Veggie Patch Dispatch: Sweet Potatoes are Assholes

Seriously, they are. Those no good motherfuckers. Dudes. Some of you already know about Veggiopolis. It was my first-ever attempt at anything like vegetable gardening. Unless you count two little pots of rosemary and other assorted odds and ends – all potted and chillin’ on my half-rotten deck. Yeah, I didn’t think so.

The Setup:

A couple of women at work are always yammering on about their homegrown veggies. Now this is something I’d wanted to try for years: a little backyard veggie garden. I’m not a big veggie eater. In fact, I usually look upon them with scorn and scoot them right the hell over if they dare hop onto my plate. But a veggie garden sounded fun. At least one of my mamaws had a serious green thumb, but she had zero interest in passing her know-how on to anyone else. So I collected the random book and internet article, but I was too overwhelmed and afraid of failing to ever get anything going.

I mentioned this long discarded desire to Queen Bitch of the Universe, she of the supposed Super Garden. And then I took her advice on so many things. I thought, hell, it’s easier to rely on someone’s word of mouth information from experience than it is to try to pry that shit out of books and the internet and pick what I think may work best. This was gonna be guaranteed success! Seeds and starters and tips from Queen Bitch Master Gardener Extraordinaire herself! Don’t worry, I knew this would come with head swelling and bragging, and I was right. It wasn’t long before I had to take a chainsaw to the office entryway so that Queen Bitch’s head could fit through.

Well guess the fuck what. Queen Bitch is not only Queen Bitch but she’s also Queen Moron, because my poor woebegone Veggie Patch suffered from woebegotten advice. (Don’t you love those words? They’re woebeawesome!) No, it wasn’t just the scorching record-breaking summer heat! No, it wasn’t just the record-breaking drought! It was also that woebegotten advice! (Hehe there it is again. I’m not even certain it’s a real word. But it is to me. And that’s all that counts, isn’t that right Velveteen Rabbit and Pinocchio?)

Where it all went wrong:

You see, I planted sweet potato slips in my little raised bed veggie patch. Only 4 slips. And I gave them four squares…or four square feet of growing area. Yeah. Those of you that know gardening and things probably see where this is headed.

This past weekend was supposed to be harvest time. Time to dig up those sweet taters. The vines and leaves looked lush and gorgeous. They’ve been the healthiest citizens of Veggiopolis to date, well those and my green onions. I decide to tackle the sweet potato area one square at a time. There were only four, but I liked the idea of being systematic about it.

Gingerly, timidly I tug on the vine nearest my perch at the edge of the patch. It’s rooted pretty well, so I pull harder. Success: the piece of vine in hand comes up and dislodges from the soil. But it breaks off at the surface. I realize I need to use my little spade if I want this to go quickly and efficiently.

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I dig in and find a thick thread of root. Tossing the spade aside, I latch on to the root and start to pull, sliding my hand along and pulling as I go…a bit gentler now so as not to break the root again.

Dude.

Just how long is this root?

Seriously.

Wait, what the hell, man. What’s it doing over there? Ah well, that’s okay. I mean, it’s not like roots are going to obey some arbitrary boundaries between my marked off squares, right?

Oh no way. The square just to the left is nothing BUT sweet potato roots. No wonder that damn pumpkin died. I must be nearing the end, though, I think as I continue following this root to its end. I was positively flummoxed. Flabbergasted. Dumbfounded.

You wanna know where that root went? Hm? Yeah. You already know, don’t you? All the way to the timber bordering the box on the opposite side of Veggie Patch. Look, Veggiopolis is small, measuring 4 x 6 on the inside for 24 square feet of planting area. The sweet potatoes are in the bottom right corner from the way I was facing it. Which means the roots stretched clear across the 6′ length on the inside. And those assholes were not content to do a 1 x 6 spread. Oh no.

