Last week I was contacted by PQ to check in with my family; it has been about six months since my son finished the program. They asked if I had news or photos to share. I didn’t have any photos. I only saw him for a couple hours when I picked him up at the airport and drove him to the place where he would likely spend the next nine to twelve months of his life in a transition program. We had lunch and got him moved in to begin the next stage in his journey, and then I got back in my car for a very long, lonely drive back home. It hits me hard every now and then, confronting that I’ve only seen my son for a few hours over the last nine months, such as when someone asks for a recent photo…and I don’t have one.
At the PQ family program I attended last Spring, we were given a bean seed to take home. Well, I could just look at that bean every now and again to reflect on the program experience and learning, or I could put it to work. And as it turns out, it put me to work. So I got a little pot, some soil, planted the seed, and placed in on a south-facing windowsill where it reveled in the lengthening spring days. Around Mother’s day, when we finally got consistently above 50 degrees at night (I’m from Seattle…it takes a while spring to actually take hold in my part of the world), I moved it out to the garden–thinking of the exercise we did where we learned about transplanting. I carefully tended to the roots, and gently repacked the soil, and made sure it was well watered over the next few days (actually I didn’t have to do much external intervention in that department–did I mention I live in Seattle?), all the while thinking about my son and his recent transplant experience. I wasn’t quite sure what I would find when I picked him up at the airport, twelve weeks after I sent him to you. I know he had a bumpy time at PQ, but the person who emerged was like the kid I had once a long time ago–open, reflective, curious, not so defensive, and even a little optimistic. He had found a place, a tribe, acceptance. As we drove from to the new place, where he would start another, even longer program, he talked about feeling ok about himself–something he hadn’t felt in a long, long time. I had this rush of relief and euphoria, thinking that he had turned a corner, and that he was going to be ok.
Well, transitions can be difficult. Very difficult.
Everything progressed well for a couple weeks. Little Bean started to bloom. But one day some deer came through and ransacked my whole garden–tomato plants, raspberry buds, carrot tops, beets, leaves and buds on fruit trees…and Little Bean was taken down almost to the ground. I thought it was toast. But we had a two warm weeks afterwards, and it started to leaf out again. And then came June…also known as Junuary in Seattle. It got cold and rainy. Bean barely grew at all. But it was still alive.
Towards the end of June, it was just starting to get warm again, and Bean started growing. But then one morning I came out and… AGAIN. Chomped by deer. Just as it was starting to produce. Our dog has one job…ONE JOB—keep the deer away! Apparently he is no longer taking his job seriously. I didn’t have a picture before the attack, but Little Bean was bushy, about 1.5 feet tall, had blooms, and actual beans.
I started to realize that Little Bean’s struggles were another parallel process. So on June 24th, I started taking pictures of the deer-struction.
Summer arrived on July 5th (as it usually does). I had started growing pole beans on the trellises. Little Bean, it turns out, is a bush bean. This was a major contributor to its struggles as it couldn’t grow up out of the way of the deer. But Little Bean kept trying…until another deer attack, July 18th.
They denuded the pole beans of all the leaves along the trellis, but couldn’t reach those at the top.
So, as we approached the end of growing season, I realized (duh) my laissez-faire strategy wasn’t working. The dog was no longer effective as a deer-terrent and they weren’t getting full on the many other tasty treats in the garden. I had to try something different–Little Bean couldn’t grow indoors, but the out-of-doors wasn’t quite working out either. Enter the cloche. I use these to get tomatoes going early in the season. It finally dawned on me that I could deploy them against the deer.
With this protective covering, Little Bean grew a bit more, survived two more pillages, and on August 30th I harvested two small beans.
But then came the slugs: September 24
I deployed slug traps, put the cloche on at night and during rainy days, but here we are at the end of September, and realistically, I’m not going to be able to count on Little Bean to produce enough food to get us through the winter.
But there are a couple new blooms. Little Bean is still trying.
Some takeaways– I need to improve the deer proofing of my garden. Little Bean was not the only casualty. Harvest was way down across all product lines. Next year, I’m enclosing the garden. The cloche did the trick for a while, but I deployed it too late in the season. However, Little Bean started getting too big for the cloche, so that solution wouldn’t have worked indefinitely. Then came the slug invasion. So the cloche couldn’t protect from all predation. I also realized that I need to plant the right kind of bean for my conditions. Pole beans do much better, not only in terms of surviving the deer, but they just get far more light in my garden configuration. If Little Bean hadn’t carried the additional burden of symbolizing much more and serving as proxy for the care I wanted to be giving my child, I would have given up and chocked it up to a poor plant choice and bad luck with the deer. But it was what you guys gave me, just as the universe gave me my particular kid. I kept at it, and looked for new strategies to help it survive. Another solid lesson is that it’s good I’m not a farmer and people don’t have to rely on me for their food supply. The small success story of the garden this year is the pole beans, which survived the repeated pillages and are now in full production mode. Here’s what I harvested today, and there’s still lots coming, even though the middle of the plants keep getting eaten.
The growing season is coming to an end, but fortunately, we humans can keep at it even during the winter months. Thank you PQ for all that you have done for our family…we are still growing though it hasn’t been easy. Thank you especially to Mark White who really stuck with my Little Bean.
A PQ Mother