Preparing a Garden for Winter

You've got to start preparing your garden for winter in the fall if you want it to be ready for planting in the spring.

| October/November 1994

Outside the local library one dark October day, I met a young existentialist, about 14 or 15 years old, who drew his comfort from an apocalyptic view of the future. We began talking because he was holding the very book that made me a science fiction fan; it was written about the time he was born.

"We're history," he snorted. "The human race, I mean. The whole planet and every clown on it. Doomed. No one cares about the earth anymore. There won't be space travel in the future, man, because we're, like, going to wipe ourselves out." He proceeded to tick off pending calamities:"The economy's shot, people are starving everywhere, there's an ozone hole big enough for the Enterprise to do barrel rolls in. The fixture will be Mad Max, man: heinous mayhem, stealing and thieving, top dog wins."

It was unutterably depressing. Here was someone who had millions of dollars' worth of youth and he wouldn't give you a nickel for the future. I felt moved to disabuse him. Fortunately, I speak Y-Gen.

"You are," I said, "off to the max, 180-out, and verklempt over zilch. In the first place, I care about the earth and so does every other gardener and farmer in the world. Beginning with my little plot of dirt, I personally refuse to let the planet die. I do it with my shovel and hoe, and by preaching it in print, and by backing it up with manure-spreading and hand-weeding all summer when I could be out on a lake drinking beer in a canoe. Because I believe in it," I said.

He rolled his eyes. "Spring might not come next year. Besides, beets eat it. Turnips suck," he blasphemed, that weary Generation-Y sneer finding its old furrows on his young face.

Ah, youth. His comments put me in the awkward position of defending beets and turnips. "Hey. Those two vegetables alone have saved cities," I declared. "Ever hear of the Siege of Leningrad?"

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