At this point, I started attacking the soil with vigor, hurling a vituperative verbal assault on the scheming Taters of Doom. I found sweet potato vines and creepers entangled with the long-dead roots of my green bean bushes. They never stood a chance. The snaking roots of the warring Tribe o’ Taters had infiltrated the carrots’ realm and annihilated them as well. And the poor peas. Situated as they were at the far opposite end of Veggiopolis, the English peas had struggled mightily. Oh how I believed in those peas. But they, too, had been slain in the end and succumbed to great forces of evil. And now I know why.

The devastating triad of Record Heat, Drought and Taters of Doom crushed all in its path. Not to mention the fact that I’m a rookie. My poor veggie patch had never stood a chance. Only the onions stood their ground. I have newfound respect for the Mighty Green Onions of Veggiopolis. Nevermore will I push them aside on my plate. I shall eat them and make their mightiness a part of me! (Ew. I’m pretty sure I just said something akin to becoming one with green onions. The fuck, man.)

You know nothin’, Jon Snow:

The moral of the story is this: Never paint your toenails on the Sabbath. Wait. Wrong moral. Or wrong story. Uhm. Oh yeah. Don’t put asshole sweet potatoes in a raised bed with other vegetables. Because Sweet Potatoes are Assholes. And also, Green Onions are for Winners. And no-nothing newbies should really do some more fucking research before walking to Mordor. I mean. Fuckin’ hell, I got sidetracked again. No wonder all my shit died.

The Harvest:

All that, and you wanna know what the harvest was? Hm? Words simply cannot do it justice. Let me show you. No, no. It’s no trouble. In fact, I insist.

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Yeah. And the thing is, I didn’t finish. So there are probably tens of those scrawny fucks scattered throughout Veggiopolis. Fucking insurgents. But I met a Bonus Asshole that ran me off before I could finish my work.

Bonus Asshole:

This son-of-a-bitch right here made me throw the spade, scream and run away.

Wally the Wolf Spider. That's right. His name is Wally. It just came to me, though he probably tried to tell me then.
Wally the Wolf Spider. That’s right. His name is Wally. It just came to me, though he probably tried to tell me then.

Don’t worry, I didn’t kill him. But my gardening fun was over for the afternoon following our rendezvous. I know wolf spiders aren’t really harmful; their venom doesn’t pack much punch. (That is a wolf spider, right?) Plus they’re good for gardens. But they’re not good for Stephanies. Oh no. Stephanies vividly imagine robbing wolf spiders of their lives by maniacally and repeatedly stabbing the shit out of them with the pointy end of a spade. And then Stephanies choose to let them live and run away instead.

P.S. I touched that asshole (ewwww the visuals) with my naked hand! No glove! You would have screamed and run, too! Don’t lie! Stop lying! Fine, I’m a wuss!

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Attack on Veggiopolis: The One where Stephanie Talks Herself into a Breakthrough and Finds Evidence of a Potato Lick-and-Run

Howdy Peoplleaneous!

Before we get started, let me just get this out of the way. You see that word up there? Ugh, not that one. The other one: Peoplleaneous. Yeah, that one. Dude. I fretted over that far longer than I should have. The way I should spell it, I mean. And this is what I settled upon. While I’m still not pleased with it, take it or leave it. (Please take it. It would miss you if you left it.)

Chapata One: The Pep-Talk

Now that bit of housekeeping is taken care of, let’s move along shall we? This morning started off well enough – better than usual, actually. I got this little grand idea of starting the day off with a pep talk from shaunk84 over at Tales in Anxiety. (Please check him out if you haven’t already. Good stuff.) It’s sort of like a verbal note-to-self to start your day off in a positive way. Since I spend so much of my time telling Stephanie what a right piece of shit she is, I know full well how powerful the words we speak to ourselves can be. So I put the pep-talk to the test.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror (just a regular one on the door of a medicine cabinet) in my bra and underwear and. Yeah. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t muster the strength while she just stood there all naked and gross. So I gave myself some wiggle room.

