Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

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There is something instinctive and primordial about the impulse that grips people this time of year as nature undergoes its annual spring renewal.

For most it is the urge to nurture new life, whether to enhance the aesthetic of the landscape with flowering plants or to provide sustenance for family and friends through edible crops.

But for a select few — a minute sliver of humanity — it’s all about embarking on a futile, doomed-to-fail endeavor.

“Where does the motivation come from?” people ask me.

Well, that’s a good question. I guess many people are motivated by success. They put in a lot of work and time on something and see it all pay off with a beautiful yard, fresh greens through the summer and a bountiful harvest in the fall.

I’ve never understood that.

If your efforts are destined to succeed, what do you need motivation for? All you need in that case is an alarm clock so you can make sure to spend as many hours as possible living a life where everything comes up roses.

Motivation comes into play when you know there will be no reward.

Even by my standards, last year was inexplicably odd. I have more experience with crop failures than a Soviet collective, but last year was the first year I grew things I didn’t plant, which is significantly different than planting things that did not grow.

As I have the past few years, I planted pumpkins. Other than brutal, unprovoked attacks by wildlife (Raccoons or rats? The jury is still out.), enough pumpkins survive to populate the porch on Halloween.

Last year, for kicks I planted one hill of the super-sized pumpkins. I didn’t expect success — that’s not the way I roll. But I didn’t expect to grew perfectly formed miniature pumpkins. I’d always wondered who grew the decorative pumpkins used in cornucopia displays. Now I can raise my hand if that question is asked at a cocktail party.

These weren’t large pumpkins that failed to reach their potential. They were miniatures. I double checked the seed packet and the word “giant” with the picture of a small child next to a large pumpkin remained.

I also planted a wild flower mix, low-growing flowers I was hoping would fill in as ground cover. A few of the small flowers bloomed but the dominate plants were these two stocks that grew about three feet high. Needless to say, these stocks did not grace the cover of the wild flower plant mix.

It made me wonder what the heck they were doing at seed factories, and whether they’d employ me because they seemed to condone a quirky sense of humor.

Was I discouraged by this? Or course not. You’d have to be encouraged at some point to become discouraged and I’ve avoided that trap.

In fact, this spring when I started working in the yard I was invigorated, much like when you realize what the universe contains far exceeds your imagination. Who knows what I’ll grow this year, I’m not even sure when I am planting it.

In a way this spring planting season already has been a tremendous success. I took one of my sons with me to buy seeds — all excursions feel like a trip to Disneyland nowadays — and we browsed for a bit through the pumpkins until I found the pack I desired.”

“I’m getting this one,” I said. “On the back it says pumpkins may grow up to 200 pounds.”

His sudden burst of laughter rang through the store.

I also plan a super ambitious spectrum of sunflowers and wildflowers again. I don’t give up. I don’t get anywhere either, but I don’t give up.

Who knows what the yard and garden hold this year. All I know is I’m probably the last person you should ask.

Contact managing editor Michael Gallagher at mgallagher@kvnews.com

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