It was the worst of times.

I want to thank a Nextdoor reader for reaching out to me yesterday to see if I was alright. She had not seen a post from me in a while and was concerned. That was just plain kind.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Charles Dickens wrote that, and the first time I read it I thought that he was being melodramatic. Just goes to show me, I guess.

Lately I have been huddled away at home subjecting myself to being garden shamed. So many of my industrious friends are pruning their ivy or building fences. I have a quarter acre of lawn and a dozen planter boxes needing attention. A friend said to me, that my reading their posts merely inspired me. Nope, I feel the burn of shame. So this weekend I whacked the weeds, mowed the lawn, all-the-while kicking the ball for the dogs in between the passing of rows. I purchased a new garden hose as the old one had burst in multiple places and planted seeds for lettuce, giant sunflowers and sweet baby watermelons.

My box of beets and red carrots have already started to push. The tomatoes, which I began from purchased starters, clock in at around 12 plants this year. A mix of orange, yellow and funkily shaped heirloom tomatoes will delight your BLT’s at Provisions later this summer. Oh! I did plant a Roma this year, so that I might make a little fresh sauce for my pasta or Chicken Parmesan. The dill weed I planted months ago is filling out but the spinach that I tried between the fruit trees was overcome by crabgrass.  Later this spring I am going to attempt to dig out as much of that incredulous little monster as is possible, without damaging my blood orange tree roots.

I am a little excited. A few years back I planted said blood orange tree with visions of a communal Sangria bowl in the future. The tree itself has always been healthy and green, but never flower nor fruit to be seen. I read somewhere, this past winter, that the soil was probably too rich in nitrogen and weak in other nutrients. Rachel Hoff of Grow a Pear Nursery, here in Vallejo, always recommends testing your soil. It is inexpensive and easy. Turns out the soil was low in potassium and now my little pretty is festooned with lovely, little white blossoms, so sweet to the smell. I look forward to that first blush of fruit in my glass.

My asparagus bed is about 4 years old now and is feeling its oats. I should back up and say that this last winter I headed up to American Canyon to pick up two truckloads of rich, ripe compost for which to feed my yard. I felt sorry for my neighbors because after I had spread both loads generously atop all of my boxes and planting beds there was this certain – pong – to the air. More than one neighbors popped their heads out of their houses and asked me if I smelled something. Sheepishly I replied, “It was me.” Fancying myself an Aqua Velva man, and not wishing to put off any potential partners in the following evening’s conversation,  I showered, twice as long, and reapplied said, branded aftershave before heading out that night. Only a faint wisp of musk followed me, or so I am told.

Truthfully, this last week has been a bit hard for me. I found myself faced, on multiple fronts, with the choice of addressing situations head on, as I am want, or deferring to a more political stance which will keep me quietly employed. Question: Do I save myself for another day, or at my age, and with the level of responsibility I bear, is today the day I have been saving myself for?  The thought of slipping into quiet retirement is a pleasant one. Best definition ever for being prepared for retirement. Having just enough to be snug with a bit left over for a pint.  This is my goal, to be snug.

My oldest friend, that is to say the friend with whom I have been acquainted with for the most number of years, and I had a pleasant conversation the other day. His is as bright a mind as I have ever had the pleasure of being challenged by and the topic of our collective present situation quickly rose to the forefront. We batted it back and forth a bit like the beleaguered little shuttle cock that it is, and somewhere betwixt the pummeling and ground this thought spun off:

Best thing to do in a pandemic: Shelter in place to avoid infection.

Worst thing to do in a pandemic: Shelter in place to avoid infection.  Cuz if you are never exposed, you cannot develop antibodies.

It was the best of times . . .

Yes, I miss you all too and promise to keep in touch,

Tommy Judt


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