Too much wind, too little rain. Why does it take extreme events for us to realize what truly matters? My heart goes out to all who have the wearisome task of pulling their lives back together after our recent tornadoes.
I hope they find some small joys in the help from a stranger and the hug from a new friend. It brings a whole new meaning to being thankful that we have a roof over our heads.
As a gardener, I am thankful for many things. I am thankful that I can look into the eye of a flower and see the beauty of the whole world. I am thankful for wild places and for people who passionately work to keep them wild. I'm thankful that malodourous manure becomes the sweet black gold of compost. I'm thankful that I get to work with some of the most giving people in the world — gardeners.
A few entries in my gardening gratitude journal:
— The smell of freshly turned soil on a warm spring day.
— The taste of the first homegrown strawberry of the season.
— The taste of the last homegrown tomato of the season.
— The first frost in fall so we can quit watering the tomatoes.
— Garden catalogs that fill my mailbox and my dreams with bodacious blooms and voluptuous vegetables.
— Farmers' markets and local growers who provide the aforementioned bodacious blooms and voluptuous vegetables when my dreams fall short.
— Bears and rattlesnakes not being on our list of garden pests.
— A loving husband who calmly waits on a garden bench for my return to reality when I enter my glassy-eyed new plant trance.
— Eating machines called caterpillars that miraculously turn into exquisite flights of fanciful butterflies.
— Creeping Charlie that makes my lawn look lush and green from far away.
— Garden failures that give us a chance to learn and a reason to go shopping for another plant.
— Security that we don't feel the need to carry a gun when we garden.
— The four seasons of gardening: spring — hurry and get it planted; summer — water, weed and harvest; fall — more planting, more weeding and more harvesting; and winter — finally time to rest, reminisce and plan next year's do over.
— That we share the planet with plenty of other insane gardeners, so we don't look quite so crazy.
— Plants that continue to thrive despite our neglect.
— The continuing sense of inspiration and survival when we commune with a 200-year-old oak.
— The people who work to pro- tect the land dominated by 200- year-old oak trees.
— Plants listed as not eaten by rabbits and deer.
— The ongoing discovery of the real list of which plants are not eaten by rabbits and deer.
— Tomatoes that still produce something edible despite sharing their space with 3-foot-tall weeds.
— Spring flowers that magically appear after a long cold winter.
— Roses that continue to bloom in November.
— The freedom to grow vegetables because we want to, not because we have to.
— The optimistic attitude that next year will be better.
— The selective memory to weed out the mental mess of garden plans unfulfilled.
Join other thankful gardeners in the Master Gardener program. Training for Master Gardeners in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties starts at the end of January in three locations: Champaign, Danville and Onarga, but applications are due Dec. 6. Check out http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/ for more information and to apply.
Sandra Mason is unit educator, horticulture and environment, for the UI Extension, Champaign County. Contact her with questions or comments at 801 N. Country Fair Drive, Champaign, IL 61821, call 333-7672, email email@example.com or fax 333-7683.