From the Valley of the Jolly (HoHoHo) Jayne Giant!

Okay, that's corny; sorry. And if you're under 40, that title is just weird, not funny. Get over it; I'm celebrating: this week I ate my very first green bean harvest, planted from seeds by my own little nubby-fingernailed hands, watered and nurtured into a vigorous green vine, and it was sublime!

I was slow to grasp the joy of gardening. I blame this on my mother, who appointed me the Chief Picker-Upper of Rotting Grapefruit when I was a child. Since we lived in central Florida--which is where Satan lives when he leaves the underworld, seeing that central Florida is about the same temperature as the inferno he's used to--and since we had three massive grapefruit trees in our backyard, there was no shortage of rotting grapefruit. And, for all the aforementioned reasons, they were always crawling with the sort of vermin for which Florida is famous. No, not THAT kind of vermin. I'm talking the multi-legged, antennaed and winged kind of vermin. It's a wonder I even EAT grapefruit today, but I digress.

So despite the fact that I come from a long line of French vineyard owners, Alabama sharecroppers, and Florida farmers, I did not embrace my horticultural heritage until recently. I think it happened when bell peppers went to a dollar a piece. That is as obscene as fat white thighs in hot pants, and I decided right then and there that it was time to channel my inner Old McDonald and find a hoe that fit my hand. Let me be clear: there is no chance that my efforts in the garden are ever going to make any significant contribution toward ending world hunger; for every plant that survives my tender loving care, two succumb. Possibly three. (My sons would say ten, but they certainly never wander out to help, so what do they know?) In any case, it could be this dubious success record that makes me so giddy when I finally bring a plant to fruition. All I know is, it is BEYOND COOL to eat something that looks absolutely beautiful, is right-off-the-vine fresh, tastes amazing, and started out as nothing but a little tiny white (or black, or brown) speck.

I head toward my garden, kitchen shears in hand, wicker basket swinging on my arm, feeling like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm--noble, virtuous, at one with the universe. Probing gently through the phalanx of green, my fingers search for pay dirt: slender bean pods, shiny eggplants, plump tomatoes, tender squash. It's enough to make one turn vegetarian and, indeed, at the peak of summer's abundance, I can happily make a meal solely from garden treats.

The problem is that good gardening requires constant, vigilant, repeated attention--a trait for which I am most assuredly not known. I tend to get excited at the beginning and the end of projects, sort of losing interest in the middle. Thus my garden is rarely the orderly thing of beauty I wish it to be. I envision neatly coiffed vines and uniformly round shrubs sprouting from symmetrical rows of raised beds...whimsical art and beckoning benches scattered along well-groomed paths...a trellis awash in morning glories offering cool shade in a quiet corner. Ah, well. For that, I fear hired help may be necessary, and I don't see a Garden Boy in my budget anytime soon. So I shall have to be content with the occasional exciting harvest, plants that survive only through the grace of God and Mother Nature, rose-colored glasses that don't see weeds where watermelons should be, and the very precious gift of positive thinking. Surely the faucets of my gene pool will gush forth sooner or later; in the meantime, the memory of my green beans is delicious.

She Thinks I'm Fabulous!

Some time back, I received a note from Fabulous Poet Brenda Kay Ledford that she was awarding me a "Fabulous Blog Award." I was highly honored, but it's taken me till now to get the announcement on here. (Let's just say I'm much more gifted with words than I am with technology.) Now, in keeping with the rules of the award, I shall first confess my Five Fabulous Addictions--poetry, the Blue Ridge Mountains, old movies, good books, and the fabulous board game, Carcassonne--and then announce my nominees for the Fabulous Blog Award. Check them out!

1. Steven Givler Online - Steven is a poet, artist (his watercolor shown here), and Air Force major (how's that for a triple threat?!). His blogs are a blend of travelogue, art gallery, and inspiration. Steven's love for his family and his country give his comments a special poignancy; his wit and penchant for odd adventures add a little kick.

2. Getting Boys to Read - A website that functions as a blog, Getting Boys to Read is a wonderful resource chockful of tips and titles targeted specifically at reluctant readers--all too often who happen to be boys. The bloggers include writers, teachers, librarians, and parents who have first hand, hands on experience with this problem. Great suggestions and a noble cause!

3. The US Report - Written by veteran journalist Kay Day, this reactive commentary is razor sharp. Even if you disagree with her politics, you have to admire her writing, which is crisp as a just-plucked field pea. Bonus: great photographs (the baby bird is her handiwork) and the occasional amusing anecdote about Florida critters.

4. A Good Blog is Hard to Find - I'm not sure where else you could find such a broad cross-section of author commentary. Some forty Southern writers share insights, inspiration, and occasional intrigue in this site started a few years back by novelist Karin Gillespie. Definitely worth a bookmark!

5. Pub Rants - Literary agent Kristin Nelson provides an insider's assessment of what's happening in the publishing world. Helpful hints, occasional critiques, valuable opinion, hard statistics, and a little humor...all without attitude.