The Wide Angle: I am Scipio! fear my gardening wrath

Published 7:01 am Sunday, June 26, 2016

I spent a long time the other day, hands on hips nodding thoughtfully to myself while staring at a plot of dirt in what I can only assume is the gardener’s pose.

That pose which tells others I’m just waiting for the magic to pop through the soil in what will undoubtedly be award-winning, fair-level vegetables.

In reality it’s more, “Is that one of my plants or a weed.” Honestly, I could go either way.

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It’s just a little over two years since we bought our house and for the first time I’ve put legitimate effort into growing things we can eat. This is a major turning point for me because just being able to pick a nice watermelon marks a major win for me if not more than a little eye-twitching inner debate.

We started slow enough. My girlfriend wanted beets so we tried that along with four green pepper plants. It’s not a large undertaking, but we don’t have a lot of room. Our backyard is dominated by a black walnut tree that I’m told doesn’t treat garden plants really well. A raised garden is in the future, but for now we’re sticking plants in areas where they will fit so really — we have beets and peppers.


The beets are taking on a life of their own, growing splendidly. It was these I was pondering over when trying to figure if it was weed or plant. Pretty existential really. Aren’t we all just weed or plant?

The peppers on the other hand have me concerned.

They aren’t showing me much growth since planting.

Or I’m not real patient. Likely the last, but often times my lack of patience leads to my other defining trait of paranoia, so I’m just kind of recycling one bad trait for another.

Either way, they look like they are on the edge of death even though I’ve found buds starting to come in, so I’m trying to force myself to be patient.

We’ve also expanded to included a small strawberry patch on the corner of the house.

For this I’m preparing myself as if I’m Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus meeting Hannibal’s army of Carthaginians at the Battle of Zama.

Read a book.

In this case I am Scipio (feel free to imagine me standing triumphantly in front of the house dressed in Roman Armor. I am and I look magnificent) and the Cathaginians are the rabbits and birds that frequent our yard despite the great effort our cat Buster puts into trying to intimidate them from the front door window.

Thanks to the property next to us, I’m not too worried about the rabbits. There is plenty for them to eat as the yard rages out of control. That would take their cottontails away from my plants. The birds on the other hand — they are the true enemies.

My dad has fought this war for many years now. The thin netting he flings over the strawberries helps, and I’ve done the same thing, but I think we can all agree that animals are far more intelligent than we give them credit for. I expect war.

I even feel I’ll see a trio of squad cars pull up some day for a report of a crazy man running around his yard with a broom, yelling in gibberish in a vain hope the birds will fly to some other poor schmuck’s garden.

Possibly dressed as a Roman. I’m undecided.

Believe me. Everyone’s garden is better than my garden or what’s passing as such. I’m winging a lot of things and you good gardeners would probably frown at this strategy

Will I ever be Martha Stewart? Of course not. I’m a man without a prison record, but more to the point I’m just not that good at these things. I will admit there is something relaxing to getting out there and doing the work.

It’s mindless work if not tedious but it gets me away from the day-to-day and in the end, I’ll take that.

And Scipio not thinking too much is best for us all.