The Master Engineer and I each like to conduct experiments. His tend to be more dramatic than mine. Now, when he approaches a problem in his usual thoughtful, creative manner, there’s no better designer or trouble shooter. He transforms impossibilities into trifles, and solves problems with elegance and speed. Occasionally, however, the little boy in him emerges, full of glee and curiosity about the world.
That’s when the drama happens: Will the dog eat sushi? (Raw fish. Rice. This has an obvious answer, if you think about it.) What happens if you put a CD in the microwave? (Don’t try this at home. Really. The smell is awful.) If we’ve packed this box properly, we can throw it ten feet in the air and the jars of pickles inside won’t break when it hits the ground–watch. (Don’t ask.)
My experiments tend towards the slow and quiet. Oh, I regularly create my share of sturm und drang und messes. But I’m talking about deliberate ventures here. My idea of a good science experiment is sticking something in a pot of dirt and seeing if it will grow. Like my mango seedling, which is looking lovely and strong this morning.
The seedling came about when, after making mango salsa one night, I wondered what a plant from such a giant pit might look like and unceremoniously stuck the pit into a pot of dirt from which I’d just pulled some dead ivy. I kept the soil good and wet, and the pit did the rest of the work.
Sometimes, scientists are scoffed at. Last fall we toured our yard, industriously digging out pesty little trees which had sprouted in unauthorized places. When the M.E. dug up one such undistinguished stick (which was growing beneath two tall arbor vitae), I insisted on putting it in a pot.
“It’ll be dead by spring,” he said.
“This is an experiment,” I said. “It can be a bonsai tree if it lives. It’s got a good thick trunk.”
Here it is, as of yesterday:
Leaves! Green! Signs of life!
There was a huge, tangly grapevine choking the birch tree at the far corner of the yard.
“Dig it up with the roots intact, please,” I said.
“You’re nuts,” he said. “This thing has a tap root that probably goes six feet.”
“I don’t want the tap root,” I said. “Just the feeder roots. Bonsai.”
With a bit of grumbling, sweating and cussing, this even more disreputable stick was also stuck in a pot and assumed (by some) to be dead. Here it is:
It’s still ugly, but that tiny red nodule is a bud. It’s alive!
One of my bonsai experiments, a rather worse-for-the-wear juniper bush we dug up, still hasn’t been unearthed from its winter protection. In another week or so I’ll know its fate. Right now, however, I’m very excited about this:
I started clearing out the garden boxes yesterday, and there it was. I can’t believe it’s up so high already. This is the third year for my asparagus–truly an experiment, since I started it from seed. That’s supposed to be much harder than starting it from roots, but I’m stubborn and seeds are a tiny fraction of the cost of roots. I put in two rows, and we had a sampling last year but with asparagus you don’t get much until the third year. It’ll be fun to see how much comes up. The M.E. says it’s unstoppable once you get it going.
No explosions, no smoke, just a few silly plants which will, I hope, look like something in a few years. I enjoy my experiments, but it’s a good thing I have the M.E. around to provide some excitement and laughs. Shhh! Don’t tell him I said that. One must never scoff at a scientist.
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