Before I was diagnosed with Bipolar I felt like I was trapped inside the body of someone I no longer knew. I still feel that way, but the difference is now I know why. I found myself transitioning to someone who was the complete opposite of most every characteristic that defined myself. Once I was diagnosed, (if you’ve read my other post “Christopher, you have Bipolar Disorder” you’ll read that unfortunately, my diagnosis came late after I had been experiencing behavior and mood changes for a few years), I became sort of a hermit. Partially due to because I felt if I was around people, they would see my disease and to be honest, it’s embarrassing. Also partially due to the explanation I would have to give for my behavior and the anxiety that I face each time I am around people. I’ve always been a private person and it’s a huge deal for me to let someone in on what I am currently experiencing and my diagnosis itself. There is a negative stigma associated with any mental illness, but especially Bipolar and Schizophrenia. I don’t know about anyone else, but I felt and still do feel helpless most days. People around me believe that I have control and that I’m using my disease as a crutch. That may partially be true, but if it is …it’s definitely subconscious. If you have never experienced what someone goes through with Bipolar (not what you see, but what they actually feel), then I would strongly suggest not making that assumption. Every single day is a struggle, even simple things such as getting out of bed or off the couch to just live. With the advice of my therapist, I recently joined a community garden that is also affiliated with the center where I attend group therapy.
Becoming involved in a community garden has given me a sense of purpose that I had long lost due to my inability to hold down a job. It’s simple really, if I don’t put in the work, I will not see any results. Hmm…that sounds a lot like life doesn’t it? It is my hope that my new hobby will be one of the many stepping stones to help me manage what has now become my life. Producing a garden requires patience, which is something that I have lost along the way. Prior to planting anything I had to research how to mix the right soil to produce the best tasting fruit/vegetables, because nobody likes bitter fruit. I treated my soil with beneficial nematodes (10 million strong…and growing). Then there’s the question of what grows best in your zone and when to plant the transfers (I started from seedlings). You also have to plan your crop locations because you don’t want to plant a crop that will reach a tall height (such as corn) next to a crop that at its maximum, is a small height (such as pepper plants or eggplants). It also gave me the opportunity to sketch, which I never turn down a good sketch session. You also need to make sure you adequately mulch and that helps combat drought by locking in the moisture and keeps ground pest and fungus at bay. My time in the garden provides me with clear thoughts and fresh air. Two things that have become more important to me now than ever before. Prior to this, I had no previous gardening experience. I’m definitely no expert but I am pleased with my results thus far and am happy I’ll be putting more healthier things inside my body. I did have an infestation of flea beetles who tried to kill my prized eggplant but they ended up dying a horrible death I imagine after they chose not to stay away when I tried to be nice and deter them with diatomaceous earth. How do you rid a flea beetle infestation and still maintain the organic properties of your garden? There are many different things you can do but I chose a simple method of melting organic castile soap and using it in a spray bottle. You could also use sticky traps or plant a trap crop (something the flea beetles like better – radishes or mustard).
Pictured in the image you see at the top of the page (taken fresh this morning) is one of my experiments that I am most excited to try. It’s called Japanese Black Trifele and it is of the Heirloom species. I haven’t been fortunate enough to ever try one. The shape of this fruit produces (yes, tomatoes are actually a fruit due to the way it develops but for tax purposes they’re considered a vegetable – this actually was a Supreme Court decision) is a pear shape. The color closer to ripening will turn purplish. Fun fact about this species, albeit the name is Japanese, the plant originated from Russia. Is that the same as naming a female dog, Fred? I actually met a female Fred while in Miami this past week. Not sure why I inserted that here but oh well, there you have it. I should be able to harvest one of these bad boys/or girls by middle June and I’ll definitely review the taste. I probably should plan some sort of meal around the harvesting of this tomato. See how exciting my life is right now (sense the sarcasm?). I’m also experimenting with an eggplant from Spain, Listada De Gandia. This plant typically will only yield around 5-8 eggplants, but from what I hear, they’re worth the wait. Most anything that is to be good is worth the wait, in my opinion. My other plants consists of Cherokee Purple Heirloom, Roma, and Pink Brandywine tomatoes. Jalapeno’s for poppers…I make a great popper. This plant is producing a plentiful amount already. The count this morning was 13 jalapenos with a mixture of baby and teenagers. I also threw in some regular standard peppers, green onions, cucumbers and zucchini. I decided to make the plot more worthwhile and try to grow some things I could not get at a local farmers market such as the Japenese Triefle and the Listada De Gandia.
Did I mention, my plot is located within a garden of mostly Cambodians and mostly Elders. I embrace each interaction with them because of their knowledge and willingness to share with others. They mostly produce their gardens for community consumption. While I was away visiting my Granny, I didn’t even have to worry about my plot as I knew they would look after my plot. Well, except maybe for this squirrel that has taken up residence in a nearby tree. He and I had a standoff once and he won. He got away with one of my cherry tomatoes. It’s ok though, I share but he/she better not touch my Japanese Triefle or else there might be hell toupee.