To Complain, Or Not

– Posted in: Fruit, Garden chores, Miscellaneous, Weather

Early summer is the time when I pass from the state of “getting behind” into the state of “being behind.” It is a time when there are a lot of beautiful things I might take joy in, but instead find myself wallowing in guilt or despair over unaccomplished goals. Nobody knows how to ruin a good summer like one’s own self.

My great point of irritation is my unplanted corn. It should have been planted two weeks ago, but one event led to another and it still isn’t planted now. My laziness, or incompetent time management, is to blame somewhere. This case symbolizes all of my self-criticism where sources of grumbling and complaining are ever before me. It is easy to let this kind of attitude grow and consume oneself. Summer becomes one long litany of “I didn’t get this done, and I didn’t get that done,” all misery and complaining until it comes that one looks back on summer with deep dissatisfaction instead of happiness. Summer becomes one long whine of “I didn’t get that done” and all enjoyment is lost.

This calls for a right perspective, something I have difficulty with. I have a schedule, and I want life to follow my schedule, and my nose gets bent out of shape when it doesn’t. I didn’t get my corn planted when I want to. I think I’ll throw a snit.

Sometimes we need to tell ourselves, “So what?” Is that truly important? Should that really be consuming your thoughts and your emotions? What difference does it make if the corn is planted two weeks late? What difference does it make if the corn is not planted at all? Who said you must plant corn? Will the world end if you don’t plant corn? And why should you even be in a bad mood and grumble and complain because the corn isn’t planted? What is this saying about you?

Thus I am offically telling myself to shut up and shape up. All these things are fleeting and without importance. They do not deserve to have me dwell on them in displeasure. I am a fool to ruin all the good things I could be enjoying now by grumbling about the unimportant things that aren’t going as I wish.

So, for some good things:

  • Late in May we were hit with a hot dry spell. This worried me as I had visions of us scorching our way through summer. Any idea of a garden would be finished before it even began. But with June the hot weather broke and we recieved a good dousing of rain. The ground is now well saturated and the weather cool. The gardeners among us are happy.
  • I am amazed by how green everything looks when the trees leaf out. After all winter it feels like I am a stranger seeing it for the first time again. My wonder is fresh again as I look at the picture of hills covered with green trees. We become deadened to it so quickly and forget the beauty of it like some common thing.
  • The wild strawberries are in season. I knew in some distant way that it was time, but I first saw them when I went up the hill to do some chain-sawing on Monday. For me wild strawberries are like a memory of childhood. When I was a boy I could sit up in the field eating wild strawberries crawling from one place to another, always finding more. There could be a bunch of us up in the field, picking berries and hollering out to each other that there were lots at our spot and they were really good, everyone trying to find the best and the most berries. Sometimes we would try to band together and pick enough wild strawberries to actually make something with them. I think we might have managed, once or twice.

    Sitting out under the wide blue sky and bright sun with the wild strawberries was like a picture of summer itself.

    image of a little girl laying on her belly picking wild strawberriesWild strawberries are also a memory of childhood because they call back a time when there weren’t the responsibilites and obligations of an adult. That was the time when one could spend an afternoon crawling about in the field picking tiny berries and eating them without a greater concern in the world. Now I hardly get a chance to taste more than a few before they are here and gone while I hustle about. But the call of childhood memories is still strong. As I walked up along the tree line I had to fight the urge to stop, put down the chain saw, take off my gloves, and start crawling about eating berries. Everywhere I went it seemed I saw more and more, making it hard to concentrate on the work.

Sometimes I think more people need to experience hunting wild strawberries. Sure, it’s not great excitement. It isn’t the rush and clamor of life that so many people are accustomed to. But it is good to stop on occasion and enjoy the quiet and the small hidden treasures in life.

This entry was originally published on June 14, 2006 at Rundy’s blog, Letters From a Silverware Thief. Only his entries related to gardening are republished here.

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

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Rundy July 21, 2006, 9:00 am

Penelope –

We are USDA zone 4 and garden in upstate New York . . . not sure which of those answers you question about where our short garden season is located.

