For the Love of Veggies

When I was a little girl, my much-older brother came home to central Florida for a summer visit, and we decided to garden. It was to be a vegetable garden fit for a king, and in the process my brother would teach me how delicious hard work could taste!

We dug up half the back yard and spent hours upon hours yanking out roots and digging up rocks. When the soil was clean, we hired ourselves out to a local horse ranch, shoveling manure out of the stalls and filling the back of our dad’s pick-up truck. All that manure was then shoveled into our freshly-tilled garden plot. We hoed and turned and watered down, wading in slushy, smelly goodness, until the soil was ready to go.

We planted everything under the sun and reaped a harvest the likes of which I have not seen since. And that was the beginning of my love of collard greens straight from the back yard!

Since that time, I haven’t gardened nearly enough. There was no time, no big brother to push me, or no plot of ground available.

After I was married and living in northern California, I tried again. Several years of dismal crops taught me lessons about the California soil, and I tried once more. Just as my garden was looking pretty good, we moved to southern California where it’s all different again.

Over the years, I’ve tried to plant, but I seem to have a brown thumb. I might be the only person in the world, for instance, who can’t seem to grow zuchini! And I like zuchini. Let’s just say I’m happy that others often grow too much.

My one success has been collard greens. They just seem unkillable. We’ve had them braised, boiled, and sauteed. We’ve etaen them with bacon, hog jowls, and turkey wings. I’ve served them with vinegar, with sugar, with beats. Everyone in our family likes them, and I’ve even convinced a few California friends to take a taste. They smiled politley but didn’t ask for a second helping. Southern California is not The South after all.

For the past four years, I have refrained from planting anything because of our deep drought and water restrictions. Our yard looks terrible; everything is dead. Only the collard greens, bless their little hardy hearts, have survived.

Then, this year, I was promised by my trusty weather experts that we would have an El Nino. There would be rain and lots of it!

I waited.

When the first rain of the winter fell, I planted, and I planted big. I was so excited! My garden was so pretty. There would be so much food! After that, it rained exactly two more times, and we still have stringent water restrictions.

Today, as I type, it is 90 degrees, with zero chance of rain, and 10% humidity. The arid Santa Ana winds are blowing like there is some place important to go, and all my beautiful green babies are wilted and frowning and not likely to survive. Except the collards, of course. They just keep growing, thank you, God!

Now, can someone please convince my husband to take me back to Florida where it rains and stuff grows?

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