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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: Thank you, Minnesota, I needed some validation


January 31, 2020

I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but the United Nations has set out to ruin my entire year, and they’re pretending that they’re doing it for my well-being.

Their website says that the United Nations General Assembly declared 2020 to be the International Year of Plant Health.

I’m not making this up. They are. They said they’re doing this “to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic development.”

But I know they’re doing it to make me feel guilty about killing my spider plant.

That spider plant was the first plant I got when I moved out on my own when I was 19. OK, well, technically it was the only one of the five little plant starts that survived that first few months. It was the hardiest plant I’d ever met — until it wasn’t.

The first apartment I had was a spacious basement apartment with those tiny death-trap windows, ’60s two-tone, sea-foam green, deep-pile shag carpet, and virtually no insulation. That last feature was further enhanced by the fact that the thermostat was in landlord’s main-floor dwelling quite near a really well-built and efficient wood stove that the landlord always had well-stoked and cranking out the heat for his upstairs portion of the house, only.

I remember one morning actually seeing my breath in the shower stall and that evening after work delivering my rent upstairs where his thermometer said the main floor was 80 degrees. I didn’t put a thermometer in my apartment. I figured it would be better not to know.

No doubt, this seems like I’m digressing, but I wanted to stress how very cold it was in this apartment, so cold I finally drew the curtains over my tiny windows and the meager sunlight they would allow in the house because I needed to conserve heat.

My mother came for a visit that first winter — thankfully during a warm spell — and after I returned from work she asked when it was I last watered my plant.

I said, of course, what plant?

She rolled her eyes, pulled back the curtain and pointed to this frail 2-inch tall spider plant cutting withering on the window sill.


So we brought it in from the cold and repotted it and set it where I would remember to water it — next to the kitchen sink. It grew reasonably tall over the years when I had roommates who would care for it, and especially in the early, honeymoon years of my marriage when my husband was keen on romantic gestures like watering my plants.

Later, under my primary caregiver attentions people would often comment on how it looked like it needed water and I would say, “Oh, it’s fine. It’s building character.”

A few times people even said the plant looked like it was dying, but I had to admit that it was the best it had looked in months.

I was always surprised by the number of runners it grew. They would hang heavy with baby spider plants, and I felt quite proud of this productivity. In hindsight, I think it was just trying to save itself through natural propagation, throwing its precious life force into the little babies that it hurled over the side of the pot, hopeful they would find a home, rich with dark loam and regular watering.

Then one day that plant just up and died.

And somehow the United Nations found out and they created a whole holiday just to rub my nose in it. As if the plant’s death wasn’t hard enough on me.

The only thing keeping my ego in tact is that Minnesota is on my side. Well, not about neglecting house plants, but about my yard.

As you can imagine, this inability to make a connection with greenery extends to the outdoors. Fortunately, I have a better system there — I let Mother Nature handle things.

I see no point in working my tail off to make a lawn grow just so I can work my tail off to keep it cut to a manageable length. I’m just too cheap and lazy. I let the natural grasses and the wild flowers and shrubs do their thing.

In 2019, Minnesota lawmakers set aside $900,000 to pay its residents who replace their lawns with natural grasses and wildflowers to help provide habitat for pollinators, especially the rusty patched bumblebee, a fat and fuzzy species whose last known survivors live only in the Upper Midwest.

Sure, I’m not in the Upper Midwest, but I am, apparently, doing my part to feed the bees of north-central Montana.

Take that, United Nations, I ain’t entirely bad ... and now Minnesota has confirmed that I’m trendy.


Is it going too far to say that I feel like the bee’s knees at http://www.facebook.com/viewfromthenorth40.com ?


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