I cranked some jams, on and up. Damn, I haven’t done that in ages: listened to music while getting ready for work. That used to be part of my morning routine. Then depression took it from me. Well, I’m taking it back. I played Kenna’s “Make Sure They See My Face” album, because it’s one of those than seems to have a knack for getting me moving in spite of myself. This song in particular had me hopping around and smiling:

I went to get dressed for work, got all my shit together, then returned to the bathroom mirror. Psyched up and ready for myself.

This time I managed to do it. I didn’t say much…but I looked myself in the eye and said something like, “YNEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Gene Simmons of Kiss departs Ed Sullivan Theater on October 10, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)ou got this.” It was all mumbly and weird. So I laughed, raised my voice a little and looked me in the eye and said – bolder, louder – “Today is your bitch, and you’ve got this shit!” Then I opened my mouth, stuck my tongue out and shook my head back and forth, hands throwing that sign.

You know the look. Dear god, I hope I didn’t look as much a twat as he did/does. I did, didn’t I? You know what? I don’t give a fuck. It worked! I was embarrassed with myself, but I did it. And I was smiling, to boot. Smiling. On the way out the door. To work. Quelle surprise!

Chapata Two: Chinks in the Armor or Revenge of the Oatmeal

I managed to maintain that smile for an hour or so. And then I bit into breakfast, only to find I’d have to return to my dentist. I had a filling yesterday, so it wasn’t like I was eating bricks. Not for at least a couple more days yet. It was oatmeal, for fucks sake. And I suddenly had the sensation of an epidural-size needle (those ten-foot ones they show in the movies – that’s what they use, right?) driving straight through my jaw. Like some badass motherfucker was trying, with all his might, to pierce my skull. Yay me!

My armor suffered chink number one.

Then Queen Bitch of the Universe got to work. And commenced to being Queen Bitch of the Universe. Who gets even bitchier when I refuse to bow down. Then I let her talk me into going to lunch with her (the fuck is the matter with me?), where – you guessed it – things got even worse. It got so bad that I cried at my desk after lunch, before remembering that I’m in my thirties FOR. FUCKS. SAKE. and need to take ownership of my life. You don’t survive in Corporate America by being the nice girl. Your heart and soul get thrown into the blender, and they serve that shit alongside the stale-ass birthday cake on the table outside accounting.

My armor suffered chink number two.tumblr_nf5ji2AleY1s72k2ho1_r1_500i will sell this house

But I started polishing up my LinkedIn profile. Emphasis on started. I am one thousand percent shyte at networking. But I am going to improve on that, damnit. And I will get out of this shithouse job and into a new shithouse job if it’s the last thing I do!

Then I go to the dentist, and he proceeds to drill down my new filling….sans any numbing agents whatsoever. No little anbesol swabby thingy. No shots of anesthetic (yes I meant that to be plural. I’m a bitch to numb.). Nada. It was the best time I’ve ever had outside the time I broke my tailbone in the bowling alley.

My armor suffered chink number three.

After that, I decided to hell with it. I’m not going back to work this late in the day. So I headed to some department stores to look for shoes (for those stupid insole thingies that the podiatrist had me order). Went into four shops, none of which had a single friendly salesperson and none of which had any appropriate removable-insole footwear for sale. One lady was so mean that after she insulted me and walked off, I grabbed a credit app off of the check-out counter and scrawled a message in Sharpie: “Some customers actually do need assistance and aren’t just wasting your time. You could have gotten a commission off of me. THANKS FOR NOTHING.”

Passive Aggressive much? Yeah, I know…I know…But do you have any idea how hard it is for me to darken the doors of places like that, much less actually shop around, try things on, blah blah blah? Fuck it. I’m ordering online and will deal with returns if the size is wrong.

My armor suffered chink number four.

And then it happened. The dam burst, and I cried all the way home.

Chapata Three: The Squirrels Lay Siege to The Veggie Patch

After changing into comfy shit, I flopped face-first onto the bed and got the rest of my crying out. Got up. Blew my nose. Sat back down on the edge of the bed. Even the cats wouldn’t greet me. I mean, what the fuck man. I nearly called it quits on the day right then and there. Take my evening meds early so I wouldn’t miss ’em and just pass out and sleep ’til morning.

