Thursday, January 12, 2012

Revving Up the Engines

or Why Gardening Is Like Drag Racing.  And Cats.

Licorice mint (Agastache rupestris)

Just because you're not moving, that doesn't mean you're resting.  You might even be lying on a comfy sofa, but reclining isn't the same as relaxing.  Instead of feeling the tension melting out of your neck and shoulders, your muscles softening, jaw slackening, mind drifting, as you float one easy breath away from sleep, you could be gathering your resources for some course of action—planning a new project, nagging yourself about an old one, debating possibilities, thinking through ways and means.


Tulipa sylvestris

 I was watching Sir Marley a while ago.  He had designs on a mourning dove—a nice, fat one resting under the bird feeder in the vague stupor mourning doves do so well.  Sir Marley stayed perfectly still, but you could see him working the math problems in his head:  measuring distances, calculating trajectories, accounting for wind speed.  Once all the equations worked out, he began, in the mysterious, motionless way of cats, to gather himself together.  Energy at the ready, spine taut, he slowly shifted his weight.  Ever so slightly, his back paws began to twitch.  From stasis he went instantly for the POUNCE.

And missed.  (Vague stupors 1 - Math problems 0.)

Likewise, drag racers at the start line may just be sitting there, but they're not idling.  Their engines are revving up, roaring like Sir Marley only wishes he could.  When the starting signal flicks from amber to green, off they go like a shot, burning rubber all the way.  (And that's everything I know about drag racing.)


Blue flax (Linum lewisii)

At least where gardening is concerned (and in this climate, where the ground doesn't freeze), I've stopped thinking of winter as the dormant season—the gathering season is more like it.  Just because the garden isn't leafing and budding, that doesn't mean that it's at rest.  Winter is a time for plants to draw resources together, to build them up bit by bit, to rev up the power and get it humming, so that when spring comes, bam!  They can take off like a shot.

Those tiny leaves at the base of the licorice mint and the flax are the botanical equivalents of a cat's back feet.  They haven't begun twitching yet—the plants are still doing the math problems, measuring the angle of the sun and the hours of daylight, calculating chlorophyll-to-carbohydrate ratios, plotting their growth trajectories—but in another few weeks, they'll begin in their own motionless, mysterious way, to gather themselves together for the pounce.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here surrounded by gardening books, old catalogs, and internet printouts doing my own plotting and planning.  Don't think my feet aren't starting to twitch.

Mine aren't the only ones...

36 comments:

  1. Good to hear that Sir Marley is still about but always pleasing that a cat fails to catch a bird (even a fat, vague one).

    You can almost feel the tension in the garden, can't you? Like a coiled spring, gathering up its resources - though I'm tempting fate by saying that and will now suffer heavy snow and frost for weeks on end as a result. Thanks for making me chuckle, Stacy as I'm heading out the door to work. (And you know more about drag racing than I)!

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    1. Dave, I'd begun to wonder (almost said worry--eek!) about Sir Marley and then saw him plenty in the week off between Christmas and New Year's. Extra plenty, really. None of the birds seems particularly afraid of him...

      That sense of winding up is really gathering strength, though so far the trees and shrubs seem immune, which is probably just as well. You might want to go stand a snow shovel against an outside wall in a conspicuous place, just to forestall the bad weather... Glad to toss a chuckle your way.

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    2. You are so much more on the ball than I Stacy. It hadn't really registered that we poor blogspot-ers can now reply individually to comments like wordpress-ers have been able to do. Thanks for the realisation. You ol' sage you.

      D

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    3. Well, shucks, she said modestly. I squeaked aloud at work when I saw that we could do the threaded comments thing now. Isn't it exciting?

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  2. Since we have had unseasonably warm weather here in the Boston area all of my daffodils have poked their noses out of the ground. Jack Frost will surely come along and give them a good tweak before winter finally decides it is done with us. I always feel sorry for them. They are so enthusiastic about the warm weather only to get frostbitten tips.

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    1. Baffled, Jack Frost is such a pesky fellow, isn't he? I've heard that all along the eastern seaboard things are coming out early. Maybe the snow this week will remind the daffodils to take it easy for a little while longer.

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  3. I can only do gardening at the weekend due to our short days. Your photos & writing have got me twitching - can't wait for Saturday.

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    1. It looks like the London weather today was perfect for winter gardening--hope you got out and enjoyed yourself. (And got a blog post or two out of it, of course.)

