Meg, The Cream Of The Crop

THE REAL DIRT

November 22, 1992|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

Life with a gardening nut is no picnic. Ask my wife. She says she's tired of playing second fiddle to the flowers and vegetables in my garden. That's silly, of course. Meg means much more to me than the flowers.

We were married 17 years ago, on a warm November day that would have found me puttering around the yard, if not for a previous commitment. The wedding ceremony itself is a blur. I remember Meg's radiance as we exchanged vows, and I promised to love her in sickness and in drought -- er, health.

Two months later, along came Tillie. It's not what you think. Tillie was a rototiller, the first addition to our new home. The selection of a 5-horsepower garden machine was cause for debate. Meg wanted a sofa. I wanted Tillie. Meg smiled sweetly. I threw a fit.

From the time Tillie arrived, I suspect Meg was jealous of her. Friends would say, "It must be exciting to furnish your new house," and Meg would glare outside at the rototiller. She had a point. Tillie would have made a lousy couch.

But Meg seems to understand my obsession with gardening. I've lost two wedding rings in the back yard. I've tracked enough dirt into the house to fill a dump truck. Yet we're still married.

Once, Meg even let me drive home from a local farm with steaming bag of horse manure beside me in the car. (We bought a pickup truck soon thereafter.)

I've dropped armloads of fresh produce on the dinner table just as she was setting it. I survived, but only because she had spoons, and not knives, in her hand at the time.

On hot summer days, when yard chores beckon from dawn to dusk, I change clothes more often than a model at a fashion show. By nightfall, the laundry room smells like a locker room, and Meg is giving me looks that say, "Why don't you bury these clothes in the compost heap?"

Yet we're still married.

Generally, Meg accepts my obsessive behavior. She lets me plan our vacation around the tomato harvest each year. On cold winter nights I lie in bed, drooling over the pictures in seed catalogs. My wife doesn't mind a bit. If I'm going to ogle tomatoes, she wants it to be the real thing.

She goes along with most of my goofy garden schemes, like the time I used the beach umbrella to shade the cucumber patch. Or the time I ordered a vegetable bouquet from the florist for her for Valentine's Day.

Meg did express concern over my plan to sleep overnight in the garden, using an overgrown zucchini for a pillow. She thought I was nuts. "The only person I know who stayed in the garden all night was Linus, and he's a cartoon," she said.

I hope she'll respect my wish to be buried beneath the veggies for eternity. No offense, dear, but I want to rest alongside my loved ones, namely the asparagus. I'm sure there's room for two.

My wife gives thoughtful Christmas gifts. Once I got wheelbarrow. Another year it was a 6-foot apple picker. Meg has also surprised me with a cold frame, a tree-pruning device and a redwood table with plant lights that is perfect for starting seedlings indoors. Most of her gifts are impossible to wrap, much less place beneath the tree. I dress warmly on Christmas morning, because I expect to be sent outside to the garden shed to find at least one present.

And how do I repay my wife? By turning on the garden hose the instant she steps into what had been a hot shower.

Yet we're still married.

Meg has helped me through numerous garden-related crisesShe nursed me when I burned myself trying to extinguish a fire in the lawn mower. She bandages me when I impale myself on pitchforks and tree branches. She even rescued my crops when I was bedridden with a bad back. She must have picked 30 cucumbers that day. Secretly, I envy my wife. She can garden for hours and still look like June Cleaver.

In fact, after 17 years of marriage, I can honestly say that my wife is a real Peach. That's no surprise; it's a family name. Frankly, I'm jealous. There are more Peaches in her family tree than there were on my peach tree this year.

Gardeners notice things like that.

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