Thursday, April 8, 2010

Being Robin Ripley

A couple weeks ago, there was a multi-garden-blog kerfuffle that resulted from, as so many multi-garden-blog-kerfuffles do, a guest post at Garden Rant. The post in question was written by one Robin Ripley, blogger and published author, on the topic of "ugly" vegetable gardens. A number of bloggers then responded to the post with their own posts,1 and it was all very exciting for two or three days, and then the whole thing kind of petered out.

Last summer's vegetable garden, before anything got planted in it. There are no after photos.

I don't have a vegetable garden at the moment, and probably won't this summer, either. I had one last year, and not only was it ugly, it also didn't produce anything but a few ears of barely-edible corn (I think I waited too long to pick it off the stalks), I didn't enjoy any part of the process and was left with no particular desire to do it again. We've gotten as far, this year, as buying a few seeds and having conversations about how one might plan a garden on our small and oddly-shaped lot, which conversations invariably end in me getting so overwhelmed by the details that I throw up my hands and declare that it's all too complicated-sounding, and, you know, what the hell, I don't even like being outside during the summer and can never remember to water anything outside, so why are we even talking about this in the first place. So I don't really have a dog in this fight; my vegetable garden will probably be both immaculate and imaginary.

However. Being sort of a sucker for drama,2 I followed the links and read the posts and everything, and think both Ripley's defenders and detractors are aiming at the wrong things because people don't want to talk about the real reasons why her piece was obnoxious. Ripley herself claims to be "baffled" that people would take issue with her point that "that gardens take work, need maintenance and can be improved overall with some attention to design." So I thought that maybe there was still some value in dredging the whole thing back up again. To explain. Or possibly I just need to vent about it. Either way.

If you're sick of the whole argument, as I expect a lot of people are, you should probably skip this post and come back tomorrow.

'Super Beefsteak' tomato flower.

The reader may read the article in question for him/rself, if s/he doesn't trust my summary,3 but here's how it plays for me:
A. Americans are planting vegetable gardens in greater numbers than before, due to the recession.
B. However, some of these gardens will be ugly.
C. They're ugly partly because some gardeners don't know what they're doing, or they don't care what they're doing. They don't weed, mix in compost, plan out the design of their gardens in advance, buy good equipment, or try to make it look pretty.
D. These people are bad.
E. People who plant vegetable gardens and then don't take care of them make the rest of us vegetable gardeners look bad.
F. I'd rather these people didn't garden at all, than make me look bad.
G. Sometimes my garden looks bad too, but when that happens I fix it, because I pay attention to things [unlike these other, bad people, who do not4].
H. In conclusion, clean up your vegetable garden or you suck.
Ripley backpedaled (barely) once the negative responses started coming in. What she was trying to say, she says, is:5
A. I was just over-stating things a little; I got carried away, I exaggerated, I didn't mean all those horrible things you think I said. And also I didn't even say them.
B. I wasn't talking about your garden; I was talking about those other people's gardens, the ones abandoned because people took on more than they had time for.
C. If those other people (not you!) would pay attention to them and do a little planning ahead of time, their gardens could look really nice.
D. Probably they don't tend their gardens properly because they're so stupid and lazy that they think gardening is, or should be, as easy as pushing a button and getting instant vegetables.6
E. You probably shouldn't start a vegetable garden if you're not willing to work hard at it and keep up with it for the whole season.
F. People were angry with me for telling them they sucked, and will probably be mad at me again for telling them that gardening takes effort, because everybody is always so mean to me and I don't know why.
'Copenhagen Market' cabbage leaf, by transmitted light.

