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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ammi Midstokke: Mother Nature has its own plans for my garden

Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
By Ammi Midstokke For the Spokesman-Review

This spring, my garden is going to be done right. I spent the winter getting educated on books like “Tomatoes Love Carrots” and encyclopedias of homesteading. I know that wooden pallets work great for building compost bins, that birch burns wet, that aphid problems can be solved with ladybugs.

I special-ordered ladybugs and praying mantis on the internet and hatched them on my counter. I drew maps of my garden and color-coded rows according to how much sun they get. I labeled it carefully with all the advice of the best companion planting manuals. I even got my soil tested.

The report came back: “Looks like you live on a granite hilltop with clay.” Then there was some stuff about copper and calcium and all I heard in my head was la-la-la. I went to the gardening store.

“I need some stuff for my soil. Some kind of meals? Blood? Bone?” I never knew, aside from a pathological desire to kill ground squirrels, that gardening was such a macabre hobby.

They had all the meals. I said I needed 5 pounds of each meal. The girl looked at me like I was a mad permaculture wildcrafter or something and slowly poured the equivalent of blood crystals into my brown bag. I grinned. No rabbit is going to chew through a veritable carcass mush to get to my chard this year.

I also made use of my greenhouse. I recognize the amount of preparedness, organization and time is impressive. Not everyone is this dedicated or well-prepared. This is going to be a hallelujah garden if I ever saw one. For weeks, the solarium attached to my home has been a bed of seed starts. If my sprout-eating dog even looks at them, I wave my arms in a hysteric wail until she opts to smell the ants that have moved into the room.

Now I know about ants, though. I have anti-ant arsenals. First, I used corn starch. Eat that, suckers! I thought. Four minutes later, the corn starch pile was gone. My ant problem might have been worse than I thought. I put more out. I looked up how to do that borax and sugar mixture. The ants kept cleaning up the corn starch. Fine, I thought, eat all the starch you want, silly ants.

It took me a few days to realize the white spot on my brown dog’s nose was corn starch. Like some worn-out coke addict, I busted her one morning in the flower beds, a pile of slobber where the starch had been.

I switched to borax in the garden and painted my fruit trees with that sticky-feet stuff. I found an ant nest and obliterated it, then had nightmares about them raiding my house.

A single asparagus popped out of the soil last week. Asparagus! Robust and healthy, I planned for days what kind of steak I would eat with it. I would make a meal of mostly hollandaise sauce and this single stalk. It would be glorious.

I went out later in the week to transplant some seedlings. The asparagus had been eaten. I checked the varmint trap. It had been pushed away from the hole to their den. Apparently, it was blocking their main entrance and they needed to get a large stalk of asparagus in there for a guest party.

The day I went out to plant all the seed starts, a storm came and hailed onto me and my efforts as I made a mad dash to get the delicate little babies in the ground, risking instant death by lightning. I would sacrifice myself for prize cabbage. Two days later, those that survived were scorched by the sun.

I stopped keeping score, but I’m pretty sure Mother Nature is winning. One evening, I poured myself a glass of red wine, possibly a rather tall glass, and sipped it intentionally as I meandered down to the garden. I needed to be emotionally stunted before witnessing the carnage. I’ll be buying my vegetables at the overpriced organic market this year, no doubt, but at least I’ll have already spent a small fortune on killing my own.

In the garden, a single stalk of new asparagus was poking up. The optimist in me started planning Friday night’s meal all over again. A ladybug landed on my hand.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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