New Mexico · Outdoors · Running

Patio Ranchito

I like dirt.


One of my favorite scents is that of a hardware store’s gardening section.  Ahhh, the heady mix of soil and chemical fertilizer!


Growing up, our yard in Virginia never lacked things that grew. We had trees, shrubs, flowers, and a lovely carpet of grass. I say “lovely” because when you move to the Southwest after living in the East for 25 years, you realize the loveliness of grass very quickly.  Even our deck had its share of inhabitants, with my dad’s cacti (we lived in Southern California before Virginia) and a few flower pots.


I viewed our plants mainly as the source of really annoying chores until around high school. Then suddenly, the “green gene” kicked in. I claimed some flower boxes and got seeds and potting soil. I liked scooping the soil out of the bag and poking the seeds into their holes, and worrying about how much to water them. I loved watching sprouts grow and finally blossom into pretty little petunias and periwinkles.


Time passed; my interest in gardening took a hiatus, and didn’t appear again until about three years ago.  By then I had moved to Albuquerque. I already knew that growing things in the land where “whisky’s for drinking, and water’s for fighting over” is a lot different than growing things back East (you people, with your rain!). I didn’t know that my green thumb for flowers had refused to cross the Mississippi.


After two Springs of having flowers perish almost immediately on my patio, I decided last year to try peppers. Those guys love dry heat, and I love to eat them. Seemed sensible. I cautiously potted four little pepper plants. And had success! Meaning, they didn’t die. It was no bumper crop, but I had peppers and I was proud.


This year, I got bolder. I planted three pepper varieties, plus cilantro, oregano, mint, and just for cuteness’ sake, a little Agave cactus. Wait, are Agaves a source of liquor?? Maybe it won’t just be for cuteness after all. Hmm.


At any rate, I love them. Collectively, I call it my Patio Ranchito. The peppers have a couple more weeks till I expect to see anything, but I’ve already used the cilantro, oregano, and mint in my kitchen. It’s terrific! I feel a little bit like the Barefoot Contessa, if Ina Garten lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with a concrete patio in Albuquerque instead of a glorious country estate. Oh well.


It feels good to play in the dirt again. Not to mention, the ranchito provides an outlet for some of my extra energy from marathon tapering. A good outlet, unlike shopping sprees at Target. Which totally did NOT happen, ahem, last weekend. Ignore all the new shirts in my closet.


While looking out the window, nervously watching my plants bend in the wind, it hits me. Tending a new garden/ranchito is actually kind of like marathon tapering. Runners in taper-mode may worry and ask, “Am I doing too much? Too little? Am I going to see my efforts come to fruition, or just…wither?”  We have to just relax and trust. Trust the training, trust Nature, trust the strength of those roots we’ve planted. Let the wind blow and the rain fall and the sun shine. Have faith. It will be fine.



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