The problem with Dungeons and Dragons, as much as people love it, is that it is totally "The Man." TSR, the original publisher was dysfunctional...but the Man. Wizards of the Coast (WoTC)--maker of the Magic the Gathering card game and purchaser of TSR's corpse--is also the Man. Hasbro, who bought WoTC pretty obviously is the Man as well. Yes, they all like games, but the culture of these institutions have been geared toward squeezing the last dollar out of consumers for a long, long time.
Now there is unrest among the tabletop gamers. Hasbro/WoTC is testing out a new license for third party producers who use what they feel is Hasbro/WoTC's own intellectual property. Set aside for a minute that this gaming giant picked through other companies' work for many of the tropes they use. Also ignore for a moment that much of what they claim as theirs is derived from myth, legend, and fantasy novels written by people who may have never heard of D&D. Even, for a moment, pretend not to know that WoTC/Hasbro actively encouraged people to write for their game by promising specifically not to do what they are now trying to do; namely monetizing these 3rd party creators' ideas and labor as if it was their own.
All of that aside, it still seems strange that anybody could claim to have originated rolling dice and adding numbers, doesn't it?
Now, the Man is in temporary retreat, claiming to be misunderstood. They weren't misunderstood. They were just surprised by the pushback. It is in their DNA to take the rest of the gaming community for granted. For further research into this somewhat tedious but very important subject, you can check out any number of stories about the Open Gaming License. Even the mainstream press has noticed. I will cease to belabor the issue here, except to say that there are other fish in the gaming sea. One thing that the Man has done is accidentally energize all those folks who they hoped would fall into line. We are, I think, about to enter a renaissance of gaming opportunities.
Don't worry about the Man, by the way. they will be fine. D&D is neither the first nor the best game of its kind. In fact, the current version of the game--called "5th Edition" although there have been many more editions than 5--is not the game that they started with. Yes, Virginia, those kids on Stranger Things are playing a very different game. More on that later. Why will WoTC be fine? Their brand name is ubiquitous, so people just entering the hobby won't even know there are other options.
I run games in "D&D 5e" because I work with new players and saying "it is like D&D but it is not D&D" is a non-starter for many. If someone decides they want to drink cola for the first time they ask for a Coke. You can tell them that Polar Cola is better but they will not believe you until after their Coke experience. That is D&D. It is Coke. History, culture, and a good ol' dollop of corporate gaslighting have convinced us that Coke and D&D are the best. Of course, the truth is a ton more complicated.
Anyway, the church campaign may be the last one I play using a Hasbro product. I play a great many roleplaying games (RPG's) right now and none of the others are D&D. Interestingly I refer to the groups I play with as "D&D groups" because then people know what I am talking about...but we are playing Polar Soda--metaphorically--and loving it. So if you are a tabletop gamer, or interested in becoming one and want to fight the Man, here are five games that are better than D&D.
Pathfinder Second Edition:
This is the true Polar Soda of the gaming world. It is made by Paizo, an independently-owned company that split off the last time WoTC/Hasbro betrayed the public trust in what nerds call "The Edition Wars." The wars--in some sense--are still ongoing...and complicated.
Basically, Pathfinder First Edition was very similar to D&D 3.5 Edition. Confused yet? The developers at Paizo had a major hand in developing that system. When WoTC went to D&D 4e, Paizo decided to continue with the previous game. The fallout from that split is part of the reason there is an OGL in the first place. You see, Pathfinder 2e is really as much the inheritor of D&D as D&D 5e. This is a basic truth in the gaming world. It is the elephant in the room over at Hasbro.
I should note that when I returned to gaming about twenty years ago I first told myself it was for the kids. Then I settled on D&D 3.5/Pathfinder 1 as my re-entry point. I was one of those people who migrated to Paizo then. The system was super complicated...but there are at least some good memories!
Having grown directly out of the split, Pathfinder 2e is built on a very similar platform as D&D. They are cousins, essentially. If you are looking for a good next game. I cannot recommend this enough. Their material is top-notch. Their service of consumers and third-party developers is excellent. In fact, you can get all the rules for free online! Also, they are quite progressive, constantly adjusting their material to make it more welcoming to a diverse fan base. They basically are what WoTC/Hasbro pretends to be.
