A Time to Dream

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Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to decide what will be bought for the coming spring. It is time to decide what will be done in this year.

Really, this is the very worst time of year to be making plans. Winter in these climes keeps a person trapped inside for so long that by the time February comes around one is positively delusional with grandiose plans for the coming year. The more weeks that pass with nothing but the four walls of the house to look at the bigger plans become. I try to sit down and make mature and thoughtful purchasing decisions for the coming year, but it is a big joke. In reality, if someone said, “So, why don’t you climb a mountain, build a house, dig a pond, and plant a huge garden, all before the end of spring–” I’d say “Sure! That would be easy!”

Okay, maybe I’d realize the folly of climbing a mountain. Maybe. But somehow every year I do make far more plans for my limited time than I could ever possibly accomplish. I start the spring with all sorts of high hopes, only to have them most cruelly dashed when reality comes crashing down on me. It’s a cycle that happens every year–without fail–and every year I see it coming. And yet, I still fall for it every time. I find it impossible to not be exuberant at the thought of spring. What can I think besides “When all this snow melts off I’ll whip everything into shape”?

I beg to differ with myself. Last year went particularly badly for me and my grand plans. At least, it felt that way. I didn’t manage to do anything on time, and some things I didn’t do at all. Corn was only a partial success. There was no winter squash. I never weeded the blueberries–and on and on. I’m still not sure if I’ve totally forgiven myself for not weeding the blueberries at least once. One might think that I would learn my lesson and decide to plan less into my life. But no, I’m not cutting back this year. Oh, the more rational part of me wants to be a little more reasonable, but that other side of me–the emotional and wild side–just goes on assuring me that somehow this year I’ll manage to get everything done.

Ha. That is verifiably not true. There are only 24 hours in one day, and it is logically impossible to plan 48 hours of things to do in any one day and expect them to get done. Secondly, I’m a writer, not a farmer, and somehow I still imagine that I can get a decent amount of writing done while maintaining an orchard, garden, and blueberry patch, as well as mowing the lawn, mowing the field, and doing other miscellaneous outside chores. It’s a joke to think I can do it all, but when I sit here staring outside at the snow covered world I can imagine that if I only worked hard enough and was productive enough (yeah, like skipping eating and sleeping) I actually could get it all done. Then when I don’t get it all done I consider it a moral failure on my part, and I feel very guilty and depressed.

So it is like a Shakespearean tragedy. (Well, that’s a nice way of putting it, isn’t it?) I try to be stoically resigned and go forward with my eyes wide open–and not spend too much money. When I lay in bed and stare up at the ceiling and think “Gee, you know, it wouldn’t be so very hard to tear off all the sheet rock in this entire house, rewire and insulate, put fresh sheet rock up, spackle, and paint the whole place. You know, that would be fun. I wish we could do that this year–” instead of that I go and buy a plum tree and call myself restrained, mature, and in control. (Then I must run around in a panic trying to plant the plum tree because I didn’t even really have time for that.)

I make promises to myself that I’ll do better this year than I did last year. There is the thinnest veneer of justification for this. I’m planting corn in a different part of the garden so hopefully I won’t have trouble with the soil fertility. I’ll start my squash indoors like I’m supposed to so that it sprouts properly and grows well. I’ll mow everything promptly so nothing gets too high. I’ll prune all the trees on time. I’ll weed and mulch and prune the blueberry bushes–sometime. All thirty or forty of them. I’ll mulch and prune all the grape vines. And, um, yes, I’m going to do all of this in my few hours of spare time because I intend to spend most of my time this year frantically working on my novel.


I do want to buy a plum tree. At first the wise, mature, and restrained part of me wasn’t going to buy any trees or grape vines this year–but the resisting became too much.

I like trees of all sorts. And I like grape vines. I like growing them and pruning them, and seeing them produce fruit. But I told myself I was going to do less this year. I wasn’t going to add anything more to what I already have. This year, I said, I’d just take care of what I had. Take better care of what I had.

But then . . . Then I started thinking, “Well, if I’m going to take real good care of the blueberry bushes this year I might as well buy replacement bushes for those that died out years ago.” That wasn’t starting something new, was it? So I dug out the St. Lawrence Nurseries catalog to see how much blueberry bushes coast. Ouch. A quick look told me I could only really afford a few bushes, and I really need to replace a dozen if not more. It felt stupid buying only two so that idea wouldn’t work.

Still . . . was there something else I could buy that wasn’t an apple tree or a grape vine? I thought about trying a dwarf apple tree, but St. Lawrence Nurseries doesn’t sell dwarf apple trees because they aren’t hardy in extreme cold. If I was being reasonable I would have stopped right then. Those were good enough reasons to hold to not buying anything this year. Alas, but I felt like I needed some reward, something instead of refurbishing the complete interior of our house. So my eyes fell on the plum tree selections.

Ah. I like plums. It sure would be nice to grow a plum tree. They say grafted plums have a risk of losing their fruit to late spring frosts (oh great, I’ve enough problem with the apple trees doing that) but the seedling plums are more resistant to the late spring frost and they are cheaper, too.

Yes, it wasn’t long before I convinced myself that I wanted, and was going to, buy a plum tree. But wait, I need two for pollinating. Okay, I’ll buy two plum trees. Now I just need to figure out where I’ll plant them.


There are some other gardening related problems that are gnawing at my mind. The snow is currently deep on the ground and that means there isn’t much around that the wild rabbits can eat. The snow is so deep that it reaches up to the lowest branch of one of the fully grown apple trees. The rabbits have availed themselves of this opportunity and stripped the bark off the end of the branch. I think the limb is pretty well ruined, and I’ll have to prune it off come spring. This is very annoying, but I tell myself the branch was so low I was always banging into it when I mowed, and it never really produced fruit anyhow.

Still, the rabbits have my enmity. Their feasting on the apple tree only reminds me that my young apple tree and young cherry tree are in peril of being killed. At present both are protected by a wire cage, but accidents happen . . . in this case I’ll have to make sure an “accident” happens to the two rabbits before it happens to anything I’ve planted.

A second problem is that last year the Concord grape vine contracted black rot. The really wet summer was the cause, I think. What would have been a great harvest last year was pretty well decimated. I made matters worse by not doing anything about the problem so all the shriveled berries that carry black rot spores have fallen to the ground and now wait to unleash themselves this coming year. Yeah, call me stupid. I really really don’t want to use fungicides but I’m not sure what else to do. I’ll be pulling out my hair if this year my new grapes vines put out their first good harvest–and contract black rot so I get nothing. Ug. I would rather incinerate the entire Concord grape patch.

Why can’t gardening decisions be easy?

About the Author

At age fifteen, Rundy decided he wanted to write for his living. He is currently working on a novel, although it is not the novel he started at fifteen. When not working on the novel, he might be riding his bike, feeding his chickens, helping his neighbors, messing around with web design and computers in general, or writing on his blog, which discusses other topics in addition to gardening. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: fruits, vegetables, major landscaping, chickens and other poultry

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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Judith February 14, 2004, 8:16 pm

Ah, dearie I know just how you feel. I say, get the plums–woodies take so long the only thing one should feel about buying them is “Did I buy them soon enough?”. (Red fleshed apples have my eye this spring. . .) And have you tried copper fungicide? A standard for a century at least and way less scary than the organo phosphate guys. I be bordeaux might work…..