Saturday, May 12, 2007

In the Garden

I think I have an idea for a new--if not my next--book: long-distance gardening. Or maybe gardening by telepathy or telekinesis. Or maybe not. But so far, despite having to spend more time in Chicago than near the plants I put in the ground a few weeks, they've actually been flourishing. The cool spring weather and persistent rain have obviously had a salutary effect. One of the little plots looked like this a few weeks ago:

At bottom are the brussel sprouts, and above them, several varieties of sage and tomatoes, and at the far end, a mini-cloud of dill.

Here are the brussel sprouts as of today.

And here are some of the tomatoes, and the dill.

In fact all of the plants are growing well, except the fig tree, which is still a little stub.

The azaleas are particularly resplendant right now...

as is the wall of honeysuckle, whose buds are red and not yet the orange they turn when in bloom (they cover what remains of the fence that the builders knocked down to throw up the unsold monstrosity next door; part of its external concrete wall is already showing cracks). In the lower right of this photo are the blackberry bushes, which I pruned and which are already starting to show tiny blackberries, which don't usually mature until the mid-to-late summer.

The strawberries, both the regular ones and the smaller alpine ones, are also growing.

A few years ago, we thought we would start a compost heap. The first season after we created it, the organic material actually decomposed and composted properly and we had a lot of rich soil to plant with. But then after we kept adding leaves, branches and soil, we ended with what started to look like a beaver's dam. Rain, snow, raking and shoveling, nothing could get it to compost properly. So we decided we'd have to clear it out. I was convinced the only living things in it were spiders, worms, slugs, and perhaps a rodent or two (though there are enough cats in the area to ensure we don't have to deal with that).

Well, lo and behold, as C. approached one corner of the heap, a black cat we sometimes see strutting through the yard and up on our back porch darted out, and in the spot from which it had materialized we found a little burrow with three kittens! We still needed to remove the pseudo-beaver dam, so C gingerly lifted the kittens out and we temporarily put them in a box we had in the basement.

Here they are, two little black kittens and a piebald one. They occasionally stirred and cried, but we kept the box in the shade so they'd stay cool. I remembered that a friend's cat had once given birth to a litter in one of her desk drawers, atop papers and those old 5 1/2" computer disks, so I figured a few old clothes and balled up papers would be fine for a little while.

Here're two of the kittens up close. Aren't they beautiful?

When the non-compost heap had been completely cleared out, we placed the box right near the spot where the burrow had been, atop what remained of the compost soil, now dark and available for use. We weren't sure if the mother was coming back, so we called the local Humane Society, who told us to give her until tomorrow, but this afternoon, the mother cat did return, and C actually spotted her in the box. So the kittens should be fine.

I'm always reminded how much more in touch with the natural world we still are in some ways in the very urban Jersey City--like the north side of Chicago, where I've spotted a rabbit and many an opossum--is at moments like this.


  1. It is amazing how 'natural' Jersey City can be. Congrats on the kittens, and the garden....will you be doing a Gardening Book a la Jamaica Kincaid one day?:)

  2. Hey Reggie, it is amazing. The mother cat took the kittens away at some point overnight, so the box was empty this morning. Maybe a gardening book will appear down the road, if I ever have time to complete other projects. It's a lot more enjoyable and refreshing that I ever imagined.