I have played a lot of Pathfinder 2e. I have been in a group that meets online and plays at least twice a month. For a while, when we couldn't leave our houses, it was weekly! We started right before the plague. This is not my "native" system--more on that later--but it is one of my favorites. Like D&D it has many rules for combat and fewer for other areas of the game...but not as few as D&D. If you want to have a game with slightly more numerical meat to it that plays like what you are used to, this is the one.
Here is the link to Paizo, where you can see the many different games they offer. Also their two biggest games--Pathfinder and Starfinder--are sometimes the only non-D&D content to be found at general bookstores.
GUMSHOE (The Yellow King, Ashen Stars, Swords of the Serpentine, etc):
OK, this might actually be my favorite system. The gaming world can be broken into groups that use similar "mechanics." This term includes things like what dice one uses and how bonuses are added to those dice. D&D and Pathfinder both use a "D20" system. Which is to say that the core rolls are on a 20-sided die to which bonuses are added and penalties subtracted to give a number that either hits or misses a target number (Armor Class if you are trying to hit a person, or Difficulty Class of you are trying to do a thing, for example). If you get over the target number you succeed in hitting the villain, or picking the lock, or whatever. If you get under...you don't succeed.
The Gumshoe system operates on a single D6, instead. Also, instead of having the many complicated stats and skills that are the hallmark of D20 systems, you have a number of pools of "points" to add to the d6 roll. Those points deplete over time as your character gets tired and weak. It adds some suspense. Also in this system the story takes precedence over the rolls, so combat is less granular. In Yellow King, for example, it is resolved in a matter of seconds in a single round of rolls. Then you tell the story of what happened...
I have played two different versions of this game and am itching to try one more. Yellow King is a horror game where people die or go mad regularly. I have played this in an online group that started around the time my Pathfinder group did. We are...theatrical.
Ashen Stars is in outer space. I am playing that now in a regular in-person group. Both of them--even though Ashen Stars can be plenty complicated--leave breathing room for the tale. Yellow King--which has very few rolls--also allows for plenty of improv, which isn't everyone's cup of tea. However...it certainly is mine.
The final entry in Gumshoe for now is "Swords of the Serpentine." I posted a picture farther up. It is a fantasy setting and looks rather complicated but at some point I will either run a game or badger someone to run it for me.
These and other games are published by Pelgrane Press. Check them out!
Vampire the Masquerade:
Look! Another horror game! This game uses a "dice pool" system. Essentially, as you get stronger in a particular skill, you get to roll more dice. This is different from the other games systems I mentioned. In both d20 games and gumshoe games you roll one die and add bonuses which increase as your character improves. In dice pool games...you get more dice. Otherwise they are the same. The player is trying to hit a target number for success. The system is also simpler than D&D or Pathfinder, which leaves room for roleplaying. Also rolling a handful of dice is very satisfying.
My one big complaint about Masquerade is just that it is creepy. In fact, it could be triggering for some people. I will go one more step to say that I do not recommend this game for everyone. It is worth noting that the makers of the game are aware of its creepiness and have a warning page at the beginning. This is not for kids. Vampires are nasty, evil, and highly sexualized in pretty dark ways. When I played this we made sure to keep it campy. I was a lunch lady. It is important to know who you are playing with, to make your boundaries clear, and to respect the boundaries of others. This is true in any game, but in this one it is doubly important. That said, in spite of my reservations...I did end up enjoying myself.
Here is a link to World of Darkness, who publishes this game.
OK, this is a d6 "dice pool" system that is free and has two pages of rules. I love it! I have run a couple of campaigns in this system, modifying rules as we go. Set up is fast--or can be--and is best when the players are willing to be goofy. The character development process involves selecting a "type" from literature, film, or whatever and then running with it. You have to convince the person running the game that your--for example--"Failed Han Solo 4" should be able to roll all four of his dice to swing across a river, charm a local constable or--less likely--defuse a bomb.
