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Monday, August 11, 2008

Are Gardeners Naturally Eccentric?

Do you think most gardeners are a bit… eccentric?

Are we that different from those who don’t garden?

I’ve been browsing through the 1961 edition of How to Grow Vegetables & Fruits by the Organic Method, edited by J. I. Rodale and staff. It’s funny to read it now, nearly 50 years after it was first published. They were so excited about organic gardening and mulch and compost!

Just like we are today.

If you’d like to read about some eccentric gardeners, this book would be a good place to start. There’s a write up starting on page 25 about Mrs. H. R. Leversee of Kalamazoo, Michigan who was quoted as saying “I like to work with plain dirt.”

And she did! According to the write up, nearly every day she set out with her wheelbarrow and shovel and walked up and down her street scooping up the dirt that “lines the gutters”. They estimated she transported 100 tons of dirt from the street to her garden over the course of 17 years and wore out three wheelbarrows.

An eccentric gardener? I’d say so. Her final quote… “Working is like walking. If you enjoy it you never notice it. I like to work with plain dirt. I like to see things grow in it. Every shovelful I take from along the curbs will produce food some day. I’ll never get tired of watching that happen.”

I bet her neighbor’s wondered what she was doing out there, nearly every day of the year, year after year. Maybe after awhile they got used to seeing her with her wheelbarrow and shovel, scooping up dirt? Maybe they thought she was just trying to keep the streets clean? Maybe she shared with them some of the vegetables from her garden, grown in their dirt?

One of my sisters, who shall remain nameless, once told me she thought I was the most likely in the family to become eccentric. I’ll have to ask her if she remembers saying that and if it is because I garden.

You might have thought me a bit odd, but hardly eccentric, this evening when I was out in the garden, seeing for the first time that all the rest of my sweet corn, which wasn’t a lot but was greatly anticipated, had been ruined by raccoons. They scratched and clawed at nearly every remaining ear out there! Mostly I was just muttering and looking at the destruction with disgust. Later I took pictures.
Or the other day, if you had watched over the fence as I made another video, this one called simply ‘The Gardener’, you might have wondered what was going on. After all, it took me two ‘takes’ to get this “triumph of video recording with a digital camera” recorded.



But I don’t know if I’ve reached the level of an ‘eccentric’ in her garden. Aren’t eccentrics old? I’m still too young!

Do you consider yourself a bit eccentric as a gardener? Do gardeners tend to be more eccentric than others?

(So, in wrapping up this post, I checked on the definition of eccentric. Why did they choose THAT clipart to show an eccentric person? I think I’ve just answered the question about “are gardeners considered eccentric”. Discuss amongst yourselves…)

28 comments:

MA said...

Girlfriend, it's the hoe thing. you are Excentric and it has nuttin to do with age. honest. I am older and i am not excentric. Nosirreee.

Robin Wedewer said...

Most likely to BECOME eccentric? Sweetheart, you passed that milestone a while back. We're glad, mind you. But eccentric? Yes.

You should be proud though. The most interesting people are always eccentric.

Robin
Gardening Examiner

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

I'm eccentric right there with you. My mom biggest criticism of me was that I was eccentric just like my grandmother. You can guess which one. I'm so sorry about your corn. I gave up growing corn a long time ago because of the raccoons. The devils. They are cute, but I don't like 'em.~~Dee

Perennial Gardener said...

Being Eccentric isn't a bad thing, just makes a person more interesting. You have more character than others, that's all. :) Sorry about the Sweet Corn, I'm sure after the anticipation it was a disappointment to be beat out by those pesky raccoons.

Jean said...

I'm not sure I've met a gardener who wasn't at least slightly eccentric. You kind of have to be just to put up with all the setbacks (like racoons in your corn), all in order to produce a thing of beauty.

Beth said...

That clipart is funny stuff. Eccentric is a pretty strong word ... I'd much prefer "interesting"!

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

How cool is that...my mother just gave me her copy of "How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits..." Yep. The 1961 edition. I've been enjoying it very much especially since my mother wrote little notes in pencil in the margin and even drew her own picture of how to layer a compost pile.

So what's the video? You mowing the lawn?

Kathy said...

Yeah, I didn't get the video, either. I even cranked the sound way up in case I was missing something.

Anonymous said...

