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Steamboat Springs I've just come from my husband's garden to see if there is anything I can harvest while he is back East visiting his parents. It's pathetic out there. I found one zucchini blossom and two puny green tomatoes that might be ready for harvest by the middle of the month.
Ever since he retired two years ago, my husband is driving me crazy. We live in Steamboat Springs, where the winters are long and the summers are short. Most days, he pads around the house in his favorite sweats and SmartWool socks, moving from the computer in his study to his favorite living room chair where he piles his papers and stacks of unread books. Sometimes, he leaves the comfort of the living room to follow me around the house asking questions such as: "What are you doing today?" "When will you be home?" "Would you like to take a walk with me?"
All good questions that I don't want to answer.
He has never been a gardener and has few hobbies, so when he returned the first time from the local hardware store with 50 seed packets, I was happy. Truthfully.
It will give him something to do, I thought.
Then the 4-foot-high compost bin was delivered, with assembly instructions included, and the pail for organic material appeared on the kitchen counter. At a garden fundraiser, my husband was convinced to buy 20 heirloom tomato plants surrounded by their little plastic rain-wall protectors. He placed them on the deck. He sprouted plants of rosemary, basil, thyme and winter savory on the walkway and had to divert foot traffic to the back door. Now I'm having trouble opening my car door in the garage. Every spare inch of space is covered with bags of soil and pots and plants and hoes and shovels. I think they are mating out there in the dark. I've started parking outside.
I'm anxious he might be disappointed. We live at an elevation of 6,770 feet, and we have only 59 days of a possible growing season, so gardening is really an act of faith. And this man is no Johnny Appleseed. The closest he's gotten to the soil was when he had to dig out a narrow channel in the yard to drain the severe snowmelt in April.
I'm trying to be a realist. I've had a garden in this climate, and after months of gardening, I harvested only a few lettuce leaves and four rows of garlic that came up the next spring.
The local bears already got to his compost bin. They not only knocked it down but also broke it apart. My husband spent the day Gorilla-gluing it back together. He had to fix the compost bin quickly because he has to be ready for the three neighborhood women who are bringing him their organic compost every day. At least I think that's what they're bringing him. The gathering of compost has become a ritual and gives him a social outlet.
I hate to see my husband disappointed by the failure of his grand project, and I worry about what that failure might mean to me. I can't give up the comfy chair and the floor space I've reclaimed. Most important, I can't give up the blessed silence.
They say good relationships are based on letting your partner take their own risks and not trying to "fix" things for them. So, what do I do? Do I speak out to warn him of the possible losses of gardening in this climate? Or should I just relax, let him play in the yard and hope for the best? Buy him that fancy spade he covets for his birthday? And enjoy the silence of the next few weeks while I have it?
Yes, I think that's the best plan - for everyone involved.
Barbara Prettyheart Hoff is a 30-year resident of Steamboat Springs. She is a practicing pyschotherapist.