Many people think this makes a good starter game. It has very few rules, right? I do not think it does. It is great for people who want to stretch the rules to their breaking point, improv, and roleplay. That, however, takes a certain amount of experience with the genre. Most beginners are trying to learn not just what is written down but the unwritten skills to bring life to their character and the world. Also, not everyone likes improv or understands the same tropes of popular culture. In my experience of teaching these games, true beginners are very focused on a strict reading of the rules. It takes a while to let them breathe.
What it is good for, though, is a group who isn't taking things too seriously, knows how to play an RPG in general, and can keep focused long enough to "yes and" (that is...improv) well. This thing can go way off the tracks and people checking out for long periods of time is more detrimental than it is in other systems with, you know...structure. I will play this again some day. However, I will be careful about who I invite to the table.
Welcome to the Risusverse!
Finally "Original D&D":
I use this term advisedly and really to shock my fellow nerds. There are plenty of people who see those words and prepare to fight! However, what I mean here is the cloud of games that have been developed under the banner of "Old School Renaissance (or Revival)." OSR games are designed to replicate many of the earliest roleplaying games. Honestly I haven't played many of the new OSR adaptations, but this is because I have my original Basic rules (above).
These are the systems from the 1980's that I grew up with. They are unwieldy, complicated, and sometimes hard to learn. I started gaming around the age of 11. At first, of course, it was mostly just reading the rules and wishing my friends weren't trying so hard to be cool. Gaming was not cool. Parents saw it as being a gateway to drugs, cults, and satanism. At the very least, to be even interested in playing made you a weirdo. It was hard to get a game together and eventually--in high school--I gave up trying for a long time. I was still considered a weirdo, though. I probably should have kept on keeping on.
The first books I bought were for what was just then beginning to be called "Basic/Expert D&D." Shortly before I began playing it was just called Dungeons and Dragons but a new version of the game came out called "Advanced D&D." Advanced D&D was similar to Basic but was ostensibly written by one person...Gary Gygax. "AD&D" is what WoTC now calls "First Edition." Why is Basic not "first" even though it is older and all the other d20 games are built upon it? Well Padwan, it is because Gygax didn't want to share profits with his colleagues. Sound familiar? It should.
Also, it is unclear who owns this game today. It is that old and was abandoned by the poorly run TSR. This makes it hard to monetize if you are WoTC.
Anyway, in a sense when I play a d20 game I am still playing Basic/Expert D&D. All those other books published by various editions and third-party folks? They are supplements to this game in my head, starting with AD&D. Looking back I realized that we just fused on parts we liked to our existing rules, but were never "first edition" players. It was way too complex!
It probably annoys people I play with when I resurrect some random rule, or just make one up. Making up rules was a regular occurrence in the old game because the books were so poorly laid out it was easier just to wing it. This is probably why I like RISUS! When I run a game--in any system--I still do this. When someone else is running the game and I am playing, though, I do try--sometimes successfully--to make sure I have a reasonable grasp of what the system demands. Making up rules on the fly is definitely not everyone's way to game. Still...on the inside...I am probably playing something else.
The game played very differently back in the 1980's. Modern games have long story arcs and heroes who are hard to kill so that those arcs can be maintained. Characters die fast and frequently in old D&D. The humor is broad. Survival is optional. You try not to get too invested in the backstory of who you are playing. Your characters are like you. They are way outclassed.
That said, we loved exploring imagined worlds, gaining gold, and sometimes becoming heroes. We also brought backups. Sometimes when our character died we would erase the name at the top and then, in the next room, the party would find that character's identical twin sister. We drank Polar Soda, or Moxie, or Coke and always had chips and pretzels. We had no idea what we were doing. We were full GenX.
Sometimes it was D&D. Sometimes it was something similarly deadly but much more complicated (d100 systems anyone?). The vibe was the same. Each table was basically playing a game of its own making developed through days of micro-negotiation. This, my friends, is what those Stranger Things kids were playing.
There are a ton of options here, but I will start by suggesting Dungeon Crawl Classics by Goodman Games. I have used some of their material for my Basic/Expert explorations and other gamers I know like them. One thing to look out for is that some conservative folks gravitate to these older games because they don't particularly like the inclusiveness of newer games. This has given this genre a bad reputation in some quarters. It should be noted that "new OSRs" are frequently just as inclusive as newer games. It is just good to be forewarned when delving in to this area, particularly if you are hanging out on the socials.