I participated in a month long leadership program spread over a year and the program started by identifying our leadership types. The types included Intelligence, Sex, Beauty, Humor, Danger, Eccentric, and Charm. The point was to understand your type so that you could use those gifts in your leadership. We spent a good deal of time learning how to relax into our type.

After reading a couple of posts of your blog, it was clear to me that you are an Eccentric (I am too) AND that you lead so beautifully from your type, that you are "on type" as we would say in leadership jargon.

People spend lots of money to learn how to be themselves, and you've nailed it. Your blog is such a treasure because you let yourself be yourself, and I think what you say soaks into your readers more than maybe the average blogger because of it.

And no, I don't think you have to be eccentric to be a gardener, but I am sure that you have inspired quite a few to play with being eccentric in their gardens.

Nancy J. Bond said...

By definition, eccentric really has nothing to do with age; it simply means something unusual or odd. According to that, I've always been eccentric. :-) I'm not sure that I think of myself as eccentric as far as my "gardening side" goes, but I do think that others "don't get that side". Sometimes, I think it takes one to know one, if you know what I mean. If you saw me staring up at the undersides of my jalapeno leaves, you'd probably think nothing of it. The lady who lives downstairs, on the other hand, probably thinks it quite odd. :)

Annie in Austin said...

1) That's the hat you won at Spring Fling in the video, right, Carol? Suits you well! As long as you're not lining it with tinfoil against Martian rays, you're probably okay.

2)If that pre-1961 street in Kalamazoo had cars driving on it I sure hate to think how much lead Mrs Leversee added to that "organic" garden. Some scientists think that ingestion of lead can be a cause of eccentric behavior - which came first?

3) Other people's relatives may be weird, but mine are just eccentric.

4)Sorry you lost your corn - in Illinois we knew the raccoons would get the ears, but I'd hoped to get the stalks for Halloween decorations but even those were trashed, too.

5) I don't think I'm that eccentric unless you count writing songs and singing them on YouTube as eccentricity rather than taking advantage of new technology.

As the Quakers put it, "Sometimes I think that the whole world is crazy except for me and thee, and sometimes I wonder about thee."

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Nichole said...

I was once called "weird" by a neighbor because of my gardening habits(I believe I was outside in my pj's taking pictures of daylilys), so I'd much rather be called eccentric, I think I would take it as a compliment!

Layanee said...

Okay, eccentric is a compliment and no, I don't think my neighbors consider me eccentric (darn). They all garden also.

The video is shades of that TV show with Tim the Toolman Taylor and his neighbor...what was his name, Wilson? You never really saw his whole face. I love that video. True art.

Christopher C. NC said...

Viva eccentricity!

Kim said...

I was going to say, no, I'm not at all eccentric. I'm actually sorta boring, I think. I dig in the dirt, but that's not eccentric. And then I read Nichole's comment about photographing daylilies in PJs. Nailed! I guess I am eccentric, after all.

Andrea said...

You know whats funny about that? (And I laughed out loud in the greenhouse while looking at it) is the clip art shows someone with flowers. haha. OHHH. Whee. Yes. That is so funny.

I've met a lot of 'normal' gardeners that pass through the greenhouse but I have to say, the weird ones far out weigh the normal ones and even the normal ones are different on some level. I think there may be different levels of weird/eccentric/etc/whateveryouwanttocallit.

This brings a fond smile to my face about a girl name shirley, who ALWAYS wears a dress when she comes in, but she also ALWAYS wears construction boots covered in mudd when she does. She gets a lot of clients because of it. The more you look like a gardener, the more people think you know what you're talking about.

Just some small trivia there.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I was eccentric long before I started gardening. I think I was born eccentric. So to me, most gardeners seem quite normal. "Eccentric" is such a nice word, compared with "weird," "wacky," or "crazy." Carol, you're an eccentric (the hoe collection is a great example). To me, eccentric people are just more interesting.

joanie said...

Hi, Carol. Have just discovered your wonderful blog. Most of my gardening friends are very particular about what they allow to grow in their gardens; for example, one loves roses, one hates roses; one says if you can't eat it there's no use growing it, and another says why grow veggies when you can buy them at the market. Each probably considers the other eccentric. People used to call me eccentric because I gardened organically, but now that I'm old enough to be eccentric, organic gardening is becoming mainstream. Maybe eccentricity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder?