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  4. He looks at me sitting quietly in the car, are you writing a blog post?

    This, is your BEST so far!

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    1. Diana, thank you! It's amazing what one can accomplish by sitting quietly. Car rides are strangely conducive to blogging.

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  5. I have noticed some of this in my garden, but I hope it is not too early. We have had relatively mild weather and many plants are beginning to come up out of their sleep. I guess we will see what happens...

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    1. I always wonder whether the plants are being fooled by a mild spell or whether they know something we don't. Hope yours are just being extra-clever, Michelle.

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  6. And I think that's why, when spring finally gets here, the plants grow at such a tremendous rate of speed, you can almost see them grow! They must be able to hear the gunshot under the ground somehow!

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    1. Ha! They definitely all take off at once like it's a race, don't they? Right now they're hearing the "On your marks.."

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  7. with the endless summer of the Philippines this is not a codition our garden enjoys

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    1. I could see that having its good side, Brian... Thanks for visiting, and welcome!

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  8. Even under a foot of snow my plants are revving and gathering speed, putting out new growth..now the deer can't see it and it will be protected to gro....love the analogy

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    1. Thanks, Donna. It's amazing how much work plants do completely invisibly. I'm glad you have some good snow-cover now. The deer are at least as pesky as Jack Frost...

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  9. Enjoyed your post. I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog. We in the flatlands and flint hills of Kansas have gone through an abnormal winter so far and yes the rosettes are on the starting line. However, 16 degrees this week may nip some plants in the bud. We shall see. Nice analogy by the way. g.

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    1. Greggo, thank you--and thanks so much for the comment. I used to drive through the flint hills of Kansas about once a year--that's wonderful country out there. Mild winters are definitely a mixed blessing for gardeners. Hope the cold didn't hit too hard this week.

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  10. Beautiful incipient signs of spring. I have a tendency to jump the gun. :)

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    1. Ha! I do, too, GirlSprout. The nice days are just soooo nice. I'm about to lock up the pruning shears and throw away the key to forestall temptation. And I will NOT go to High Country Gardens to look at their perennials, no I will NOT.

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  11. You hit the nail on the head! I have so many projects that I am contemplating while I keep an eye on the weather..

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    1. Indie, thinking about projects is half the fun of them, isn't it? Hope yours turn out well when outdoor season begins again.

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  12. Sorry, Sir Marley, I'm glad you missed! I loved this post. Our winter is much like yours, just taking a pause and gathering up energy for the big Spring leap. Enjoy your catalogues and dream big!

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    1. Deb, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! With such a long growing season, we all, plants and gardeners included, are ready for that pause when it comes. (And just as ready for it to leave when it goes.)

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  13. You describe the action of a cat ready to pounce very accurately. Ours are old now and still manage to catch their prey from time to time. I had to remove a mouse from the office not very long ago..

    Great analogy, Stacy. Our garden is revving up but I'm trying to tell it just to hold on a bit as bad weather is bound to come sometime soon.

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    1. From what I've seen of my sister's cats, Janet, the older ones learn to be extra canny--if they were canny at all to begin with, of course. Good to see that yours are still keeping their hand in...

      Yes, surely there's going to be a pretty serious cold snap sometime in the next two months before spring arrives--plants don't always listen to sense, though. Not like people.(...)

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  14. I have been noticing weeds germinating. Then they get snowed on - then it is in the fifties in a day or two. At least you avoid the snow. The little bug thinks it is spring. That is a really close macro.

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    1. Donna, the aphid was cold and sluggish enough that I could get within the 1/2" range where my camera will let me take the photo. Then I cropped it the rest of the way. It really is nice for the most part to avoid the snow. I miss seeing it but not living with it.

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  15. Elephant's Eye sent me here and I am very glad she did. I was blogging about time and how to use it and I see that this is a running theme with you too. Good to meet you!

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    1. Good to meet you, too, Elizabeth! I've just been by to Welsh Hills Again and looking forward to visiting further. Diana's amazing.

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  16. Stacy, When I first read the subtitle of this post, I thought it was going to be about how our gardens are just doing their own thing and don't really care if they please us -- but this turned out to be a meditation on an entirely different characteristic of cats! I do love the way you make those connections. -Jean

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    1. Thank you, Jean--the day as a child when I discovered there were names for things like metaphors and analogies was a mighty fine one...

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  17. Sir Marley! I missed him - and you ;-)
    Ronit

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    1. Ronit! I promise to be social again soon!

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