But the rain had broken. There was a drought here of several months, which suddenly broke on Saturday, and the rain hasn’t stopped since then until this evening. I looked out the window, from my perch on the edge of the bed, out toward Veggiopolis, and knew this could be my only shot for a few days. I needed to check on things and get some garlic in the ground.

I remembered my pep-talk. I remembered shaunk’s words. I remembered how good it felt to smile this morning. I remembered all the shit you hear about outdoors being good for you. And I forced myself out the back door. I wasn’t happy about it. I wanted to sulk and cry and feel sorry for myself and hate the world. But I did it. I got off my ass, and I did it.

Task #1 was to clear the eight thousand five-hundred seventy-six tons of pine-straw off of The Veggie Patch. Task #2 was to plant some garlic. Task #1 taken care of (holy balls, bending over that much makes me dizzy…), I move on to Task #2…

But wait. Wait a fucking minute. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!

A carrot goes about his daily life, happily and unobtrusively. What's that, you say? Oh my bad. He used to live there. Until he was carrotnapped.
A carrot goes about his daily life, happily and unobtrusively. What’s that, you say? Oh my bad. He used to live there. Until he was carrotnapped.

I think the proper question is, what WAS that? Look at all of that disturbed earth. The upset twine. The missing…that little fucker. A vicious squirrel has launched The War on Veggies. He stole my pre-pubescent carrot and maybe even ate him.  If I allow him to continue his shenanigans, Veggiopolis will become Veggiopolis-adjacent!

Ask me if he stopped there! Do it! Ask me! Oh no. Ohhhohohooohhhhhno he most certainly did not! Behold!

What's that? Oh, he only dug it up? No biggy, at least he left it for me, right? ...
What’s that? Oh, he only dug it up? No biggy, at least he left it for me, right? …

Have you any idea what that is? Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What's taters, precious?
What’s taters, precious? If left to his own devices, this little tater may have been president someday. Now we’ll never know. Thanks Obama.

Y’all know what time it is? It’s time to go to the mattresses.

You know what I’m gonna do with that poor underdeveloped tater? I’m gonna make the world’s smallest potato cannon and go Rambo on some squirrel ass!

HOUSE: House (Hugh Laurie, R) takes on his nemesis in an annual spud gun competition in
Better yet, I’ll hire House to do it. That way he can make the squirrel feel small and uesless and pathetic before pelting him with minitater.

Then I’m going to cook up some squirrel patties…hmm. We can’t call them burgers. Let’s call them squirgers. I’m going to cook squirgers and one-third of a french fry out of that tater. And then I’m going to go outside, sit with my legs propped up on the timbers of Veggiopolis, and eat that squirger and one-third length french fry right in front of the squirrel’s entire family.

“No, Stephanie! You mustn’t! That will incite revenge!” you frantically exclaim.

To which I say, bring it bitches. Do your worst, for I shall do mine. I’m going to fashion tiny daggers out of
any remaining carrots. And I’m going to arm the gnomes to the teeth.

To. The. Teeth!

In the meantime, since Tom Petty won’t back down, I figure I shouldn’t either. I mean, what’s good for the Petty is good for the gander or something like that.

I'm fighting back with garlic. Behold the Spanish Roja. Beware squirrels. And vampires. And especially vampire squirrels. And Bunnicula.

I’m fighting back with garlic. Behold the Spanish Roja. Beware squirrels. And vampires. And especially vampire squirrels. And Bunnicula.

King’s to you, Squirrel. King’s to you.

Chapata Four: Stephanie Prevails

The Veggie Patch shenanigans made me smile, and I prevailed. Yay me.

The Veggie Patch

I’ve never been a gardener, unless the kind I am in my imagination counts. Yeah…didn’t think so. I’ve always wanted to be, but I’m easily intimidated by new and (seemingly) complex ventures. Fear of failure? Check. Fear of the unknown? Check. Fear of success? Check. Fear of fear? Check. Fear of judgment and ridicule? Check. Fear of attention? Check. Fear of memories invoked? Check. Whatever. You get the idea.