Now. Some of Ripley's defenders have tried to defend her using the argument well the title of the blog is Garden Rant, so she was supposed to rant about something, and she did, so what's everybody getting so bent out of shape about? This is a highly-efficient, time-saving approach, because it enables the speaker to excuse the post without having to read it first. But obviously there are a large number of super-offensive garden-related rants which nobody would excuse on the grounds that they're rants and the blog's name is Garden Rant and therefore it's okay. So I feel like this excuse is ridiculous on its face, as is the similar everybody's-entitled-to-their-opinions-and-isn't-it-great-that-we-can-all-have-different-opinions argument.7

I am told, and more or less believe, that Robin Ripley is a nice person, in person.8 And I doubt very much that she sat down to write the post with the intention of pissing off a large segment of the gardening blogosphere. Hence her surprise. But I'm baffled by her bafflement: what reaction could she possibly have expected to get?

Corn "tassel" (male inflorescence). From my own personal garden.

It's not only that her piece is likely to discourage any rookie vegetable gardeners who happen to come across it, as many people pointed out, and that's unfortunate; it's not even that she's ego-tripping on the subject to the point where she thinks that every unsightly vegetable garden is somehow a reflection on her vegetable garden, though she is.9 It's that she appears to be completely unable to even imagine that there might be people out there who want to grow a vegetable garden but don't have the money to buy better than a cheap Wal-Mart tomato cage, who don't have a husband they can draft for weeding duty at a moment's notice, who lack the experience and knowledge it takes to do these things correctly from the beginning, who don't have years' worth of gardening equipment stockpiled in their garden shed (maybe they don't have a garden shed at all, not even a little one) or the free time to weed as often as they know they should, much less the free time to be -- for fuck's sakes! -- making their own bread, cheese, wine, and pastries by hand, as the author bio at Garden Rant states.10

She is, in short, forgetting to appreciate that she has things really damn good, better than most of the people reading her post. She has more experience, help, equipment, time, land, and money than most people who want to grow a vegetable garden have, and then she's telling these other people that if they can't grow a garden that meets her exacting specifications, they shouldn't bother to try.11

Flower and developing fruit of 'Golden California Wonder' bell pepper.

And then she's surprised when they respond that she should go fuck herself. If someone came up to you on the street and told you If you can't do any better at dressing yourself than these rags you're wearing, you should stop going out in public, what would you do? Smack them? Tell them to go fuck off? This is that. The offense readers of the Garden Rant post registered is offense of this sort. And they're not going to accept "What? Dressing yourself is something to take seriously, and it takes thought beforehand and effort. You can't just throw anything on and expect people to shower you with fashion awards. And maybe if they're not going to take it seriously, maybe they oughta stay inside," as an apology.

We do all have these moments where we forget that things are easier for us than they are for other people, and usually we can just be embarrassed about that in relative privacy and then go on, as opposed to having it publicly dissected across Twitter and a large chunk of the gardening blogosphere by a number of otherwise total strangers. So I do feel for Ripley a bit.

But it's hard to feel for her very much. I mean, I'd sympathize more if she had, anywhere in the original post or its defense, acknowledged that her particular situation makes it easier for her to plant and maintain a large, attractive vegetable garden than some other people's lives permit. Or even if she'd recognized that other people's ugly vegetable gardens are only her problem to the degree that she wants them to be. Instead, she complains about six-year-old soccer players getting trophies for showing up, because six-year-olds thinking they're good at soccer when they're only mediocre RUINS EVERYTHING.12 Or something.

The basic point about scaling your garden to the size you can reasonably manage is, no doubt, a good one. It's too bad Ripley was more interested in berating the new gardeners who will get this wrong than she was in providing information that might help them get it right, all for the sake of . . . whatever she got out of it. Publicity, I suppose.

Corn stalks at sunset.


1 The ones I've run across so far, in the order I ran across them:

2 My original reaction to the article was to skim it and conclude that there was nothing relevant to me in it; my initial response to the controversy was bewilderment that anyone was taking it seriously. So many people were reacting so strongly, though, that I took another look.
3 Which is blunt, but I think accurate.
4 This part isn't stated that directly in Ripley's post, of course. But I don't know how else you're supposed to interpret sentences like "When [random unprettiness] happens, I move into action," and "Above all, we pay attention," in context of the rest of the post.
5 This abridged version is a little less accurate and less blunt, because, okay, I was amusing myself a little. But see if you can't find more or less these exact sentiments in the linked post anyway.
6 Because I expect people to object to this particular item more than the others, and to say things like but I never said anybody was lazy or stupid! I didn't even use those words in the post: Ripley says this in the follow-up post:
Our instant gratification society has led some of us to believe that any effort is a good effort and everything should be as easy as pushing a button. I believe we do a disservice to would-be gardeners by perpetuating the myth that they can grow luscious rows of bountiful vegetables without putting in some effort.

