Garden lesson two: plants die if they don't get water. I know what you're thinking, but don't underestimate the trickiness of clay soil. I did water (I swear!), but after the hose had sprayed my newly planted seedlings for approximately five seconds, the garden was a swamp. I turned off the hose and came to the only logical conclusion. I had overwatered. The next day I had desiccated plants.
Garden lesson three: mulch. One week after laying straw around my few surviving plants, they had grown five times larger. Although my tomatoes look to be about two weeks behind all my neighbors' plants, they are finally blooming.
I began this project with high ideals--to know once and for all exactly where my food came from, to be connected to the earth in some fundamental way, to weed out unimportance and cultivate meaning. As with most of life's "meaningful" pursuits, what I gleaned was far more practical: Fly beetles like eggplant leaves. Gloves are not just for looks. Weeds aren't all bad. (I made a few dishes with the lemony sorrel that grows next to the chives, and a friend of mine dubbed me an official Ann Arbor hippie when I brought "weed salad" to her Fourth of July barbecue.)