Wednesday, May 31, 2017
With birthday seventy-three in the wings, one cannot help but look back and wonder just how did all of this happen? Twenty-three years ago we bought this former working farm in a somewhat abandoned state. Several horses spent their summers here running wild within perimeter fencing. Their presence kept invasive vegetation in check preserving the cultivated appearance of the former fields. Under our stewardship the briers and the Japanese honeysuckle have made serious inroads but we are fighting back.
The stone walled square was our first project here. It required three years to gather the stone and complete using only hand tools and a pickup truck. The glacially deposited soil remains unfit for cultivation. It contains more stones than soil fines. Stones were screened out of the garden beds. Some were used to establish garden paths. Larger stones were used to build the upper section of our driveway. Occasional stones suitable for walls went there. Tons of compost were added to the sandy soil and workable garden soil was slowly built.
The overgrown area to the right of the stone square was our first garden bed. Goldenrod, asters, quack grass, rugosa roses and a smoke bush now hold most of this bed. We are working to reclaim this ground. Flowers and strawberries have the far end now.
Our ambitious plans called for sections of rectangular planting beds that would surround the stone square on three sides. Eleven beds were completed. Stones were sifted out building both planting soil and stone paths. Only one entire bed has been reclaimed by the quack grass. The adjacent bed never saw its near section finished due to a change in elevation. The remaining nine beds serve as planned but now we grow more flowers and fewer vegetables.
Age related adjustments can be clearly seen. Only the face peers out into sunlight. Sun protective clothing now covers everything else. Passersby must wonder just what sort of people work this ground. We care not at all what others think and there are some advantages to being seen as perhaps just a little off.
The garden cart keeps all of my small tools close by under the seat. Working the soil from a seated position overcomes some problems while creating new ones. My feet must rest on the soil compacting what we never used to walk on. When the distant work is finished, the soil is loosened where the feet and the cart wheels were. The fact that I had my big feet in the garden bed is kept a secret! Muscle soreness signals when the activity must change and we try to listen.
This area in front of the house is nearly finished. Some sod must be removed and replaced with stones in our continuing battle with pasture grasses. Then we will move to the far end of the house and bring that area under our control. More planting areas and a swing are planned.
The original question remains unanswered. Why garden? Quite simply, working outside among tasty or beautiful appearing or pleasantly scented flowers brings a quietness to my soul like nothing else. The positive results that come with carefully done manual labor have played a major life sustaining role for me. I cannot imagine a life away from these plants and stones. Whatever adjustments must be made to extend my days here will be made. A mat that will assist working the soil while flat on the ground is already here. We use it to place our nose close to the ground to sniff the trailing arbutus!