     Both these sentences are pretty transparent straw man arguments. W/r/t the second sentence, do you know any garden blogger who has ever suggested that vegetable gardening is effortless? Can you even imagine someone doing so without being roundly mocked by all the other garden bloggers? I mean, maybe the occasional marketer will gloss over the less pleasant aspects of growing a garden, but, you know. Fish gotta swim, marketers have to mislead.
     The first sentence bothers me quite a bit more, not just because it's a straw man, but also because there's something kind of icky about the psychology there. Any effort is not a good effort, Ripley would have it. Some effort is bad, is insufficient, is failure. This is an interesting perspective. I wonder about the interior life of a person who believes that there's no amusement or learning to be had even from a venture that fails to produce the expected results.
     As far as I'm concerned, any effort is a good effort if you get something out of it: maybe you had fun doing it, maybe you learned how to do it better next year, maybe you learned it's not for you. I'd argue they're still valuable even if you can't eat them. By the same token, tremendous effort resulting in an enormous harvest of food isn't a good effort if you hated every second of it or plan to do it all exactly the same way next year, as far as I'm concerned. Would Ripley agree? I have no idea.
7 It's true. Everybody is entitled to their opinions, and to say them if they wish. But sometimes expressing stupid or offensive opinions has negative consequences. Most people have learned this by adulthood, and express or hold back their ideas according to the kinds of consequences they're likely to have. I note here for the record that Ripley herself has not, to my knowledge, tried to defend herself this way, though some of her defenders elsewhere around the net have, which at least tells me that she's smarter than some of her supporters.
8 Though one suspects that now that I've posted this, she wouldn't necessarily be all that nice to me, were we to meet. That's fair, though. Also I wonder about the niceness of anyone who can talk about our "instant gratification society" non-ironically. The phrase was practically invented to dismiss, insult, or claim superiority to whole populations of people, typically either younger people or Americans, for the crime of . . . what? Wanting things to be less frustrating, painful, or time-consuming? Have humans ever not been after instant gratification?
9 The stench of it's all about meeeeeeeeeeee permeating both the original post and the response to its criticism is pretty damn off-putting. We all have moments of thinking that the universe revolves around us (though most of the time people recognize the truth, which is that it revolves around meeeeeeeeeee, Mr_Subjunctive) and I'm tempted to give Ripley a pass on that basis. However, neither the original post nor the defense of the post mention why any of us should care what Robin Ripley thinks of our garden's appearance. I mean, yes, perhaps people would have a better time vegetable gardening if they planned things out first, and maybe people should know ahead of time that it's going to take a lot of work. But Ripley's life is going to be pretty much the same whether the vegetable gardens of the world are visions of heaven on earth or monstrosities that need to be burnt to the ground and covered with concrete so nothing can ever be grown there again. The only points she makes in either post that might pertain to other people in a non-aesthetic way are, one, that abandoned gardens may harbor pests and diseases which could spread to other gardens, and two, some people can't grow vegetables in their front yard because some homeowners associations prohibit them, because abandoned gardens look ugly.
     These are both semi-legitimate, but I'm not sure the damage in either case is so severe that it justifies telling people not to try if they're not going to do it right. I mean, one is likely to deal with bugs and diseases regardless of who's gardening near you. Bugs and diseases are part of gardening. And homeowners associations are not static, unchanging facts of nature: they're people, and the opinions of people can be changed. Changing the rules of homeowners associations would be a lot easier if there were a lot more people in your neighborhood who also wanted to garden. If all the people who would stand with you against the homeowners association have been told that they may as well not try planting a garden if they're not going to get it right the first time, then no, you're probably never going to change the minds of your HA, but that's not exactly the fault of people who grow ugly gardens.
10 There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with making your own cheese. We should all be so lucky to have resources and time that permit us to do so. No doubt we'd be a lot happier, eat better, and so forth. The point where making your own cheese crosses a line is when one starts throwing phrases like "instant gratification society" at the people who don't have those resources or time, as though they could make their own cheese but are just too lazy to do so.
11 There's an interesting moment in the original Garden Rant post where Ripley segues subtly from actual things anybody probably should do in a vegetable garden, for best results, like enriching the soil with compost before planting, weeding early and frequently, and designing gardens with paths that will enable them to tend the garden comfortably, into a list of things which are clearly only personal preferences and aren't even necessarily relevant to the aesthetics, like including edible flowers for color, adding artwork and sculpture, and planning for chairs in which to sit and contemplate the garden. I'm sure these things are nice things to have, if they're the sorts of things you like, but they're also a matter of taste and opportunity. Also: we do not all live on "small" (21 acres = "small") Maryland homesteads and consequently do not necessarily have space for some of that crap.
12 Please. They're six. At six years old, half of them think they're going to grow up to be Big Bird, for fuck's sakes. If they truly can't play soccer, they're going to figure it out sooner or later.


