Here in the northern reaches of Vermont my morning consists of Oriole songs, Dad-made coffee, and two impatient dogs happy to see me. I can walk out the door and into the dark green woods where the only sounds are rustling leaves and breaking twigs beneath my feet. There’s a kind of quiet peace and deep relaxation that I haven’t felt in a very long time. It’s an ideal combination of vacation, being at my parents’ house, and spending time in my home state. All is right with the world.
I’ve been thinking about getting a pet–maybe a dog, maybe a cat– but now that I have a daily visit from Ruth, I may not need to. Every morning the little brown bunny is somewhere in my backyard and she’s not afraid of me (first thing in the morning–me with bedhead, sweatpants, and rubber clogs–I’d run!). We even have a routine. I bang on the window, she freezes in her tracks, and I try to chase her away. She has huge black eyes, a twitching nose, and mottled brown fur. She can’t access any of my garden greens, so what is she eating? She’s clearly responsible for leveling all my April daffodils and crocuses, but I can’t figure out what she’s after now. Mint? My baby basil? Sonovabitch. She’s after my basil…
My mom and I gave the chicken wire our best shot, but it took a dad to make the thing work. So here’s a snapshot of yesterday afternoon’s work: slicing sod, digging a trench, folding chicken wire to make a flange (to stop their digging), sinking chicken wire in trench, replacing cut sod on top, stapling chicken wire from hell on cedar posts with a cheap staple gun. Did I mention that it was raining the entire time? By the end of it we were soaking wet, our boots thick and heavy with mud, cursing, and hungry. But nothing that a hot shower and a good pizza couldn’t fix.
All in all, a great day’s work.
This morning I put in the old paver stones to make a path, added more peat moss, planted seeds and seedlings and felt triumphant. Until I realized that the hot sun was baking their little leaves. My first attempt at providing sun protection included layers of table cloths, hair ties, and safety pins. It looked like a kid’s fort in a wire cage. Not good. Reluctantly I headed out to a garden supply center and got the right stuff–gauzy white plant blanket. It’s amazing what having the right tools and supplies can do for you!
So now I’m nearly paralyzed with lower back pain and covered in dirt, but it was a great day. Here are some pictures–check out the cute fence door my dad made. I love it.
You know how in the neighborhood you grew up in there was always that one lady who was a sick gardener? She’d be out there first thing in the morning, her nightie flapping around her legs and she’d stay out way past the mosquitos. Her gardens were magnificanet testimonies to greenery and sunlight. She grew all her own vegetables and handed you fresh pea pods as you walked by. In the quest for more acreage, she rototilled her front lawn, put in a picket fence, and planted tomatoes. (If you grew up in my neighborhood in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, sometimes this lady also wandered around slack-jawed with a butcher knife. But that’s another story.)
I’m not this lady in my neighborhood, but I’m getting close. Everywhere I look I see something to dig. And everything I think is a small project turns into an all-day affair. Yesterday I planned on transplanting a few orphaned hostas, but that turned into creating a new perennial bed altogether.
Today I headed into the backyard to plant the basil and ended up making (or trying to make) a little kitchen herb garden.
Now I need more seeds and I’m beginning to think that my driveway is really in the way.
Even though I’ve been complaining about all the yardwork I’ve been doing, it’s all I feel like doing. I’ve got a conference proposal due, a summer class to plan, and an edited book collection to figure out. But what gets me excited is watering my rhododendren with leftover coffee grounds and planning the layout for my veggie garden. I love digging in the dirt. I love my garden clogs. I love hauling around my wheelbarrow. I love things that are green and grow. I love how forgiving and inexact gardening is (or seems to be). I love getting free mulch. I love inheriting clippings and plants from friends and family. I love dreaming about a picket fence and future perennial beds.
Sometimes I wonder if gardening is the opposite of writing. Writing is so solitary, so internal, so intanglible. Plus it seems to take forever. Gardening is outside, physical, and visible. But I suppose you need perseverance and patience and inspiration for both. Maybe the trick is to balance them and plant seeds both in the soil and on my Mac.
Or as Rhoda said about my new front yard look, “It used to look like an old man lived there, now it’s looking….cuter!”
It’s true. Old people seem to prefer straight lines (think “hand-railings” and hostas planted in a single row) and easy-to-clean surfaces (like carpeting and linoleum). Same house, different aesthetic.