Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Poke Sallet Summer

It has been another year, and I have to admit now I'm off regular blogging altogether. Despite my best intentions, Twitter was the last nail in blogging's coffin for me. It's much more easy and fun to use Twitter on my phone, and I so rarely have contemplative time to myself anymore that would lend itself to writing.

My daughters are now two and four, and everything I do in the world is for them. The oldest is now fully herself, making up stories, flying kites and catching bugs in jars. The two year old is in full revolt against the world, not understanding why the ground gets her favorite things dirty, or why a dish should break when she drops it. They bring me much joy and comfort, even though it's often difficult. I am lucky that the husband is a good parent. It is his fourth year now without paid work, despite his recent graduation from law school. Word of his passing the bar has come and gone, and yet still there are no jobs; unemployment here in Atlanta sits at just over 10% of everyone, and we all know it's not his fault. Still, the lack of money wears on us both.

I have planted the largest garden yet this summer, stealing land from the inattentive brown lot next door. I built an eight foot long potato bin and a 12 by 10 raised bed for corn, pumpkins, beans, peas, cantaloupe, and tomatoes. On the upper deck I have continued to grow onions, garlic, radishes, and carrots. Every day I go out to the raised bed and smash squash beetles and their larvae with a little rock. Yesterday the girls helped me release a lot of live ladybugs we got in the mail to eat other bad insects. Everyday I bring in a handful of peas or carrots for my girls to eat. We have plenty of food, it's true, but I worry about nutrition and the quality of the food we can afford. The potatoes I have laid in in anticipation of a rough winter.

Invariably, when people who know food come to see my garden, they praise the variety I've packed into such a small space. "You even have poke sallet! How clever!" They say. Yes, I have poke sallet growing in the back on the raised bed, and all along the side of my house. The weed wandered in and I chose not to pull it a couple of years ago. I don't have the heart to tell the poke sallet admirers the truth: I think of the native green as starvation food. I can imagine my ancestors' thoughts when they put poke on the menu: 'It's only a little toxic. Perfectly edible if you boil it three times and throw out the water.' Things are bad, but we're not eating the poke yet. But I'm not picking it out as a weed, either. I'm hedging my bets, you see, especially with that oil spill all over the gulf.

We never did get up enough money to recover from the damage the flood last fall did to the house; the air conditioner is on its last legs; we have struck a deal with the credit cards companies. We never go to movies or hire babysitters. Yet there are always clothes for the kids and other sorts of help from the husband's parents, and for that I am grateful beyond belief.

My uncle has also been out of work for nearly a year, and others we know as well. Still, our house does better than some just by virtue of my career, which is going rather well. If we are broke and don't eat out, it's because I have chosen to have children. And I don't regret that decision at all. They are the best things in the world, and I am never happier than when curled up with them and the husband, sleepy and stomachs full of food, one way or the other.