My Garden

“Let’s plant a garden,” my wife said shortly after we moved to Almost Iowa.

“Sure,” I told her, “but on one condition: NO BEETS!

I hate beets and in no way was I going to break a quarter acre of prairie sod, dig up boulders the size of Volkswagens and rotor-till through harder-than-concrete peat to grow something as disgusting and utterly worthless as a beet.

And I knew – since she was still employed and I was retired, all the mulching, weeding, watering and thinning would fall to me, thus I had the power.

“Then no peppers,” she countered.

I love peppers just as much as she despises them.  I had dreams of endless rows of red, green and yellow bell peppers marching toward the horizon across my garden – but if it meant no beets, I could live without them.

But that is how relationships work.

At its best, marriage invites self-sacrifice. We demonstrate our love by giving up what we love to please those who we love.

At its worst, marriage invites retribution. We force those who we love to sacrifice what they love because that is what they did to us.

But those are the extremes…

On most days, marriage simply invites subterfuge. We sneak what we love past those who we love.

I hid my peppers among the cherry tomatoes and she scattered her beets among the potatoes. Having each gotten our way, we settled back into pastoral bliss…

Until the rabbits showed up.

People around here boast about rabbits the same way Texans brag about wild boars and Alaskans bluster about bears. They say our rabbits may not be the world’s largest but they are without a doubt the world’s most loathsome of creature, so taking no chances, I studded the parameter of the garden with sturdy wooden posts and stretched a thick woven wire fence between them.

It didn’t even slow the bunnies down.

They buzzed through in a single night and sheared off anything that even dared flash a sprig of green.  Upon their exit, they left only a tangle of wire to remind me of what had been a section of fence.

Fortunately the previous owner, intending to build a dog run, had left several rolls of chain link fencing in the shed. I wrapped them around the garden as extra armor.

They effortlessly buzzed through that too.

But the odd thing is, everyone in Almost Iowa has a garden.  I couldn’t understand it, so while visiting a neighbor, I broached the topic of rabbits.

“How do you control them?” I asked

The question embarrassed him. He looked to his wife to see if it was alright to answer before admitting, “We only plant the things they don’t like.”

“I was thinking more in terms of driving them away,” I said.

The statement stunned him. “Have you ever actually seen a local rabbit?” he asked.

“Not really.”

He whistled and two massive rottweilers emerged from the barn. “Flush up a rabbit,” he commanded.

The dogs bounded off.  They kicked up a trail of dirt across a freshly plowed field then vanished into a thicket. A few minutes later,  a rabbit and the two dogs came thundering back across the field. Not unusual for dogs and rabbits – but in this instance, the panic stricken dogs were doing everything they could to stay ahead of the rabbit.

Resigned to let nature take its course, I resolved to cultivate only what the rabbits refused to eat.

And of course, it had to be BEETS.