Friday, March 20, 2015

Chaos or Order Muppet Garden

The farmer scattered seeds.

The Biblical text in Matthew 13 records a story that Jesus told. In it, the farmer tosses seed willy-nilly over a field. The result was predictable: there was some seed that fell on hard ground, other seed that fell among thorns. Some fell on good ground.

I was reared in the deep south, and my Uncle Paul was a farmer. I grew up knowing farming – well, not firsthand, but definitely secondhand. That bit of Matthew's text never made sense to me. Who farms like that?

Apparently, the answer is, I do.

A few years ago, I plowed a small garden alongside my house. It was on the side away from the entrance, and it was about one furrow wide. I have had great joy planting random things there. I have planted peppers, radishes, cotton, sweet corn, popcorn, okra, peas, and a number of failed experiments (amaranth was an impressive failure, mostly because I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like.)
Wait.... is that dollarweed or sunflower?

And every time, the chaos sowed is impressive. There is no order or rhyme or reason. The seed package says "three seeds per hole, sixteen inches apart"…. And I would have between one and twelve seeds every six inches in an offsetting zigzag.
No straight rows, nothing. And it would all be interspersed – okra and corn, sunflower and peas. And at first, the weeds and the seedlings looked alike, so it just looked chaotic, but then...

Then there were radishes!

And corn!

And okra!

And the weeds eventually became differentiated from the plants, and I could help them do better by carving out some of the space, removing the competing grasses and weeds. But what resulted was not imposed order. It was more of an encouraging of order out of chaos.

My wife does NOT ascribe to the same theory of gardening.

Kathe’s order starts at the beginning. Labeled rows. Even spacing. Careful placement. Beauty in straight rows. Alternating colors, with marigolds and lettuce and cilantro in aesthetically pleasing arrangements. 

Exactly as though she were a farmer, Kathe plants her crops to maximize the space available, imposing her will on the chaos that is the bedrock of New Orleans tropical forest. Improving productivity, by not allowing one to crowd out another. 

The end result of both is beauty. The end result of both is edible comestibles. We both have a wonderful time watching things grow.

And we do it differently.

A few months ago, my sister sent me a funny article about Chaos and Order Muppets.  It was a humorous attempt to classify personalities on the basis of the comfort level with chaos.

Somehow, I suspect Ernie's garden would look more like mine.

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