything planted. It was, I will admit, at this point that I wondered what I had gotten myself into. As near as I could figure it, that meant he thought we probably had, at bare minimum, four hours worth of planting to do.
But hey…I had not yet seen their house, nor their yard. I knew they had trees in the yard, because I had seen pictures of the makrut lime, the bergamot, and other citrus. And trees, to me, mean space. A lot of space.
The afternoon in store
And so…on Saturday morning, I set off, gloves and a change of clothes in my bag, envisioning that, perhaps, Cameron had not yet put the dirt in the raised beds, or maybe had more raised beds that I did not, indeed know about. It occurred to me, as I walked to BART, that I might be in for a back-breaking afternoon.
When I arrived, I followed Cameron out to the back yard, where I peered at the two beds, each approximately 32 feet square, and already filled with dirt. And driplines. Around the edge? The very beautiful, but compared-to-my-imagination-very-small trees.
Then he pointed out the stack of seed packets and the bag of onion sets we would be putting in.
This is the point at which I became quite certain we were not going to need all afternoon to put in 14 rows of seeds.
When he pulled out the Moleskine with a chart mapping out the plan for planting, I began openly laughing. And trust me, this was not the laughter of mockery. (Well, maybe it was a hint of mockery, but in the kindest of ways.) This was the laughter of terror. Because the way I plan and plant gardens? Not at all (planning) and ever-so-haphazardly (planting).
It’s one thing to kill one’s own plants. But to kill a fellow gardener’s crop before it even sprouts? That seems, somewhat, unforgivable.
But then, as I was standing there feeling highly inadequate, Cameron said, “Do you think I need to get a tape measure?”
“Um, no,” I said. “No, I do not.” And, I must say, I said that with great confidence, even while thinking about the time that I planted seeds that like 1/4” depth at something more like a 2” depth, and then wondered why they didn’t come up.
We set to work, and I put in leeks (which I’d only planted from starts in the past), beets, two kinds of radishes, and Cameron put in peas, mixed lettuce, and onions. We were done in less than an hour.
“Are you going to come back tomorrow?” Cameron asked. “We ought to have something ready to harvest by then.”
“Boiling onions,” said Anita, who had come out to survey our progress and tell us sandwiches were almost ready. “We’ll have an excellent crop of boiling onions.”
The part that did, indeed, involve sitting around,
although not under a blanket
All that planning? Paid off, as far as I’m concerned. It just meant we had more time to tell each other stories, and to relax on the upper deck eating the incredible Reubens Anita made us, and to sit around in the living room with their dog Angus napping across the way and their dog Bella licking the air around my face, and to drink the beers we barely earned for our effort.
And then, it was off to SPQR, where Anita and Cameron introduced me to a restaurant to which I plan to return often, and not just because of the sandwich that uses five to six different forms of pork to make itself delicious. So maybe we didn’t spend more than an hour on the planting of the garden, but really, what’s more important is cultivating new friendships.
At one point during dinner, I talked about how I’d applied for jobs in the South Bay when I was trying to move out here, and said I’d dodged a hell of a bullet by landing a job and an apartment in Oakland.
“Can you imagine?” I said. “If I’d moved to Mountain View, I wouldn’t have known ANYbody.”
“Well,” said Anita. “You would have known somebody. Different somebodies, perhaps, but somebodies nonetheless.”
But here’s the thing about my gardens: I don’t really plan them out, but I am always thrilled with what I harvest. And so it is with all my Bay Area friends. They’re exactly the kind of somebodies I want to know. That’s why I can already feel myself growing roots, happily.
To read the other side of the story, please head over to Cam’s wonderful rendition.