So the garlic is back. It’s the whack-a-mole of my yard.
Dad had a huge garlic patch — picture the dimensions of a king-size bed — and he used to rotate it around the garden. Where I poke things in and hope for the best, he had a complicated system of crop rotation, sheep manure, compost and buddy planting, or whatever you call putting a marigold next to a tomato plant like some kind of little sister to tell off the critters. Dad was organic before organic was a thing.
But the result of the travelling garlic is that every year, I get weird pop-ups. They’re random, and 21 years after his death, you’d think the garlic would give up already, like that other stalwart — rhubarb — did a decade ago. It hasn’t. It’s as stubborn as he was and this year, it’s come up in a place I haven’t seen garlic for decades. It’s back in the original place he started it when I was a kid, as if it’s taken a scenic trek around the yard and now come full circle.
When the plants first came up, I thought they were lilies.
Lilies all look the same in their infancy, and I can never remember where I’ve put things. But over the weeks I suspected it was garlic, and finally dug up a plant to check.
This is the Sommerfeld Child method of discovery. We used to pull up carrots to see if they were “done” yet, and on finding carrots that definitely were not quite done, we’d just jab them back in the hole we’d pulled them from. We thought my father didn’t know; my father knew.
I held that immature garlic plant in my hand and wondered if Dad might be watching. I stuck it back in.
I’ve rototilled the yard again to try to replace grass that got destroyed when Ari built a new deck, and even though this clutch of garlic is right in the middle, I went around it.
It looks ridiculous. I don’t care. Everybody knows by now that I see messages everywhere, most often in my yard. If my father chooses to speak to me in garlic, who am I to argue the language?
I still feel a twinge of guilt whenever I buy garlic, which is often. I can’t stand the fact that so much of it is grown in China when I know the best garlic I’ve ever had was grown outside my window. We’ve taken the world and twisted it upside down, forever believing that cheap is best. As I hunt for domestic, or at least as close to home as I can find, I remember the long strands that hung from the shelves in the garage all winter, my father’s favoured stinky necklaces of wonderful flavour.
When I was cleaning up the garage as I pretended to move recently, I found bits of string still clinging to the upper racks. He’d reuse the same pieces over and over, displaying a patience for unknotting tiny pieces of twine that I rarely saw him display in unknotting anything else, including his relationships.
If you ever wanted to see the two sides of Dad, you just had to see him caged all winter in the house and released to his garden come spring.
I came very close to ditching my tomato stakes a few weeks ago, but something held me back. Maybe I thought I’d take them with me when I moved. Maybe Dad was pushing me another way.
They’re now holding up this year’s tomatoes.
I’m still holding out hope for the rhubarb.