I’ve always wanted to garden. Over the years, I’ve collected a handful of ideas. A handful of books. A handful of implements. A handful of dead plants. An even smaller handful of living plants.

My mamaw was a gardener. It was a real passion for her. She was mostly a flower gardener, and she was an expert with roses. She kept quite a variety of flowers, and she had no small amount of herbs. She was a container and raised bed gardener, and my how green was her thumb. She had the touch, the intuition, the love. It was a joy to see the fruits of her labors. Speaking of fruits, she also had fig trees and plum trees and one lone peach tree. One of the things that delighted me most was how she actually took pleasure in sharing the fruit with birds. She didn’t find it frustrating or maddening when she found eaten fruit decaying on the soft ground beneath her trees. Now she would get angry if she found an otherwise perfect piece with one or two peck-holes in it. That would set her right off, the nerve of those arrogant, thoughtless birds to so selfishly ruin fruit and leave it there to rot. If she could have gotten her hands on one of those little assholes, I don’t believe anyone would have accused her of being the bird lover that she was.

Sigh. I miss her.

This summer, I finally took the plunge and began my first attempt at a raised bed garden – a fall garden. I have a few potted plants on my back deck, but this was to be the real deal. And I had the grand idea of trying veggies. The thing is, I’m not even much of a veggie eater. I can be quite veggie averse, actually. But I finally said, to hell with your analysis paralysis. To hell with your fear of everything. To hell with your apathy. Let’s do this thing.

It started off well. And perhaps I’ll give you a play by play soon. I have some lovely photos of the patch in various stages – from laying out the timbers and filling it with dirt and shit and blocking it out, to my first sprouts and squirrel-dug holes and subsequent attempts to set the taste buds of those cute furry little bastards on fire with cayenne pepper.

Unfortunately, through what I suspect is a combination of things, the garden is about half-dead now. This has been our hottest summer on record. And our driest. And it was impossible to keep the soil watered enough. I also had (have) some sort of bug infestation. I don’t know what they are. I need to figure that shit out. But they’re definitely killing some of the plants that did survive. I’ve also become lazy and ceased daily removal of the copious amounts of pine straw that falls from the tree in my back yard.

Here’s what the poor thing looks like now:

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Pitiful, right? The super healthy ivy-looking thingies are sweet potatoes. The pitiful stalks front and center are what’s left of bush green beans. You can also see dead and dying peas, more dead and dying green beans and regular potato vines. Oh. And the green onions, too. They looked amazing, less so now. Are they ready to harvest? Fucked if I know. I’m still learning. Oh and that was my attempt at okra in the pots. Heh.

I lost three pumpkins. Well, one never sprouted. I lost two pumpkins. I lost two butternut squash plants. (I planted four more seeds yesterday evening. It’s probably too late, but I’m gonna try.) Uhm. What else. Oh! I may yet have a few carrots, radishes and maybe even kale and mesclun. The kale and mesclun have been struggling from the start, but they’re finally starting to show signs of growth.

Behold the radish, showing off his flamboyant stalk and struggling to survive.
Behold the radish, showing off his flamboyant stalk and struggling to survive. And oh my God, I swear to fuck those aren’t teeth in the soil behind him.

So we’ll see. I’m disappointed but proud of myself for remaining optimistic and not allowing myself to beat myself up. This is new to me. I’m learning. I’ve certainly made mistakes. And there were problems this summer that have stricken every small time gardener I know at work. So I’ll keep at it, see what happens with what’s left. And hell, I’ll start planning a spring garden, too.

Is it too late to plant garlic now? That’s supposed to be easy. And it’s one of the few things I do like. Maybe I can put some in one of the empty squares and just see what happens!

Oh gosh, the gnomes! The gnomes totally deserve their own post. But for now, here’s a sample:

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That’s Gnorman. Gnorman Gnomkowsky, guarding a much healthier garden in its early days. Hi Gnorman!