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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Ammi Midstokke: The obscure myth of a gardener’s delight

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

It is hard for me to decide which animal I like least.

This is a stark reminder of the unforeseen challenges of adulthood, because I clearly remember as a child being able to refer to a variety of favorite animals, most of which I hoped to one day own as pets.

Such as penguins and Shetland ponies. They would live in harmony, as I assumed all creatures did. Like on Noah’s Ark.

I don’t know a lot of things for sure, but this I do: Noah did not have a garden on his ark. Because if he did, we’d have a more limited selection of animals to contend with these days. He would have booted rabbits for sure. They are a gardener’s least-favorite animal, though sometimes gophers win this prize.

Gardening is a skill not much unlike rocket science except I think gardening has more variables, moving parts and cussing. I used to think one just puts some seeds in some dirt and then things grow. This is true of tansy, knapweed and dandelions, but vegetables require an understanding of chemistry, botany and prayer that exceeds most doctoral degrees or direct connections with God.

Every year, I learn another thing or two about what to do or not do in the garden. Last year, I was feeling pretty savvy when I had my soil tested. I’m not sure why, though, because when I received the report there were a lot of fancy words and colored graphs and I was pretty sure I needed to start buying fertilizer on the dark web.

Instead, I bought dirt from someplace else so my yard wasn’t quite as incestuous. Then the garden store lady said soil needs vitamins like humans do and she thrust a bag of chicken manure in my hands.

This year was the first my seed starts actually turned into plants. I had carefully selected them from heirloom seed companies across the nation, then sung them lullabies and watered each one drop by drop for months with reverse osmosis water that had been blessed by a monk flown in from a biodiverse farm in Tibet.

Also, I encouraged them verbally on a daily basis so they would feel confident in their plant being and grow to be robust contributors to their plant communities.

If I can start a seed, I can probably grow anything. Next year, I’ll try okra and mangoes. If that goes well, cashew and white sand beaches. Take that, snow birds.

With global warming, I can even get a little cocky about when to plant in the ground. Around here, we wait for various peaks to be bare of snow, or Mother’s Day, or when the first robin hits the window and falls to the ground.

I just waited for my bearded companion to irrigate the garden in a true romantic testament to his love and devotion. Some suitors look for dragon scales on a full moon, but I’ll betroth myself to a man with a shovel and 800 feet of soaker hose.

For days, I systematically transferred my tiny green plants into this rich, moist soil. Hundreds of little holes were filled with water, roots delicately separated, future meals ceremoniously committed to the earth from which they would blossom and nourish a home with an arguably unusual appetite for anything in the cabbage family. It’s our German heritage.

Then we celebrated, when, as if our prayers had actually been heard, the irrigation system came on when it was supposed to. This impressed me more than anything because such things remain mysteries to me, like football scoring and Bluetooth technology.

Maybe that is the hidden joy of gardening. Like raising children and personal growth, everything comes in steps and we don’t often know where we are going until we arrive. At which point we shout things in our heads like, “I have arrived!” I do this every time my child says please or thank you without being reminded.

The gods hear that, though. And then they smite me because that is what gods do. They drop a rabbit into my garden one sunny afternoon just after I’ve admired my neat rows of promise. A rabbit that has apparently been starving for years probably, because in a single two-hour meal, it eats every single vegetable I planted. Every pea shoot. Every buttery leaf of Italian Verona cabbage. Every kohlrabi, broccoli, kale, chard, and most of my soul at the same time.

My beautiful garden of perfectly wet, nourished soil and farmer’s market envy is now a cemetery of chewed stalks. When I am done sobbing, I have a bone to pick with Noah.

With any luck, it will be a rabbit bone.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at and encourages rabbit bounty hunters and other relations of Elmer Fudd to share their expertise.

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