ScreamingGreenConure said...

I read that rant and it pissed me off. I have an ugly herb garden. It's not even a garden, really, it's just a few herbs in pots growing on our flat's balcony, but I like it. One of my flatmates and I are thinking of getting some cheap tomato cages or those potato sack grower things. We don't HAVE a goddamn garden, the balcony is tiny and shared between 5 people, we all work full time and none of us could afford statues anyway. And I think they're tacky. The point is, it's the best I can do with my available space and current level of knowledge, and if this woman wants pretty vegetable gardens out of me she can feel free to send me the cash and space.

David Nolan said...

Thanks for all the laughs today - that was a great post.

I tried a garden once, it was very ugly, but it replaced a half full inflatable pool in the house I just moved into. By half full, I mean half the height it was supposed to be, but completely full of algae, mosquito larvae, protozoa, and giardia. Anything was better than looking at that horrendous mess.

I have a great deal of houseplants and outdoor ornamentals. I leave gardening to the farmers, and support my local food growers. They need my money more than I need a couple of "free" vegetables. They know what they are doing, have an economy of scale, and are just trying to make a living.

Given the amount of work and dedication that a garden really takes, I think getting a second job so you can afford more vegetables might be a cost saving and time effective alternative.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

I'm not sure how someone else's vegetable garden concerns Robin, or how it's her business what someone else does in their yard. Sounds to me like she's a snob and a busybody. She should learn to stay on her side of the office and mind her own business.

Anonymous said...

My thought when I read the original post was "overpriviledged Jerk" and since I'm not into raising my blood pressure I passed on. But how she would have loved my first veggie garden here in the wilderness. Spent all of July with my chainsaw taking down spruce trees. Went to the shore and salvaged driftwood, old boards, pieces of netting and made a fence. What a fence! Work of art. Planted veggie seeds around the roots and stumps. But that garden fed me some good stuff and 30 years later is neat as a pin (stumps rot) and organic and luxuriant. Go such your thumb, lady.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Mr. Sub, you are a master of words and debate with the footnotes and all. I know Robin personally, find her to be quite nice, and have just followed this whole dispute with mild interest. But I am glad you have set it straight and everyone should know, the world revolves around YOU, as it should.

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

Well, you know how I felt about the post. I read the original GR post the same way you did (masterful job summarizing, by the way) and was just as surprised at the "bafflement" on Robins' part. I'm glad you talked about the fact that she obviously has it pretty damn good, and that to think that everyone can do what you do, when you're obviously living an upper-middle class lifestyle, is an extremely myopic vision of the way most people actually live. I was waiting to hear what you'd say about this whole thing -- I'm so glad you posted on it!

