Tale of Two Cities


It’s always hard to know when to call it quits. Gardening is so much more than a hobby, and, to many of us, it is an integral part of our lives. I know that nothing works as well for me personally when I am feeling blue, sad, or depressed than to go out and get my hands dirty in the backyard.

Given how the year organizes itself into seasons though, it seems almost a directive from nature that enough is enough. There is a time to sow, a time to harvest, and a time to leave the garden to its own devices. Although that is harder than it sounds.

Gardening as Redemption

Is it just modern life – with its impressive technology, fast machines, and remote work – that makes the hours in the garden seem redemptive? I don’t think I’m the only gardener who heads to the backyard, shovel in hand, to find some peace. The birds twitter from the trees, the leaves in the breeze make their own music, and soon the cares and frustrations of a difficult day evaporate like the morning fog.

This happens to me in both San Francisco and in Basque Country in France, where I have a little cabin and a big garden. Working with my trees, shrubs, and plants never fails to give me a mental lift.

Tale of Two Cities: San Francisco

The climates of my two home cities are very different. San Francisco has a very mild climate year-round. It’s almost as if there were no seasons. Flowers bloom in spring, summer, fall, and even in winter, and it is possible to grow crops 12 months of the year. Of course, tomatoes and other sun-loving crops don’t do spectacularly well, given San Francisco’s famous morning fog, but we don’t have to worry about too much hot sun either.

The garden never stops in this city. I plant and reap all year, although it’s mostly leafy greens and cool season crops from October through February. Still, there is always something going in the California garden, enough to keep me happy.

Tale of Two Cities: Sare, France

Then there’s Sare. September and October are my favorite months, but as each day passes, the air gets chillier. By November, the leaves have fallen, and rains have begun. By December, I wear gloves to go for a hike.

It’s here in France that I have the choice to try to extend the garden season with little greenhouses, or to walk away. When I lived in Sare all winter, I used to go to great lengths to try to have something always growing, using garden crop covers and bringing containers in at night. These days I spend winters in San Francisco, so letting the garden have its way is easiest and most natural.


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