Laying the Groundwork and Planting the Seeds

Back in late June I blogged about all the wonderful things I did that month instead of writing.  This was my first stint at our funky old cottage in Chautauqua, New York, and between plumbers and carpenters, cleaning and weeding out, and yes, meeting and enjoying the company of neighbors, I ended up with far fewer chapters than I’d expected.  Instead, I went home refreshed and plunged right into the story.  When you take time to fill the well, the water is clear and pure and the most arid of ideas suddenly blossoms.

In June I also did something utterly crazy.  Despite a million things to do in my “new” house and yard, I took on a community garden plot.  It was there.  It was offered to me.  I love to garden.  Crazy or not, I said yes.  Then I saw it.  Because it had been someone else’s the year before, someoe who had decided at the last minute not to pursue it, the weeds were knee high.  My heart sank.  So many weeds, so little time.  Somehow, I got them out, a few at a time as I walked by each morning with Nemo.   Then it was time to plant.

I was planning to be gone for five weeks.  What grows without tending for five weeks?  I would plant and drive away.  The organizer of the garden said she would do light watering and weeding while I was away, but would that be enough?  No time for a fence, either.  Would the plot survive rabbits, drought and anything else I wasn’t there to shoo away?

Call me an optimist, but I planted tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, zucchini, cilantro, rosemary, parsley, beans, hot peppers, and sweet peppers.  In order to plant the tomatoes, I had to dig holes several feet deep so I could sink cages around them.  I did battle with numerous rocks.  No hope for this garden, I was sure, but I’d come this far.  No point in stopping now.

On Saturday we arrived back at the cottage, and drove over to see the garden.  I’ve never been more surprised.  The garden is huge.  I harvested three perfect cucumbers.  There are dozens of hot peppers.  The beans are on their way.  Tomatoes?  I’m hopeful, but there’s enough basil to make pints of pesto sauce, and even the cilantro is growing.  We’ll be eating from the garden for the rest of the summer. 

Life can be like this, and certainly novels can be.  We till the ground, then we plant the seeds.  And sometimes we leave our hard work behind, letting the fates and a few good friends nurture what we have begun.  When we come back, the harvest is beyond our expectations.  The craziest ideas sometimes bear fruit. 

I have a new “series” idea in progress now.  I’m laying the groundwork and planting the seeds.  And I’m hopeful that someday when I come back to it, I will have a rich harvest for all of us to enjoy.  More than ever, I trust the process.  And when I forget to?  I’ll remember my garden plot.

I’m already planning what I’ll grow next year.


  1. Sylvia Bobbitt on August 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    How wonderful to see the fruits of your labor! Especially after such a challenging summer weather and time-wise!

    This year I am changing my garden to berries because I have discovered the joy of canning jam. No one in my house really eats it, but I love making it and giving it away! So next year I will have home grown blueberries and strawberries and the next year also raspberries!

    Enjoy your time in Chatauqua – I’ll be in Chantilly next week and at Wolf Trap this Sunday night! Sylvia

    • Emilie Richards on August 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm

      I love berries, too. Unfortunately, so do our birds in VA. I hope you’re in a place where they have lots of other things to eat and you reap a bountiful harvest. I just picked enough green beans for dinner, plus enough basil for everyone on my street. What fun this is. You have fun, too, at Wolf Trap. It’s such a great place.

  2. Becky in Georgia on August 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    What a great comparison of life, gardens and stories! You are so right on target. Thanks for sharing your garden adventure with us! Always enjoy a new series by an author I love!

  3. Debbie Haupt on August 12, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Emilie, that was a wonderful article and I’m not surprised by the garden’s growth. It takes very little effort on our part and a lot of effort on the earth’s part to grow a garden. Growing a life, well that another story, it takes all the tlc we can get wherever we can get it, be it in a chapel out in the wilderness or at home in the suburbs but the comparison you gave hit the nail on the head.
    An idea for a new series, that shouldn’t surprise me either, those tomatoes might have opened up a whole new area in your creative thinking. Ha!

    What ever it is I can’t wait to discover it with the rest of your fans.

  4. Lisa Hansen Johnson on August 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I am sorry I missed you at Chau. I met some of your family in an afternoon session in the Hall of Philosophy. I believe it was your sister-in-law who told me she had graduated from Notre Dame and knew my former next door neighbor. I told them you probably wouldn’t remember me from Boca Ciega so I didn’t want to impose on your holiday. Traveling this summer has been fun. I also met someone while diving in Mexico who was originally from Clearwater and we had a mutual friend. Congratulations on a stellar career!

    • Emilie Richards on August 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm

      I’m terrible at names. Wonder if we were in any classes together? I was in choir and Baker’s Dozen and accompanied for both. Other than that, not a lot of activities. Sorry we didn’t meet while you were here. Joyce told me about you and I was sorry I’d missed that lecture and you. Maybe next time you’re here?

Leave a Comment