As a novice gardener and a city girl who has turned country newbie, I've spent the past two years on a steep learning curve. Whether it's in the garden or out and about in my adopted prairie town of Wakaw, Saskatchewan, I've learned all about being the newcomer.
When my spouse, Grant, and I first moved from Calgary, Alberta, in July 2004, the inaugural trip to the local co-op grocery store created some unanticipated social tension. The head-turning stares from curious locals gave me a taste of how real celebrities feel when they land in a new community. (I may not be Meg Ryan, but I now know what it's like to draw unwanted attention.)
Hidden in the local folks' gazes was the same gnawing question: "Who are these people and what are they doing in my town?"
I wanted to dart behind the $5-per-case soup special until the store cleared, but my extroverted partner was unfazed.
"I'm Grant," he'd volunteer with an outstretched hand and a ready smile whenever someone mistakenly made sustained eye contact.
The teenage clerk at the service station/family restaurant was the most forthright. She cut right to the chase: "Why did you guys move here? What's wrong with you? All I want to do is get out," she said with a sigh.
"Wait till you're 40," I deadpanned without explanation. Did she really need to know the ins and outs of my particular midlife crisis? I decided to let her enjoy her innocence for a few more years.
We've made more progress on the gardening front. It's a common language that everyone here speaks. Whether it's the joyous sampling of tasty spring asparagus from the garden of our generous neighbor Joe, chives from Debbie, or extra vegetables from Evelyn, we've reaped a great harvest in Saskatchewan's greenbelt.
I've made all of the classic newbie gardener mistakes: The tomatoes, grown from seed, were planted too late. I seeded six varieties of lettuce in the same week instead of staggering my harvest. Our potato crop was left in the ground too long and took on moisture, so the potatoes went moldy.
I refuse to use any kind of weed killer, so I spent many happy hours sweating in the hot sun, pulling weeds while my neighbors looked on bemused.
Since then, we've adopted Laddie, a stray border collie cross, and we bought some steel-toed rubber boots to wear around the yard.
We now listen to the eccentric radio phone-in program called the "Moo Crew Garage Sale" on regional radio to find cheap used goods. We also scan the free "Rural Roots" newspaper for other deals, and we've discovered a nearby farmer who grows excellent potatoes.
Oh, and our celebrity status has also waned. We no longer turn heads at the co-op.
That's the job of the new couple from the city we befriended last fall.