Anonymous said...

Love your post! You read my mind and said everything I was afraid to. Damn, you have courage!

Thanks for writing it.

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

Aargh. And by "you" in the myopia comment above, I obviously meant Robin. Hate it when I hit submit before editing myself...

Studio6or7 said...

Nicely put! And hilarious.

Lance said...

Loved this - gave me much amusement. I use to love my vegetable gardens, I'm sure they were mostly hideous and ugly, but I enjoyed them. Wish I had time and space to do one now.

On an unrelated note - is the bell pepper photo yours? I love it. Strange for such a simple small flower, the photo is really quite good.

mr_subjunctive said...


It's my photo (they're all my photos), but it wasn't my flower: I took it at work, either last spring or the spring before.

David Nolan:

I'm kind of thinking the same thing, for us. We're in rural Iowa; cheap seasonal produce is not that hard to come by, and although I would like to be able to grow my own at some point (at least by the zombie apocalypse, if not before), I'm thinking maybe this is not the year to try to learn. Though I still kind of want to plant the backyard full of pineapple sage, just 'cause that would be cool.


You'd be surprised at how often people forget that the world revolves around me, though. Seems like I'm constantly having to remind people of this, and there are some people who never seem to get it. Even Sheba seems to need to be clued in occasionally, and dogs are supposed to have instincts about these things.

Kenneth Moore said...

To be honest, I avoided the whole thing, although I caught the buzz on ol' Twitter.

But, of course, I read your post--it's like how I feel as if I have watched Star Wars because I've seen Space Balls and Thumb Wars.

I wish I had ever lived on even a "small" homestead while I was growing up in Maryland. Mostly, we just had a brick patio backyard at the town house. That's why I grew on the deck in a container. But, then, I was single-digit ages during that. I can't imagine the garden was exceedingly pretty!

Paul said...

I'm of both minds.

I personally get disgusted when neighbors set up vegetable plots because it's the trendy thing to do. They usually do minimal research and end up shrugging their halfass attempt off while weeds and harmful insects shack up on the plots and ultimately move to mine.

But "ugly" is such a ridiculously subjective term. Some people would consider my woodland style herb patch to be ugly, but it's actually well tended, plants are quite healthy (the yarrow, almost too healthy!), and it's cute. And my one veggie bed is made from recovered lumber and sheet aluminum. It's obviously recycled, probably ugly to many (not the prim & proper cedar snap-togethers)- but it's well built, well tended, and I'm proud of it.

The message should be "don't be a halfass". But in her defense, it was a funny rant. Real garden folk can roll their eyes and move on.

Anonymous said...

Funny how people think it's perfectly fine to have their opinion and 'express' it to millions of people online, but don't want to hear anyone else's opinions. Sheer arrogance. BTW, "for fuck's sake" is one of my favorite phrases. Thanks for the liberal usage.

Steve Asbell said...

I understand why so many people took offense, but I think that the post was there for a reason.

1. It stimulated a dialogue amongst gardeners in the blog community and woke people up.
2. She's an author promoting her new book and she did an awesome job of doing just that, by making people want to pick it up and see what the hell she thinks an attractive edible garden is.
3. A lot of times we can get complacent and lax in our veggie garden design because they're a lot of hard work, which is why I haven't even bothered until now.

Maybe she is privileged and ignorant of most gardener's situations. I just don't think people should take it too personally, since I've seen very few veggie gardens that are visually on par with strictly ornamental ones. Edibles are selected for everything BUT their ornamental qualities, so as long as you're not planting an ugly veggie garden in the front yard where the neighborhood association will see it and send you a nastygram, just take Robin's rant as food for thought! I personally didn't see it as mean natured.

Mr_subjunctive, this was a great post and thanks once again for giving all of us a chance to vent and state our views.

persephone said...

