Monday, March 1, 2010

Winter sun

People often get the wrong impression of me, and it’s often in ways which I find amusing. In one respect it’s a compliment: people tend to project themselves into other people. They are simply assuming that I am like them, and that’s a compliment. For instance, because of my interests in food and cooking, people often assume that I’m a wine drinker. I’m not; and it’s not because I have not tried to be. Whenever I’m with friends or family and wine is served, I keep an eye on the way the drinkers react to the wine. If there seems to be unanimous agreement that the wine is especially good, I’ll ask for a bit. But other than sparkling wines, every wine I’ve ever tasted has a distinct aftertaste of rotten vegetation. I have no idea where I acquired this expertise in the taste of rotten vegetation, but I detect something in wine which fits my idea of what rotten vegetation might taste like. It’s especially noticeable in red wines. And it’s definitely an appetite killer for me. In the rare wines in which I do not detect the compost pit, there is the other thing about wines which I can’t get used to: the burn of the alcohol.

When it comes to other gardeners, they often express surprise when I tell them that I have no interest in having a greenhouse. Many seem to assume that I have cold frames because I can’t afford a greenhouse. It’s true that I can’t afford a greenhouse, but I wouldn’t want one for plants if I could. Many gardeners seem to think that a greenhouse is the next natural step for someone with a cold frame. But no, cold frames are another matter, and I’m beginning to think that I will never have enough cold frame space.

The tropics interest the biologist in me, but they have no interest for the gardener in me. To me there is something worrisomely impractical about tropical foliage plants; I can’t look at them without thinking about the heat bills. And it’s been said before: if a contest were held to design the most heat inefficient structure possible, the result would probably be a greenhouse.

On the other hand, if I were to acquire a property which came with a pre-existing greenhouse, would I raze it? Not at all: I would use it not for plants, or at least not primarily for plants, but rather use it as a sitting place for sunny winter days. With porous tile or gravel flooring and a handsome set of wooden garden benches and tables – and maybe a carefully selected suite of plants with winter green foliage- it would be the ideal place to spend sunny winter days. The sun would quickly heat the interior, and there would be no wind. It would be quiet in there, too. A good book, a congenial companion who does not talk too much, a dog, music, a comfortable chair, a simple afternoon meal: I would be very happy.

The porous floor would be important: I would want to be able to smell the soil during the winter. Every year one of the really moving experiences for me is to smell, after the long deprivation of frozen winter, the fragrance of the soil during the early thaws.

Yes, I try to stay in the slow lane.

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