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The 36-Hour Day

with Lylah M. Alphonse

I'm a full-time editor, a part-time writer, and a mom and stepmom to five amazing kids, ages 1 to 14. For me it's not about finding balance, it's about the daily juggle-- my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting-- and finding the time to get it all done.

To learn more about Lylah, check out her Work It, Mom! profile and read her blog at

Growing comfort in the garden

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, The Juggle


I kill plants.

You think I’m exaggerating, but believe me, I am not. I have killed cacti by sheer neglect. Just tonight I remembered that the cute Peter Rabbit pot on my 4-year-old’s bookshelf contained an African Violet that I put there eight months ago and hadn’t thought about since. (It did not survive.) When we first moved into our house, I was helping my husband plant tulip bulbs when he stopped me and said, “Hey, you know, the pointy ends GO UP.”

Suffice it to say that my thumbs are not green so much as they are THE THUMBS OF DEATH for plants. Kids, I can raise. People, I can nourish. Plants? Not so much.

So my husband is in charge of planting and maintaining the garden, and I am in charge of harvesting and processing the produce. This arrangement suits nicely, because my husband is great at starting projects, and I am The Queen of Procrastination but am good at tying up loose ends.

A few weeks ago we went shopping for tiny baby plants and sweet little packets of seeds, and this past weekend my husband planted. Tomatoes (eight kinds, all heirlooms), cucumbers (eating and pickling), pole beans, summer squash, zucchini, butternut squash, basil, thyme, peppermint, spearmint, rosemary, sage. I had prepped the blackberry patch when spring was still new — I can pull out weeds, once I know which ones they are — and it has grown into a thorny, bud-filled thicket. Strawberry plants are waiting to go into a container on the deck, where we hope they’ll be safe from rabbits. The apple trees we set out last year are already starting to swell with nubs that will grow into fruit.

This morning, I looked out at the raised beds and saw the small leaves sticking out of the rich compost and dirt and felt… secure. Comforted. Relieved. If all goes well, a good garden means a full pantry at the end of the summer, and that means a lot when times are looking tough.

Sure, I could always run to the grocery store. But homegrown green beans have spoiled me for the kind that comes from a water-spritzed bin. It’s a rush to run outside and pick veggies for that night’s salad. And there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from reaching into a cupboard and pulling out a jar of something you made yourself.

Not just satisfaction, I’ll admit; there’s a feeling of having control over something in an out-of-control world. I can’t control the economy, but I can save money and eat locally out of my own backyard. I can’t control the artificial ingredients in processed foods, but I can control what I’m stirring into a bubbling pot of jam. I can’t control what’s going on at the office, but I can fill my pantry with jars of homemade pickles and chutneys and sauces, getting a jump start on Christmas gifts I probably won’t be able to afford to buy a few months from now.

This year especially, our garden is growing more than plants. It’s growing comfort in a crazy world.

I’m keeping my killer thumbs far away until the first tomatoes look ripe.

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2 comments so far...

  • I planted one strawberry plant 3 years ago and it has multiplied into about 100 plants. They are very low maintenance. My family and I enjoy making countless strawberry recipes each year! For some reason, I find it very relaxing and peaceful to go out in the morning and water them. Gardens can be very rewarding.

    SavingQueen  |  May 28th, 2009 at 12:00 pm

  • Oh yeah . . . there is NOTHING like a homegrown tomato in summer! Mine usually don’t even make it to the house before they’re eaten!

    Elaine at Lipstickdaily  |  May 29th, 2009 at 11:04 am

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