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Views from the Carrot Condo

(post, Trista Cornelius)


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An Arctic Spa hot tub came with the purchase of our house.  Friends Oh’d, Ah’d, and Oh-la-la’d the plush tub.  My husband and I, on the other hand, gave it our best shot, deciding to keep it for one year.  One friend assured me that I would use it every day, but broiling my muscles in a vat of steaming water in the backyard did not relax me.  After I planted my first vegetable garden, I’d try to nestle down into the tub’s shoulder massagers, but then crabgrass waving at me defiantly unsettled my slouch, or an extended family of slugs footing their way to my baby peas launched me out of the tub, the sharp egg and oyster shells scattered to deter them stabbed my bare feet while paving their way.  

After the beginner’s luck of my first garden harvest—heirloom tomatoes the size of pumpkins, fava beans the color of emeralds, rainbow chard so rich it stained the kitchen counter crimson and orange—I begrudged the hot tub for taking up the warmest, sunniest, best food-producing spot in the backyard.  So, we gave it away for the price of moving it.  After an industrious and muscular friend rolled it home, I borrowed Building Outdoor Structures by Scott McBride from the public library.  

I showed my dad the chapter on raised garden beds.  His passion for designing and building matched my fervor for gardening.  For months, we dreamed and drafted so fastidiously that my friend dubbed the bed “The Carrot Condo.”  Not only did the name stick, the finished product matches the lofty title:  a 3x6 foot bed, nearly two feet tall, filled with a dynamic mixture of soil, including “mushroom compost,” which the guy on the phone explained “is basically horse manure.”  Next to The Carrot Condo, my dad and husband built a 2x2 foot bed from the cut pieces of untreated cedar, which we named “The Lentil Rental.”  

I know, it’s a fancy way to pile dirt and a plush way to grow food.  The sturdy structures brimming with rich soil suggest anything will grow, and even though I know better, I’ve nearly forgotten the pre-Carrot Condo Fava Bean Tragedy of ’08 when ice, snow, and wind chill factors eviscerated all but one of the nearly 40 fava beans I planted.  A little amnesia and a lot of optimism are good for a gardener, at least for this gardener, who is happily assuming everything she plants in the first season of these beds will flourish.  

Now, my husband likes to say, in the voice of Robin Leach, “We’re out at the condo,” as if we own a share in some luxury tropical retreat.  So, just like other people post stories about their vacations, almost always including a snapshot of the view from their hotel balcony, these are views from The Carrot Condo:  stories about the adventures and magic of a plant-centered life.