OH. MY. GIGGLE. Thanks for the academic paper/blog post/Infinite Jest like take on Ripley's post and the amazing aftermath that rippled through the blog-o-sphere. Though I am among the lucky to have the time to garden, make yogurt and all that rot, my garden is not a piece of art because I simply have WAY more things to do besides garden all day and contemplate the ugliness of other people's gardens. As others online have said, it's great if someone is just GROWING something. So when I talk about my garden to non-gardeners or beginners I try to just be as encouraging as possible and make it not seem like a chore so that people know they CAN grow something. You're one of the best, thanks again!

mr_subjunctive said...


Well, I agree that doing things just because they're the trendy thing to do is rarely a good idea. And I do appreciate that adding a pest-riddled, half-assed garden to the neighborhood is not going to make things any easier on the people with whole asses. But that doesn't actually entitle the whole-assed gardeners to tell everybody else not to garden. It may actually obligate the whole-assed gardeners to offer assistance in a friendly, non-pushy way.

And anyway, like you say, "half-assing" and "ugly" are sort of fuzzy, subjective qualities. I don't trust anybody to draw those lines for me, nor would most people.

I actually didn't think Ripley's original rant was funny at all, honestly; if it is, I might need you to point out some of the punch lines to me. I didn't even get the impression that funny is what she was aiming for. She has said, explicitly, that it wasn't meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

Rainforest Gardener:

1. It's true that the post has generated a lot of interesting discussion and thinking in the garden-blogging community. I'm not sure that makes it worthwhile. I mean, some people were really really upset by her post, took it extremely personally, and for all I know may still be really upset about it. The benefit, such as it is, is more a matter of making lemonade from lemons, when Ripley could have just given us pears.

2. She's certainly managed to spread knowledge of her book far and wide. I don't know anyone, yet, who has said they'd buy it as a result, though. I mean, there still could be such a thing as bad publicity. I've seen some people say explicitly that they definitely didn't intend to buy it, having seen the post at Garden Rant.[1] And it's not as though there aren't other food-gardening books out there to choose from, if a person were looking for one.

3. Still not Ripley's problem, though. Or anybody else's, really. Had it just been a rant about how unpleasant it is to look at other people's vegetable gardens, it would have been a little weird (you're not busy enough looking at your own?) but basically understandable. The point where it crosses the line, for me, is the point where she says people shouldn't do it at all if they're not going to do it correctly. Perhaps they shouldn't, but that's not her call to make.

She probably did, as she said in the defense, have abandoned, really-far-gone vegetable gardens in mind when she wrote the original post. I mean, she's said that this is not about having immaculate, weedless, perfect gardens all the time. I don't see how someone is supposed to get that from the original post, but I believe that was the intent. Still, though. Not her problem, not her business, and I'll be damned if I accept that anybody who wants a garden shouldn't grow one just because it'll make the baby Jesus cry, or whatever.


[1] Which is kind of a shame; I don't know one of her co-authors at all, and Jean Ann Van Krevelen and I know one another only through mutual Twitter-following (which is possibly over now?), but I'm a fan of Amanda Thomsen and am relatively sure that they -- her co-authors -- don't deserve to suffer for Ripley's post.

mr_subjunctive said...

CORRECTION: No, Jean Ann Van Krevelen has not unfollowed me at Twitter. Not that this is a huge deal either way, but for the sake of accuracy, I thought I should correct this.

Anonymous said...

Skimmed Robin's rant. My impression was 'duh', self serving use of 1&0s, won't waste my time. Vegetable gardening, wine & cheese making, etc. to provide her material for writing sounds to BE her job. Martha S. least is upfront that she has a staff to do most of the work. Wonder if Robin has paid help for housework? (Sorry, that was snarky, but now I'm curious.)

Anyway, most people have vegetable gardens to grow things for the table, and oftentimes, so they feel good about themselves and their lives. I'm not sure if she would approve of some the gardens I've seen - pea patches and guerrilla beds in abandoned lots - but book illustrations probably weren't considerations. I concur that gardens that look like weed choked scrap lumber aren't pretty, but that might mean a lot of things, very few are helped by a "my perfect life" guilt trip. Robin must have her demographic down, but before she ventures to far outside that she might benefit by the gentle application of a pry bar to her world view.

lisa said...