Also, nepotism is a thing so here is my son's old school weblog...or it will be here once he gets back to me.
Anyway, there are so many more games I could mention. Some are dead. Others I just wish I had time for. There is a world of roleplaying games out there. There are also "story games." There are also board games that feel like roleplaying games, too. Although those mean buying from Hasbro.
Tabletop RPG's have been an important part of the lives of many people. They have been a way to imagine another world. Sometimes that world is dark and sometimes it isn't. Whatever or wherever it is, we can try on different identities and different lives, which is just what we need sometimes.
My social algorithms are full of consultants talking very seriously about how "play" can increase productivity. It probably does...I guess. What I know is that no one needs an uptight suit to tell them that these games can increase your creativity and, therefore, your happiness. So get out there and roll some dice!
Good luck finding something. I am here to help.
Hiked On January 12, 2023
One of my mentors in ministry told us that on his sabbath days he would put his canoe on top of his truck and drive it through the middle of town. Sometimes he would take his canoe fishing, which is what everyone assumed he was doing. Sometimes he would just paddle around and go home. Sometimes, though, he would drive his canoe to Bangor for a bagel and a coffee with friends...and maybe a trip to the seminary library.
He told this story to convey four things. First, that the people of Maine are all pantheists at heart. As a Mainer born and raised I can confirm that this is true. Second, that people may not always respect your "off" time but will do their darndest to respect your sabbath time. Third--and this is where the canoe comes in--in a town of pantheists, a canoe on your truck means you are fishing...and fishing is sacred. Finally, the lesson was that you are best off leaving the parish come sabbath-time. That way folks will not be able to get in touch with you as easily. Also--more importantly--you will be away from the things that draw you back to your labors.
I thought about that yesterday as I tried my best to tie up loose ends in the morning and hustle out the door for my weekly sabbath hike. "Weekly" is a New Year's goal. Unfortunately, though, I was already on "Plan D" as plans A through C were left in tatters. Mostly the problem was weather up north, but the skies in the Bay State weren't looking so bright either. Little flakes of snow on my windshield indicated that perhaps the northern storm was going to make an appearance after all. Also, my hiking buddy, Andy, couldn't get out of a meeting. So I was left figuring out how far I wanted to travel to hike in the snow by myself.
The solution was to leave New Hampshire and Maine well alone and to stay in my adopted commonwealth. A slick and wooly drive down Route 2 brought me to the somewhat obscure Mount Grace State Park and a snow-laden hike up its eponymous mountain, then over to Little Grace, and finally back to the lot.
Mount Grace isn't a bad name, but it is a bit unusual. The legend says its name comes from King Philip's War when the daughter of Mary Rowlandson died after being captured by members of the Narragansett tribe. Theoretically the mountain is named after this daughter. It is a romantic notion and ties into one of the major historical moments in and around the Pioneer Valley where the mountain resides. However, there is one glaring problem. Mary's daughter was named Sarah...not Grace. So the name of the mountain remains a mystery. That said, it is a powerful idea to ascribe to this mid-sized monadnock. Somebody in some way found grace here. Maybe we still can.
If you want to be alone in Massachusetts, drive west and go hiking in a snowstorm. There will be no people to bother you. The trail started out relatively flat but that changed quickly. It was quite a bit more elevation than what I experienced the week before. That, of course, was what I was looking for. It was the only part of Plan A that remained. Then the trail went on up along some power lines to the rather impressive fire tower. It was snowing heavily at this point so no view was to be had. Alas! Pictures indicate it is quite nice. I will need to come back some time.
I did get startled a bit. When I turned around to descend the tower my long-suffering water bottle came loose and fell about 40 feet. It hit every available truss on the way down making a dramatic noise as it did so.
After finding the water bottle that had submerged itself in the snow, I turned south along a row of power lines that marked the shoulder of Grace and continued on to the smaller peak. Little Grace also theoretically offers views. Every once in a while the snow would blow and eddy away. Then I could peer down into the valley where a number of farms were perched looking for all the world like landscape illustrations in the Saturday Evening Post.
