The thing is, we're a St. Bernard family, moved into a toy poodle yard. I brooded over this a little, in the beginning. I've long been a city girl at heart, but never at home. My houses have always sat on rambling, brambled suburban lots, the wilder the better. Every last one was well stocked with endless dirt hills and mile-high trees and ripe with potential we planned to fulfill, someday.
How do we just switch up to a tiny city lot, a patch of dirt better measured in feet than acres? We'll feel trapped by asphalt, cut off from everything green and growing.
Surrounded by concrete, we'll have to drive hours for even a whiff of nature. Wildlife will be something my children know only from DK books and Nova specials. I mean, what sort of critter, free to roam wherever, would squander their open range on the urban jungle? So long, bugs and bees and beetles. We'll catch up with you again, someday.
Then there's The Flower Problem. Even though the yard was billed as "English garden-style", carved out over decades into a dainty set of beds and borders, we'll never manage cut flowers from such a miniature display. One bouquet, and the whole garden will go bald.
Besides, everyone knows children and flowers don't mix. They're always making a mess of the lilies, forever trampling the peonies. There's a reason roses have thorns.
And where will the children play? Indoor gyms, I suppose, and soccer fields. Astroturf will replace Kentucky Blue as the grass of my children's childhood. With no forest out back, no yard to speak of, they'll turn tenderfoot, scared to leave the house without sweat socks and sneakers. At fourteen, they'll ask me what a callous is.
And how will they possibly get their pound-of-dirt-a-year? They've always been wallowers, these mudpuppies o' mine. But this tidy little lot's all order and ornament. They'll forget that perfect water:dirt ratio, forget to love the cool squish of fine mud.
They'll forget to even ask to go outside. They'll become one with the couch, preferring a compact flourescent's flicker to the the sun's bright light. No way can a postage stamp half given over to flowers accomodate three active kids.
Or vegetables, for that matter. I always wanted a vegetable garden, always meant to cultivate enough earth to keep our family in food, or at least a few salads. And even if I never did get much past the stunted radish stage, I'd best put my petite potager on hold for now. Better dedicate what little dirt we have to the coneflowers and the rugrats. Even if it does mean my kids forget where food comes from.
Even I'll forget, or maybe just whine a lot, about how lovely it used to be to walk out my front door and snip a branch of this, a twig of that, to sassy up supper. Herbs take room, too. Maybe we should just throw up our hands in good old fashioned surrender.
Or maybe we should give it a whirl. Maybe we'll discover that when your back yard's the size of your living room, you treat it like one. That being able to step right out of the sunroom and into the sunshine is an open door policy everyone uses, every day. That even if it's tiny, at least it has high ceilings.
Maybe we'll eke out every last inch of joy this little piece of land has to offer. Maybe, we'll even be able to wander out, just before dinner, and pick a fistful of mesculun and a Big Beef or three for BLT's.
Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches
No one needs a recipe for BLT's so much as a reminder: make them now, if you can scrounge up a few of those last, local, buck-a-piece beefsteaks. Otherwise, wait until next August. There's a universe of difference between the year-round deli-counter BLT (bad, loathsome, tired) and the September sandwich made with good guts. These are the ones that make me swoon:
1. Toast two slices of Great Harvest White Bread. (We are a dedicated Honey Whole Wheat family, but for a few nights in late summer, it's Classic White season at our house. A BLT on wheat is sort of a waste. On a fine white, it's one of the world's seven wonders.) Spread mayo on both toasted slices, then season well with pepper and salt.
2. Layer lettuce, bacon (Niman Ranch is nice, as is any thick-cut hearty variety), and as many slices of tomato as you think you can manage without losing all dignity. Season tomatoes with a touch more salt and pepper, grab a few napkins, and salute a summer well-lived.