As far as dealing with the heat goes . . . I am young, healthy, and hardy enough that I usually don’t allow the heat to keep me from doing anything. I drink a lot of liquids and sweat a real lot.

Penelope July 16, 2006, 8:10 am

I understand the guilt to a degree. This time of year, mid July, it’s too hot to care about much. I manage to keep things watered and sit back and watch the weeds grow through heat waves and hallucinate because of dehydration. I hate July. I teach at a university, so I’m off in July and part of August. I always think I’ll get lots of gardening and weaving done, but the heat always foils my plans. How do you deal with heat? And where is your short season garden? Mine is in southern Idaho.


cyndy July 14, 2006, 3:40 pm

…mmmummm….I didn’t get my corn in this year either….guess I will just have to eat my fill of berries…

Anne Brygger July 8, 2006, 9:47 pm

I know the feeling, having neglected my garden, let alone my blog, for a couple of months. Fortunately, it is a tundra garden, which means it doesn’t absolutely require fussing, thank goodness. However, gardens aren’t actually required, so you might as well enjoy it. Of course there’s always more you could do. There’s more you could do of everything, but then something else has to give.

Judith June 26, 2006, 11:43 am

“Nobody knows how to ruin a good summer like one’s own self.” You hit the trowel on the head! I can’t believe that the first day of summer arriving last week made me feel as if summer were coming to an end. I haven’t tackled 1/4 of what I had anticipated tackling in March…April…May! ‘Tis the season to let it go and enjoy all the minor details.

jenn June 23, 2006, 10:31 am

One year I said in despair:
Summer’s nearly GONE!

I had so much to do.

It was May.

My hubby thinks I’m nuts, and he’s probably right.

But I think the ‘behind’ syndrome is fairly universal.

firefly June 21, 2006, 10:52 am

I’m glad I’m not alone in this — I still have seedlings (lavender, great lobelia, and columbine) to plant, as well as dahlias and a hymenocallis bulb which are going in pots.

I spent six weeks dodging rain (17″) to dig up grass, sift out root clumps, stomp on grubs, set up raised bed frames, and finally plant things I’d started in March and ordered by mail, and I’m still not done. I am getting ‘shovel-shy’ though. Can you say “bit off more than she could chew”?

The good news is, I’ll plant these things now and be wowed in late summer when they bloom anyway.

John Meshna June 20, 2006, 7:51 am

I laughed out loud at your article about feeling guilty about not getting enough done, or not getting things done on time etc. .
I do that too and though maybe I was the only one like that and perhaps some deep therapy was in order… perhaps it is! At least I know I’m not alone and thanks for helping me laugh at myself.
I really wish I had planted my potatos last week when I was “supposed to”.

Billy June 18, 2006, 10:38 pm

I like growing tomatoes in the green house about 8″ apart and get really good results. Cutting them back at about 5 feet to allow for everything to ripen before the first frost. Only heat the greenhouse if necessary in the spring if frosts are a bit to persistant.
A great weed killer for small areas is in in quart spray bottle…Fill with about 1/4 cup of salt and 4 table spoons of dishsoap and then the rest with vinegar. Safe for organics and won’t lay waste to everything else. Works best on a hot sunny day to allow the vinegar to burn off the leaves of weeds. Great for around fruit trees and blueberries.

Oldroses June 17, 2006, 4:28 pm

Gee, I didn’t know the condition had a name! Im definitely there, “getting behind” has turned into “being behind”. I’m resigned to the fact that those last half dozen packets of seeds won’t get planted this year. I should just sit back and enjoy the ones that did get planted.

M Sinclair Stevens (Texas) June 17, 2006, 4:26 pm

I’ve never lived in a climate where strawberries grew in the wild, but I did have a similar childhood memory of gathering pecans in the fall. I think that there is a pretty neat thrill to gathering food that is just lying there for the taking. What joy! What riches! As a child I thought gathering pecans was as fun as an Easter egg hunt. And pecans don’t have the immediate satisfaction of pop-in-your-mouth strawberries. For me that is an unimaginable delight! (Lovely photo.)