One thing worth noting is that--while this is indeed part of my "easyish" hiking list--there were a couple elements that made it challenging. First, there was that snow, which made both visibility and footing rather sketchy. This can be remedied by choosing a better day! However the next thing cannot be fixed so easily. The trails are arranged so that if you decide to climb both peaks and loop back to the parking lot, you will be climbing up pretty close to the end.
On a traditional morning climb you go up and then down. This trail rolls up and down quite a bit, which might not be everybody's cup of tea. In the end--according to my imperfect calculations and because of some diversions I took--my total elevation for the day was around 1,500 feet. The feet came in installments across the miles instead of all in one massive climb, but that is more than a number of mountains on the 52 With a View list, including the "starter" peaks of Willard and Pemigewassett which I, at least, found easier than this. You can make it...but I confess to swearing a bit when I hit the last climb of consequence.
The loop took me down the side of Little Grace and back around to the parking lot. It was a journey of small views, evocative precipitation, and unsure footing. However, I am glad I got out. Once again, for the second week in a row, I had the place to myself. I do not doubt that the pantheist in me appreciates this. I feel like I am keeping the spirits company on a cold, wet, lonely day. They certainly appear to be keeping mine.
The word "grace" has a number of meanings. In common usage we usually think of dancers or athletes, or people who are particularly well-spoken or well dressed. Perhaps those cues are why we tend to think of wealthy people as graceful even when we do not have much evidence to go on. Also, being gracious is what you try to do when someone else is being a boorish. These are all social, societal qualities. However, in the church where I spend my time, grace indicates the unmerited favor of the Divine. For Universalists--and I serve a congregation that is, among other things, Universalist--this grace is extended to everyone.
The old-man funny, curmudgeonly, front-door thing to say now would be that grace was hard to feel on a day with heavy snow and no views. I certainly didn't feel graceful...but I won't go there theologically. There was plenty of grace to be found on these two mountains. In the dynamic display of nature going about its business all I saw was grace. Sure, I saw and felt a whole lot of nature, too. Yet the fact that both were present is not coincidental.
I do not love winter hiking, but I love this grace that is sometimes hard to immediately locate in people and in the institutions people make. Yeah we all have it, or have access to it anyway. It is "freely given" and I don't mean in some reductive Christian sense. Grace is just present all the time for all of us. Mostly we don't experience this presence. It takes time and the cultivation of relationships to see and feel it around us. It takes the growing of love between each other and within ourselves. This wild morning reminds me of the blessing of grace. Maybe it will help provide the charge forward for another week.
I suspect that on those trips to Bangor my old mentor also snuck some work in on his sabbath day. I get that too. After my hike I spent the afternoon wearing out my welcome in a number of warm dry places where I could write. The draft of this post was one thing. Another was the draft of my sermon for Martin Luther King weekend. The morning reminded me that finding grace in ourselves and each other is more than an attempt at personal wellness. It is instead an important attitude on the path toward justice. Grace leads to love and love to trust then on to community...or at least that is the direction the sermon went.
May we all find ways to be this kind of graceful; not pretty and charming but bold and challenging as we expand and strengthen the web of connection--the world community--that surrounds us.
Hiked On January 5, 2023
It is hard to get going sometimes, isn't it? Getting ready for church on Epiphany Sunday even my brain felt bloated and out of shape. Two Sundays went by without a service. How do I do this again? Why do I do this? In the end it was fun. I preached about beginnings and about not falling back into the same old ways of last year. After all, the old patterns may not be so hot. The band also did a pretty good job leading Good King Wenceslas. It is ostensibly a Boxing Day carol --"Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen"--but really it's just cool folk tune about the legendary Duke Vaclav of Bohemia.
Anyway, hiking is like that too...but worse. I mean, it has been over a month since I put in any really serious reps hiking. I have been to the gym a handful of times and did those Solstice Walks but sometimes I worry that I won't really get back up to climbing shape. This isn't my favorite time. You know this. I would rather hike in "shoulder season" in the spring. Winter is here, though, and getting out is important.
On Thursday I concluded that I could probably clear a few homiletical cobwebs as well as partially arrest my downward slide in health and fitness by taking a good walk. Maybe I could shock myself back into action! I put my heavy pack on and drove back out to the Leominster State Forest. There I continued the loop that I started a couple weeks earlier. The total hike was about 3.8 miles and 600ish feet of total elevation. So not a big climb. However, I am out of practice. My knees hurt at the end.
