On Saturdays, my morning routine involves a healthy dose of PBS. I am up by 7:00 am most of the time, but don’t actually begin my Think TV buffet until 9:00. (Tuning in earlier than 9:00 will leave you adrift in back to back to back quilting shows. Danger Will Robinson! Danger!)
Starting at 9:00, we have This Old House, where people who live in houses nicer than mine walk around and cheerfully complain about this or that, and then just as cheerfully remodel the shit out of it. I watch and take mental notes should I ever be in a position to spend a quarter of a million dollars to renovate my home.
Next up is The New Yankee Workshop, where Norm Abrams of “This Old House” fame walks us through crafting wood into art. Norm, the flannel packing inspiration for Al Boreland on “Home Improvement”, makes even the most complicated of wood-crafting projects look easy. I watch this show with the sure knowledge that if I were ever foolish enough to attempt any of these projects, I’d lose three fingers and an eye. And that would just be while shopping for wood. God only knows what I’d lose if I started up one of the saws in my Dad’s wood shop.
After that comes American Woodshop, with a host who has all of Norm’s mad skills, and none of his smooth patter. I normally grab a shower while this is on. But it has to be a quick shower, because my terrible secret is on next. And if I miss it, I’ll be in a foul mood all week.
My name is Jaime, and I watch The Victory Garden.
I can’t even begin to explain why I watch this show. I don’t garden. I don’t have any real inclination to garden. When I pass a garden on my way to work, I don’t slow down and gawk. I don’t grow plants for ornamental purposes. I don’t landscape. In fact, the only plant I ever had for any significant period of time was an Aloe plant named George. And frankly, I think the only reason he lasted so long was that he required watering every week or two, which is about how often I remembered to do it.
To the untrained eye, I am about as far out of the target audience for this show as is humanly conceivable. And yet I watch. Obsessively.
I think I’m fascinated that any person could know this much about plants. I am ceaselessly amazed that one of the hosts will be walking around a garden they’re visiting and identify plants by not only their common name, but also by their Latin name. And just to show how Garden Gangster they are, they usually use the Latin name first, and then throw in the common name as an afterthought.¹ I sit in front of my TV, jaw agape, and take it all in.
A few years ago I was watching a segment that dealt with creating a lovely little loose stone mosaic in the back yard. They were creating it so that they would have a visually appealing, fireproof area to sit their fire pit on. In what can only be called a suicidal loss of reason and judgment, I thought, “Hey, I can do that.”
And so I did.
I went outside, dug a huge hole in my yard and built a very nice round, stone area for our iron fire pit to sit on. I used slabs of granite we had saved when we replaced an old sidewalk, and extra gravel we had from when we gravelled our parking area. I even built a fire when I finished and sat beside it enjoying my handiwork.
But while the results were actually surprisingly good, It was a very, very worrying experience. In hindsight, I believe that they brainwashed me into becoming a gardener. First they lured me in with the occasional interesting segment. Then they had me watching whole episodes. Finally, they convinced me to duplicate a project I saw on the show. Had I not moved to an apartment, it was probably only a matter of time before I surrendered to the madness and began wearing big floppy hats and clapping my hands excitedly when I saw someone gardening with the Three Sisters.²
For now, I’m relatively safe. I live in an apartment, and thus my exposure to gardening opportunities are limited. But there is always the chance of relapse. So should you see me out in public, pointing at trees and casually using their Latin names, take note of the moment. Use it as a warning to others. Let my tragic tale of gardening fascination serve as a wake up call to America.
The Victory Garden is just plain dangerous.
¹ – Should the phrase “Garden Gangster” become a thing, I’d like everyone to remember they read it here first.
² – The Three Sisters is a gardening technique where you use a combination of corn, beans, and squash together. The corn-stalk, aside from growing corn, also offers a tall pole for the bean vine to climb as it grows. The squash, with its broad leaves, covers the ground and keeps out weeds while sealing in moisture. Now, for the love of all things holy, why do I know this?