Anyway, thanks for sharing your gardening knowledge. I plan to visit often.

Nan said...

Eccentrics, geeks, nerds - I love them all because they are people with passion. Their passions may vary, but what makes the people similar is their love for something - it matters not what it is.

Gail said...

Hmmm...I have never thought of myself as eccentric, but I am pretty sure my friends and family like to wink, nod and smile when I talk about gardenblogging...As gardeners we are called passionate but it's said with much the same italics!

Gail

George Africa said...

Hello Carol;

Your comment about 1961 Organic Gardening reminded me of a book a friend gave us this summer. One of her instructors and mentors said it should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in horticulture. It is 1001 Garden Questions Answered by Alfred Carl Hottes. It was first published in 1926 in New York by A.T. De la Mare Co., Inc. My copy is from 1937, the seventh printing, second edition "heavily revised and reset." (I never saw that before.) The first plate near the title page is a garden picture which says "What can do more to beautify a path or lawn than a border of Delphiniums and Madonna Lilies such as this?"

Some designs always work.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
http://thevermontgardener.blogspot.com
Vermont Gardens
http://vermontgardens.blogspot.com
Vermont Flower Farm
http://vermontflowerfarm.com

Cindy, MCOK said...

I pride myself on my eccentricity. Like Dee, I believe mine is inherited from my grandmother. At a time when women were expected to be anyone but themselves, she was unabashedly and unashamedly herself. She was a gardener, and a brilliant one. I wish she'd lived long enough for us to share our passion for plants.

Carol said...

MA, I know who you are and you are just as eccentric as I am!

Robin, Thanks, I'll accept that as a compliment, I think...

Dee, I'll have to find out from my mom and my aunt if I resemble any eccentrics in my family tree. And those raccoons are devils!

Perennial Gardener, thanks for the kind words and support. I was disappointed to see the raccoons get that sweet corn before me. The variety was Bon Apetit.

Jean, yes, I think it takes a certain resolve to garden against some odds, and to be yourself.

Beth, Yes, seeing the clipart of the gardener next to that definition of "eccentric" was "the icing on the cake".

MSS@ZanthanGardens, That is very cool that your mom gave you that book and it is the one I referenced for this post! Treasure that book, it is full of some real gems.

Kathy, It's not much of a video, just that gardener kinda hidden behind that grape arbor...

Anonymous, that is a very interesting comment, thank you for the kind words. I'll have to look up that leadership workshop.

Nancy J. Bond, yes, I would probably come over and look at your jalapeno leaves with you!

Annie in Austin, I think your videos definitely qualify you as an eccentric, a very talented eccentric.

Nichole, Yes, eccentric is much better than weird.

Layanee, Thanks for the kind words about my video. Not many of my neighbors garden, so to them I'm sure to seem eccentric.

Christopher C. NC, Amen!

Thanks for these very kind comments!
Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Carol said...

Kim, Yes, I bet we could all come up with a list of attributes common to the eccentric gardener!

Andrea, that is fascinating trivia, thanks for sharing it.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter, As a self-professed eccentric, I'll take your word for it. Takes one to know one!

Joanie, Welcome and thanks for the very nice comment!

Nan, well said!

Gail, I've seen those same winks, nods, and smiles when I talk to non-gardeners about gardening and blogging!

George Africa, I think some of the older gardening books are full of fascinating information. Some of it doesn't apply any more, but a lot of it does.

Cindy, MCOK, As we get older, I think we do appreciate our grandparents more, we start to understand them.

Thanks all for the very nice comments and validation!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Mary said...

Eccentric isn't the word to use here, Carol. I'd call YOU passionate. I like passionate.

I'm passionate too, about birds and bugs, but worry that some might think I'm from the Far Side. We might be close. LOL!

Karen said...

I don't mind being kind of the neighborhood eccentric. It's better than being the village idiot! :> Plus I garden on the street so I meet lots of folks and give them tastes of what I grow. Maybe they find me a bit odd but at least I'm friendly. Happy gardening!

lisa said...

LOL on that clip art! I feel rather proud to say that I relate to most all of the words used in that definition too...especially flake, crackpot, and wacko! :)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I love the way your mind works and how you can express yourself Carol. If that is eccentric so be it.

I can assure you there a many eccentrics out here and I am one of them. My niece has called me ecccentric ever since she could say the word. ha... I have gardened that long too so???