Photo by Gary Smith, Courtesy of Allposters.com
So, I went to the Friends' Plant Sale today with my sister to buy some plants for our summer garden. This sale is a fundraiser for the Friend's School and it is serious business, people. Thousands of people descend on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for this annual sale and it's only gotten bigger every year. There was nothing like this in the area in Florida where I spent the last 8 years. It's plant season all year long there; people just don't get as excited.
Ths was not the first time I'd been to the sale. I think I went about 14 years ago. When I went, it was at or near the actual school - at any rate, it was a much smaller site. Folks pulled wagons for their purchases. Now, it's a whole different story... or a whole 'nother, which is often the way people say it (have you noticed??).
Now people pull around wagons with towers attached to them. I saw a four-level tower today: the base a wagon and one of those plastic shelving units with the bottom legs bowed into the wagon and three levels up on top. You know... for all your plants.
Now there is a system in place (tally-takers, separate from those who actually take the money, for example) - a well-designed system, of course - to get you through easily and I can say that it was exceptionally easy.
Now there is a numbered area where you can place all your plants when you're done and you can go and get your car for easy pick-up... kind of like the airport baggage claim... but with plants.
Oh, Minnesota. You and your love of your short-lived growing season! Like concentrated laundry detergent you will take your tablespoonful of time and the sunshine and grow for all you are worth!
It was wonderful to see the glee on the faces of so many (and one in particular who was shopping with me) all together with their gardens in their minds' eyes. I wanted to ask each one, "What are you planting this year? What does your garden look like? Is it large or small? Do you have containers or boxes or beds? Is this your first garden or your fortieth? Will you can or freeze at the end of the season or do you share your abundance with neighbors? Is there something new you're trying this year? What is YOUR favorite tomato?"
I haven't been away from the Sunshine State long enough to feel my pulse quicken over planting season yet. Especially since we've had such a warm winter - a cheater, really - I haven't been starved for the greenery that I know my fellow Minnesotans feel. But I do remember it and I know that feeling will return. My sister has taken the day off of work every year for the past few years to volunteer at the tally tables. Volunteering gets you in early on Thursday night for the first pickins. This year she's already home because she's on maternity leave, but apparently she's not the only one who takes a three-day weekend to work the plant sale properly, as I overheard from one conversation.
Another snippet of conversation that floated past went something like this, "...that's the technique that my Grandma Bell taught me, so that's what I do." So sweet, this simple act of growing food.
So, my sister and her husband are making room in their garden for me and my family this year. It's working out in a perfectly symbiotic way of sorts: she just had the baby and didn't think she'd be able to handle the garden this year and we won't be in our new house until the end of June and certainly won't be putting in a garden until next year. So for 50 bucks a piece we look forward to: arugula, aparagus, 2 kinds of beets, brussels sprouts, celery (red!), broccoli, leeks, scallions, kale, bok choi, kohlrabi, 3 kinds of tomatoes, a new-to-us, climbing spinach, peas, carrots, swiss chard, 2 kinds of lettuce, beans, summer squash, basil, spearmint, chocolate mint (!), oregano, tarragon, thyme, chives, popcorn (!), strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sweet red peppers and orange peppers, pickling cucumbers, rhubarb... and... oh, I just can't remember any more!
Summer, summer, with your gorgeous array of flower and vegetable! I am so excited to welcome you and see what you will bring forth! And my favorite tomato? Brandywine. Oh yes. Right off the vine or on a warm plate with olive oil, basil, sea salt and cracked pepper. Tomorrow is the work day. It all goes in the ground! It's so, so worth it.