The thing about this loop up the Crow Hill Ledges is that it features a short, steep section at the very beginning. I guess it could be at the end instead if one takes the loop the other way. I like to climb up rather than climb down, though. So I always choose the hard part first.
After that things roll a bit along a long ledge. There are obscured views through the tree trunks that wouldn't be there the rest of the year. On this day, though, many of them were still socked in a bit by rain and fog. The crisp, clean wintery air had been replaced by, well...shoulder season weather. It felt like early spring.
Still, it was more than nice to be out and about. Parks like this are very popular on nice days, so a little inclement weather meant that I had it to myself for the most part. There was a college kid scaling the massive cliffs and a couple different people walking their dogs on the flat. There was also the constant sound of traffic from Route 31. That aside, though, the fog added a mystical quality to the hike. The landscape--now wet with rain rather than covered with snow--looked very different from the last time I was there. Once again I wandered about a bit, exploring the side-trails and looping around the local swimming hole still holding on to a little ice in spite of the relatively warm winter weather. I felt like I could spend all day there.
In the end I didn't spend the day. In fact, it was already pretty late when I arrived! Technically Thursday is my sabbath. However a variety of errands and tasks early in the week--start up stuff for the church mostly--had pushed quite a bit of work into the morning. Once again this made me late. Just like last time I found myself pulling out my headlamp on the way back. The rain had made the journey a perpetual dusk until the dark appeared. Then I drove to a Dunkin' Donuts for dinner and to write my sermon.
Still, at least I achieved my goal. I got out and did a thing. I had a small adventure. I cleared my head enough to get the most creative parts of my job done. Maybe this trip will beat back the inertia. Maybe this year won't entirely be a slog after all.
Update: I recently made a video of a hike that was similar to the one described...here it is!
I am having a bit of a crisis with one of my plants. It is a large ginger that sits near the television and is truly quite a looker. This fall I added some houseplants as a way to get some green living things in my life before the snow and the cold made everything bleak. I got them free from a landscaper friend and the others are all in various levels of health. The ferns seem happy. The bamboo...I don't even know how to read but I think it needs water. My two old plants--an ancient Ficus older than my marriage and a Spider Plant--look like the grizzled survivors they are. It is this ginger plant that is bothering me right now though.
A few days ago yellow leaves started to appear. I did some reading and I learned that it could be too much water...or not enough water...or too much sun...or not enough sun...or an incurable disease. Good times. After a few days of stress I bit the bullet and watered off schedule. The other plants--except maybe that bamboo--don't seem to need much as long as it is regular. Now I wait to see if I drowned it.
I think it is time for a garden roundup. The year has ended and so has the growing season. Maybe it is time to take a look at how things went and consider the future.
This year was a bit of a baseline project. I have pretty much always had a garden in the same way I have always hiked. I do it...but not well. Of course there are differences. Hiking is something with a simple skill set. The living thing you take care of is yourself. The basics--putting one foot in front of the other--are obvious. On a hike you are testing yourself, your physical ability, mental fortitude and skill. Gardening is all of that with added levels of complexity as the ecology of our surroundings have their own ideas.
This is the story of the ginger plant. They aren't built to live near a TV in New England. For all intents and purposes the plant--all the houseplants, in fact, and in some sense the outdoors plants as well--is in the same situation as the ones in those tiny alpine ecosystems clinging to the cracks in a rocky ledge. All of them are desperately trying to make a home in a place with limited resources. The alpine plants are actually better situated. They have adapted to live in those environments. The ginger, the ferns, ficus and so on are dependent on the relative competence of a middle-aged practical theologian with no real sense of what they need.
So we have to ask ourselves, as people who care for plants, a number of questions. Broadly speaking, How do we make a curated space for growing things? What sort of dialogue between grower, subject plants, neighbor plants, neighbor people, and the local ecosystem--living room, lawn, or garden--can be arranged so as to be fruitful for the season? There are real stakes in this conversation. They are about survival for the vegetation. For me, the stakes are also relatively high. When I was recovering from COVID this past spring my biggest joy was sitting by the garden with my coffee. The same could be said for the time of my back injury. The conversations between these elements is important for all our wellbeing.
