Saturday, September 13, 2008


So, in the interest of full disclosure, I have a confession to make to all of you faithful readers [insert joke about how only my immediate family reads this ... here].

(Deep breath. Long exhale. Sweaty palms. Bowed head.)

I am a murderer.

A cold-blooded, indiscriminate killer.

I can't help it. Something comes over me, and it's like I can't stop myself. I don't even know what I'm doing. In fact, in the moment, I actually think that I'm doing something good.

I make myself sick.

I am a killer... of plants.

Basil plants, in particular.

I murder* basil plants. For fun. Pretending like I know how to take care of them, but really... I'm a deranged psychopath who, instead of loving and nurturing these tender, peppery, lemony green plants... I kill them. ALL OF THEM. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

*As an aside - Matt offered that I'm more like Chris Farley in this scene from Tommy Boy, which makes me guilty, not of murder, but of (wait for it!) plantslaughter. Enjoy:

It is more than tremendously embarrassing that my "organic food eating, farmer's market patronizing, zipcar driving, natural birthing, homemade baby food pureeing, cloth-diapering, long-term-nursing, making-things-harder-than-they-have-to-be-for-the-sake-of-God's creation... that's right - CREATION!" self cannot seem to keep a simple basil plant alive for more than a few days.

Here's the routine:

I go to Publix (because I just can't do the unpasteurized cow's milk that the Farmer's Market sells. I'm pretty crunchy, but this is one step too far for me). I purchase said milk and Tropicana orange juice that isn't $5/quart. While walking through the veggies, I stumble upon simple, healthy, fragrant basil plants. The instructions insinuate how simple it would be to maintain said plants. The cost is reasonable. I put the innocent basil plant in my shopping cart delicately, next to the eggs ('cause, well, we need eggs, and I only go to the Farmer's Market on Fridays. Man, you're pushy. Stop pestering me!) My hopes are high. There will be homemade pesto in our future. Yes, there will be!

I arrive home, enjoy the help of tiny hands and strong muscles carrying in my plunder. I take the liberty of personally carrying my new plant into the kitchen.

"Another victim?" Matt jokes.

"HA! You're funny. Just watch - see how healthy this one is?! See how tender and green and fragrant?! This one's a survivor. Just you wait..."

It's important for me to recognize here that the last basil plant that Publix offered to me like a virgin sacrifice to its most uncompromising deity lasted nearly a year.

A year!

This is because my husband, son of an avid and talented gardener, knows the subtleties of over/underwatering, which have totally escaped me. He took over care of that plant ("Agnes," as I affectionately dubbed her) when it was clear that my black thumb was casting a shadow on her sunbeam. My attempt to regulate the plant's water supply end up with me doing one (or all) of the following:
  1. Forgetting to water the plant for 5... or 11 days, until I notice it weeping under the weight of its own leaves.
  2. Misting it with a spray bottle, which succeeds only in making the plant really, really angry and it collapses under the weight of its own leaves
  3. Overwatering and over-organic-plant-food-feeding the plant until it... collapses under the weight of its own leaves.
You get the picture.

But Matt managed to keep that plant alive for nearly a full calendar year. I think it finally passed when we went out of town for a short time, and all it had for nurture and comfort were the sighs and snores of Edgar, the anxiety-ridden Beagle.

So, today, I put another plant to rest after only 3 short weeks. It was doing beautifully until I transplanted it from the plastic container that it arrived in to a lovely, roomy terra cotta pot. After I moved it, well... let's say she didn't make the transition well. I packed in what I fully believed to be organic soil, patting it down and misting it lightly with fresh water. It looked so healthy, so promising.

Until it started drooping.

Today it was clear that she was not going to make it. Briefly, I had the thought of putting the plant back into the ground, with actual healthy soil around her so that she might be resurrected from her terra cotta grave. Jackson and I headed outside, trowel in hand, to try and medivac the plant to an earthly hospice and pray for a miracle. "Talitha cum," little plant.

We up-ended the pot, and pulled. The basil plant came out easily, with weak little roots trailing behind, but the dirt that was left behind was putridly rotten.

Matt, looking on, thoughtfully commented, "Um... I think you overwatered it."

(Matt, you know, the man who could grow and nurture a freakin' GARDENIA plant in the desert, should he choose. I know he's being supportive, but GEEZ... does he have to be such a show off about it?!)

Jackson offered, compassionately, "That dirt smells like POOP!"

Thanks, men. Thanks.

We did our best to move the plant without puking on our shoes. Both J and I got distracted when I tried to put some "organic soil" around the plant. I was calmly and optimisticly patting the soil around the plant when my horticulturalist husband said, rationally, "Take it easy, Mandy - don't put too much food on there."


You see, when I lovingly and thoughtfully moved my little plant to her huge new terracotta condo, I made sure to fill her pot to the brim with lovely, rich soil. EXCEPT, it wasn't organic soil that I'd packed around that healthy little plant.

It was organic PLANT FOOD!


I overfed the darn thing... she went from basil to meatloaf in two days flat. She didn't stand a chance. And really, I'd like to think that she died happy and full of yummy organic nutrients, which is not true for the plant, but is for the lone rice-shaped insect that I found. (I'll leave it to your imagination to decide what I'm getting at.)

"I'm DONE!" I announced, and gathering the remainder of my dignity, I tossed the trowel, fumbled with the cap for the "food," and marched inside.

I swear. This time is the last time. I promise. No more basil plants for me.

Unless I could find some actual organic soil... then maybe I could keep it alive! Yes! That's all I need! I was doing alright, until I overfed it, but now I know the difference in the products, and I'm sure I could try again and maybewecouldgetaplanttomorrowandIcouldtakecareofit all by myself! Right? I can do it! Right?

O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me, a sinner and killer of innocent basil plants. Let me not be deceived by the simplicity of growing herbs nor underestimate my capacity to fail at the endeavor. Take away my pride, grant me humility, and the wisdom to purchase herbs from a locally-owned basil growing expert.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. God have mercy.


*An update: this post got published! Out in the real world! Check it out here:


Cheryl Thompson said...

I kept an African violet alive for about six years. The key was to put it in the bathroom (normally a hot, humid environment), and forget to water it. Worked like a charm. Everything else, I kill - usually quickly - so I quit. Too much pressure.
Thanks for the laugh.

Anonymous said...

Too bad! So sad! I think maybe you try too hard. I cut some basil from my garden in August to use in a meal I prepared for Marty's birthday. Of course, I cut far more than I needed, so put the remainded in a glass of water on the kitchen sink. When I was in Atlanta to celebrate our little Cooper's birthday, the basil rooted. It has been growing ever since in the glass of water. Try that!

Have a guilt-free day!

I love you.



Loving Landon said...

maybe we need to start a support group?

Jackson Flemming said...

That dirt smells like poop!!!

Jackson Flemming said...

Only 9 years too late!!!!!!!

Jackson Flemming said...

You are still not good at growing plants:(