Friday, April 25, 2008


I have one face time friend who occasionally reads this blog. He pointed out that the word amateur means doing something for the love of it. I guess the incompetent gardener moniker which came up in my last post didn't seem quite right to him; i.e., incompetence implying that I'm really bad at gardening.

I had a couple of things in mind when I wrote that last post, and I suppose I'll get around to them in this post. But first I'll say a bit more about The Incompetent Gardener.

When I started to write about gardening as The Incompetent Gardener many years ago, I think what I had in mind wasn't so much being a bad gardener, as it was being a gardener without proper qualifications. One definition of qualification in the American Heritage Dictionary is:
Any quality, accomplishment, or ability that suits a person to a specific position or task.
Looking back after all these years, I suppose I was uniquely "qualified" to make my garden, but certainly I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't really even set about to make a garden.

Mostly what I've done is to try to solve problems. When we first moved here almost thirty years ago the grass and bramble was high and the place littered with remnants of a once productive farm. There were fallen down out buildings all over, the rusted body of and old egg truck, and a similar wreck of a combine or some such piece of farm equipment hidden in the weeds and debris. There were literally tons of debris. So the garden started out by way of clean up.

There's a story told, although I can't remember where I heard or read it, of a woman who every year for several years was enticed to buy seed packets by the lovely pictures of flowers on them. Every year for several years she got no flowers. then one year a packet also included a picture of what the seedlings look like. The picture looked familiar, and it dawned on her she'd been meticulously weeding out the flower seedlings. Once she let the seedlings grow the flowers seemed all the more wonderful for her years of fruitless effort, and she got hooked. Somewhere along the line I got hooked on gardening too.

Part of what I mean by calling myself an incompetent gardener are surprises similar to her misstep; where as much as we try to teach the land and flora a thing or two it's the land and flowers that teach us. Over the years I've written about my garden, and one place or another I can find a lump of this writing.

I've been in contact with a group of students at Makarere University in Kampala who have formed an organization to write and publish textbooks for use in Uganda. They hope to make them available to students cheaper than what's available now. The pressing challenge is some money to get this balloon off the ground. But that's just one of the many challenges.

I have thought to pull some of my garden writing together in a book published by the on-demand publisher Lulu. The organization has set some modest and attainable goals, foremost the acquisition of a computer. So I thought that sales of a book, The Incompetent Gardener, might be something I could do to assist them. that was the brainstorm anyway.

The idea for the book fits together with several other ideas. One of the issues is finding ways to use information and communication technologies to further education in Uganda. I'm so excited about the organization, they call themselves Science Publishing And Community Elevation, SPACE, because it's Ugandans making educational materials that will fit in Uganda. But the members are only just exploring computer software and Internet collaboration. So I thought to make the preparation of the book public and online, so that the members of SPACE could get a look at some of the ways of using online tools. And in the back of my mind the thought occurred to me that perhaps there are other authors who might consider using sales of Lulu published books in support of their effort in the future.

I haven't figured it all out yet, but that's what I was thinking about when I wrote about puttering in the garden. I still am puttering, the weather has been beautiful and spring in Western Pennsylvania is lovely. I'm not very good about getting my camera out, so the picture was taken several years ago. I chose it because now many of the white daffodils are in bloom. The ones in the picture are called Thalia or the Orchid Narcissus. They have a lovely fragrance, as do many of the later blooming daffodils. My favorite is the Poet's Narcissus, probably my favorite flower fragrance of all. They are so willing, that is they increase or naturalize easily. And the ones blooming now were planted long ago by former inhabitants here.

1 comment:

Afriboy said...

Thoughtful idea. Your post reminded me of garden painting I have just finished. Yes, what you highlight here is true: the price of knowledge is great.