So...this past year it felt like I planted a ton of stuff. The plot is small. However we did add another raised bed to the operation. That may be it for now. One thing I learned was that the whole mess of beds and pots is awkwardly situated for the goal of maximized yield. The elbow of the house gets spotty light, which is good for some things but not others. Also, it has been churned up a couple of times to get to various infrastructure items that we unwittingly planted over. Finally, it is in a tight spot on the narrow driveway. The cars are single file so sometimes one's bumper makes contact with the outermost raised bed while backing over the lawn with the front car in line.
Still, I don't think I will move it. It just will be the size it is for the time being. The original site selection was simply because most of the parsonage is exposed to the view of passersby. The garden corner is literally the only spot with any privacy, which makes it a nicer place to sit. Also, gardens are ugly--or can be deemed ugly--sometimes and I didn't need neighbors calling the church to complain. Yes...that is a thing.
Anyway, I planted things and some did well. The potatoes were a successful early experiment. I planted reds, which were excellent and a variety of "Irish" potatoes that were healthy at first but ended scabby. I will probably plant reds in bags next year. Our pepper situation was ridiculous in a good way. Jedi and Padron--grown from seed--made room for Shishito, Purple Bells, Italian Cherries, and Cubanelles, some of which were planted in the potato bed after those were harvested. They all loved the heat of the Global Warming Summer and kept on giving until the cold set in. Herbs like basil, chives, thyme, Greek Oregano, lavender (new plant to replace a prolific old one) and rosemary (same) anchored the herb bed and made good meals better. Salad greens--mostly arugula--were harvested in their "baby" phase and used to spice up older greens from the farm my sons work at.
The flowers--mostly in pots surrounding the beds--were much appreciated by me this year. My favorites were the Globe Thistle--a tribute to our Scotland trip--and the abundant dahlias. It was full 1950's for a while with massive blooms lending their color to the brown drought-stricken landscape. I have actually made an attempt to dry the tubers and use them next year. I fully expect failure but it would be fun...and none of the dahlia varieties I grew this year were rare.
Let's not breeze by the failures. Yellow squash and cukes stood no real chance. We had watering issues and blight. They suffered from our trip to Scotland. The tomatoes were prolific...and immediately eaten on the vine by a rabbit and a chipmunk family before we ever got to use most of them. We lost ton of herbs and strawberries to them as well. We had pointless stevia plant.
Finally, that rhubarb now 3 years old continues to not thrive. Alas! What can you do?
Well....you can plan for next year, right? After Christmas Day we took a field trip over to the greenhouses at the New England Botanic Gardens at Tower Hill. This was inspirational. I took lots of boring pictures of healthy houseplants and novelty vegetables. I am looking forward to going back there an learning more as time allows.
Also, as I have mentioned earlier, I have been doing some reading. Celia Thaxter's book--that I mentioned in a previous post--is rarely shelved. My Christmas gift to myself also included some intriguing titles. I am almost through "The Philosophy of Gardening" edited by Blanka Stoltz and originally written in German. This collection of essays is deeply wonky and has given me a good sense of the state of the garden movement in Europe as well as some ideas for when I have more space.
I have also cracked into two books by Frances Tophill. One has practical advice that I have already put to use in my quest to save my ginger plant. The other is about planning out a garden for the first time. Again, I don't have the space now, but maybe someday. There are a couple of others as well that I have consulted and will consult again.
Now we are reaching 2023 futures planning. In addition to potatoes and peppers again, I hope to plant some weird things that I cannot get at the store or from the aforementioned farm my sons work at. The space I have does not lead to self-sufficiency really, just life-improvement. I am well into the planning stages and am considering seeds. Our neighbors next door--who are apparently fine with gardens--gave us some zucchini. I actually made a salad from them that I liked. Maybe, just maybe, one plant...
There will be flowers, too. Ever since the plague I have valued the aesthetic elements of the garden. It is a somewhat wild spot in the midst of the manicured lawns and the pavement that surround us. I have had a lot of coffee out there and written a ton of sermons. May it continue to be inspirational. We could all use an inspiring year.
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.