I really enjoyed this post, you took the words right out of my mouth! Personally, I couldn't care less what what some snobby, nosey "big-time real gardener-type" broad has to say. About anything. And I damned sure wouldn't BUY a book she wrote...but I'd take it for free and feed it to my worms. (As long as she didn't do some half-assed job and print it with toxic ink on toxic paper. That would make REAL authors look bad.)

Matt DiLeo said...


Unknown said...

Trailing in a bit behind the pack. Ah, Mr. S, you KNOW I love your brand of eloquent, footnoted snark. And this is a great one. I think it bore bringing up and looking at again, just as we turn our compost to see how it's working away underneath. And I, too, would not buy that book for any reason. Normally, I do what I can to get hold of other garden bloggers/journalists books and promote them in some way (so long as I like and think they're useful, of course), but this time, nope.
Hopefully, no neophytes read that rant and were so discouraged by it that they won't proceed with trying their hand at gardening. I know at least one blogger who felt very badly about the whole affair too. So it goes.

ScreamingGreenConure said...

This makes me curious about garden drama. How can there be so much plant drama?

lisa said...

Maybe the drama comes from the fact that plants can't talk. I wonder what they'd say....

Paul said...

"Funny how people think it's perfectly fine to have their opinion and 'express' it to millions of people online, but don't want to hear anyone else's opinions."
In my experience, that's pretty common -- I'd even say more the norm. Most people, especially if it is a topic they feel strongly about, are less than accepting of other people's opinion when it is contrary to theirs.

I haven't read her rant, & really don't care if I do or don't. (Amusing blog again btw Mr. S.) However, I do think it is foolish for people to get themselves all worked up over it. If you're that thin-skinned in which you'd let some stranger's comments get to you that badly, you have other issues you should address.

On a tangent, Mr. S I don't entirely agree with your stand on "good effort". In the business world, for example, just trying your hardest is often NOT enough and such effort would still be counted as insufficient/failure if you didn't succeed. Nor would I agree with your example: "tremendous effort resulting in an enormous harvest of food isn't a good effort if you hated every second of it or plan to do it all exactly the same way next year." Just because the job wasn't to this hypothetical person's liking, there is nothing wrong with doing the job to the best of his/her ability. This would constitute good effort as far as I'm concerned. "Good effort" is not restricted to only things one enjoys doing. However, as long as we are just limiting ourselves to hobbies and such, I would agree with you that "any effort is a good effort if you get something out of it: maybe you had fun doing it, maybe you learned how to do it better next year, maybe you learned it's not for you"

An attractive (as subjective as that is) veggie garden is definitely more work than an ill tended one. But I think that's why so many folks -- if they have any choice in the matter -- choose to put their veggie garden in the backyard.

mr_subjunctive said...


Okay. You don't care enough about what Ripley wrote to be upset by it. This doesn't invalidate the feelings of people who did. People are allowed to care about things and be upset about things.

I see your point w/r/t good effort. Perhaps I should have been more specific about meaning it in the particular context of vegetable gardening, or should rethink it entirely.

MrBrownThumb said...

Interesting analysis of the original post and fallout.

lisa said...

Thank you again Mr. S for so eloquently defending our right to disagree. Ms. Ripley has a strong opinion about appearances of gardens...I can dig that. I have a strong opinion, too. I reckon that's why those gals call it a "rant" :)

Laura said...

Good read. This is my first visit to your blog, and I love your writing style.

Garden drama can be crazy, yo. At a recent garden club meeting a discussion about the purchase of a projector took on similar rants and tirades. Gardeners are definitely not all calm & rational people ;)

As for the backyard filled with pineapple sage, go for it! It was one of the plants that took off the best last year in my first ugly vegetable garden.