Monday, January 23, 2006

alexander's the $64 tomato

William Alexander had always dreamed of having his own garden, where he can grow his own organic, healthy fruit and vegetables. When his family moves to the Hudson Valley, he gets his dream – there’s more than enough land for his vegetable garden, his apple orchard, his wife’s flower garden, and a swimming pool for the family. Alexander’s done his research; he knows what crops to plant and when, what type of fencing he’ll need, and how to defend his garden against predators. What he hasn’t counted on were the problems that would crop up – that planting sod around the swimming pool would kill his corn, or that planting rosebushes would kill the sod. On top of the organic problems, there’s also landscaping contractors who are always behind schedule, a gardener who is a dead ringer for Christopher Walken, a groundhog that’s figured out how to get through a 10,000 electric volt fence, and the deer that think his garden is a feast for them. After years of fighting pests, Alexander realizes that there is no such thing as an organic garden in the Northeast and that, for each tomato he’s taken from his garden, he’s spent $64; ultimately, what was once his hobby has become a second full-time job. Throughout it all, Alexander manages to maintain a sense of humor, riffing on everything from the ugliness of garden ornaments to the politics of giving away vegetables to friends. The hilarious horticultural memoir manages to impart an existential lesson on the interconnectedness of nature and the fine line between nurturing and killing.

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