Tiny Ovens and Vintage Presence

Last summer Amber and I bought a tiny place just off Arkansas Highway 16. And although tiny is a relative term, allow me to expound–the little green-brick house boasts just enough square footage for our whole family, so long as we don’t all inhale at the same time. We’re always running into one another around here.

The size of the home was no selling point, let me assure you. Nor were we over-joyed by the lack of a dishwasher or the under-sized refrigerator hole in the kitchen. Everything in the house is smaller, vintage, or sparse, and I do not mean this in an ironic hipster kind of way. I mean this in the we-can’t-fit-an-entire-Thanksgiving-turkey-in-our-1960s-oven kind of way. Living life here is a marathon of adjustments.

Oven

Praise the Good Lord and all that He hath created, Spring has come! The new season allows us to leak out of these cramped quarters and into the joys of outdoor living. The boys climb trees and dig holes deep enough to bury bodies, while Amber and I tend to a new garden.

Our garden space was a blank slate at the beginning of the season, though the previous owner had treated the soil well. Hoping to create a more formal garden plot, I found and reclaimed some old railroad crossties, laid them in a 32 x 64 rectangle. A layer of home-grown compost, a dump truck of mulch, and a few straw bales later, and we were officially ready to grow.

Garden Layout

Amber chose the seeds, ordered them from an heirloom shop run by old-timy Mennonites somewhere in the Kansas. They arrived without ceremony, the brown box delivered by a UPS man on an average Wednesday. Amber smiled like a toothless six year old at Christmas when she opened the package. Broccoli, beets, carrots, tomatoes, kale, chard, lettuce, basil, peppers, rosemary, thyme–all her favorites were there, and she spread the packets across the bed as if the harvest had come in. I scanned the packets, said, “what about radishes?” She pulled her chin back, wrinkled her nose, and said, “who likes radishes?”

On Saturday morning, Amber walked the rows and poked seeds into tiny mounds while I tended to other yard work. Without headphones, a smart-phone, or any other device tethering her to the world-wide-information-super-distraction, she was present in the moment. Dirtying the quick of her fingernails, this was her rhythm: stoop, pinch, drop, cover. Smiling. Humming. Laughing to herself. This is the human enterprise of joy.

BellPepper

I suppose by suburban metes and bounds, it’s a large garden. That said, it’s not like we’re running combines or spitting pesticides from the tail-end of a Cessna. And for what it’s worth, that’s just fine by me, because I’m not skilled in the ways of combine navigation or Cessna spitting. So, we’ll tend to the metes and bounds we’ve been given by hand; we’ll use hand-trowells and sweat-of-the-brow. Come Summer, maybe we’ll have a few tomatoes, some broccoli, and a bushel of beans for the picking. It isn’t grandiose, but it’s ours.

There’s a thing this world does. Maybe you’ve heard about it. It says that the small things aren’t worth a whole-heckuva lot. It demands bigger houses, newer appliances, and faster production. It rewards connectivity, platform, power, and consumption. It pretends the market’s quotas are life-giving, and asks asinine questions, like, “why would you plant a garden when you could work a few more hours, make a little more money, and buy all your vegetables?” Bigger, faster, more, more, more. Pay to hire the laborers outside your door.

This logic is hogwash.

We can’t all be Hillary Clinton, waging a campaign war for the chance to bring world peace. We can’t all be Tyrese Gibson, taking over Hollywood with Mercedes vans and the power of positive thinking. We can’t all be power-brokers, or small business owners, or even middle-management company men. Heck, we can’t even all be the next internet sensation, the break-out viral video/writer/Facebook post of the month. I suppose we can all be vintage, though. And by that I do not mean vintage in the hipster want-to-check-out-my-vinyl-collection sort of way. I mean it more in the tiny way, in the way that tends to its own patch of dirt.

Make no mistake about it–vintage ain’t all that inspirational, but it sure is fun.

*****

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  • The image of Amber planting seeds, without music or podcast or whatever, in her ears . . .her bending low to smell the dirt, feel the texture of earth under her fingers, engage in what is simple and just so beautiful, is going to stay with me today. Thank you, Seth. I grew up in the country, where my dad farmed almonds. This country-now-urban girl needed to hear this and remember.

    • sethhaines

      An almond farmer? I need to hear more about this.

  • I like the vintage you mean here. Smaller, less showy, less about size and more about substance. So many gifts in the folds here Seth. Thanks. 😉

    • sethhaines

      Thanks for reading along. And yes… a little less showy. My oven is a prime example of this.

  • pastordt

    LOVE this garden thing. Though I’m lousy at it, I admire it so. And I’m with Amber, “Who likes radishes?” Hope it all grows beautifully!

    • sethhaines

      Who likes radishes?!? Man… a little radish with salted butter? Especially if the radish is ice cold? Mmmmmmmm…