It is said that murderers often return to the scene of their crimes. This is utterly believable to me.
I’ve been returning to the same spot in our backyard garden annually for years now, despite the carnage I inevitably leave in my wake.
Some may recall that my first innocent victim, gardening wise, was a sweet little cabbage that came home with my second grader.
Apparently, this was some ruse on the part of the Bonnie Plant Company to blanket our great nation with cabbage.
Unfortunately, they failed to do any sort of home study whatsoever before handing that poor helpless baby plant over to us.
We received ours in the dead of a Midwestern winter and thus took on a plant that would not be able to survive on its own “in the wild” for weeks.
Prior to that all my vegetables had come from either a local farm market — or the freezer section.
Suddenly, with the introduction of one pesky cabbage plant into my life, I was a gardener.
By my calculation that “free” cabbage cost me mightily in tilling, fertilizing, seeding a plot large enough for it to call home.
For most of the summer we carefully watered, fed and guarded that cabbage from the advances of bugs, rabbits and one very interested pet goat.
Sadly, one fateful night the goat was loose just long enough to neatly behead that poor cabbage (may it rest in peace).
I may have been the one who left the goat out. Although I maintain my innocence to this day. So much for Master Gardener.
This year, my sister-in-law gave us a rototiller. I’ve always liked my sister-in-law, but now I’ve seen her dark side.
Thanks to her, Mr. Wonderful now has the ability to create an even bigger garden. (Note to S. — I know where you live. Be very afraid).
Inspired, just a few weeks ago Mr. Wonderful brought home a fistful of little seed packets and a handful of cunning little plastic trays.
Into these he and the children carefully spooned potting soil and seeds and sweet little stakes with our daughter’s painstaking printing upon each and every last one.
“Beans,” “tomatoes,” and “peppers” they say. In short, she is carefully laboring over — and labeling — foods she herself will never actually eat.
As the slacker who is home throughout the day, it became my job to manage the daily ins and outs of these seedling trays. The sun warms up — out go the trays. A chill sets in — in they come. Out and in. In and out.
I spend more time monitoring the body temperature of these pesky plants than I do my own children.
“You’re cold kid? Well put on a sweater!” The plants, meanwhile, received their own custom-made greenhouse box and a personal escort to warmer climates every time a cloud blows over or a breeze kicks up.
Eventually all my hard work (OK, hard whining) paid off. The seedlings started to sprout, all sweet and tender and green.
I have to admit that even to a plant slayer like myself they are awfully cute. My heart started to swell — just a little — with the notion that we had nurtured life.
I started wondering if maybe I had it in me after all. Visions of melons and sweet corn danced in my head. I started to give real thought to my soil.
And then, as I was dutifully schlepping my trays in from the cold, my overconfidence got the best of me. I am, at heart, a lazy thing.
As such, I wasn’t about to make two trips with three trays when one trip would do. So I stacked and balanced like the accomplished diner waitress I’ve never been.
And, as anyone who wasn’t me could have seen coming, I tripped coming through the door and neatly (and with some finesse if I do say so myself) tipped one whole tray end over end until it landed — splat! — on the floor.
It was terrible. Tiny sprouts were strewn everywhere. It was a bean and roma tomato massacre. Panicked, I hastily scooped the whole mess back in the trays, but the damage was already done.
It makes me sad to see my daughter’s neat little stakes now denoting nothing more than what might have been.
My reputation as a slayer of plant life — as a mulch-based murderer — remains intact. I think the problem may be that we are planting all the wrong things.
Where is my stake that says “cheesecake?”