Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Sunday I enjoyed a very nice brunch with the family at the downtown marina restaurant. It was a fine October day and we sat on the covered deck outside, which is perched high on the bluff overlooking the Alabama River, under tall oak trees, and saw the boats below us waiting patiently in their slips. Acorns dropped above our heads, landing on the clear fiberglass roof and like small bricks being hurled our way, and I felt like I was really in a version of my new favorite Iphone game “Angry Birds”. Then they would roll noisily and slowly down the grooves of the roof until they made it to the edge, then silence, and they were gone. We enjoyed omelet’s, silky cheese grits, along with other various breakfast fare, and eased it all down with a screwdriver or two. Nothing fancy, but good for the soul and the stomach.

I came home after this diversion, with thoughts of doing something outdoors that might be both gratifying and productive. A given glance around this farm gives an endless list of things which might fall into either of those categories. I juggled and few and then I looked at the area formerly known as the veggie garden, now an overgrown jungle of surrounding shrubs that have way over grown their “matures to something? feet high??”  nursery tags, the interior path ways filled with dry grasses, volunteer zinnias, and goldenrod, and raised boxes undetectable. I felt somewhat like Scarlet O’Hara standing in the post Yankee ravaged South, ruined garden of Tara, and I said to myself, “As god is my witness, I will grow collards in here again!” And thus began my afternoon of righteous labor with intent to take back that which nature had the full summer to run amuck with.

I stood at the gate and was significantly overwhelmed when I took in the whole scene of what lay before me and the knowing what the cost to my poor body would be. It would have been so nice to blink my eyes and have it be done, all tidy again. Nice fantasy but it wasn’t going to happen like that, I knew that, so I looked down and focused on what was within my reach and I began, that is, after I had hacked down the branches of the lady banksias rose to even get into the garden. The dogs all assumed their positions in  shady places and waited for me to work it all out.

Soon I was in my rhythm snatching the villainous weeds and stuffing them into my bucket. Once full, the bucket was dumped into the front end loader. This continued for unknown hours. The tractor made at least 4 trips to the compost pile to dump this mess and at long last the horses convinced me it was “quittin’ time” and I stopped my mission for the afternoon. Mission was not anywhere close to being accomplished but I had scared some of the weeds still left in there pretty bad, and they know I am coming back for them, soon. I did feel pretty darned gratified.

My dad used to employ this type of gardening, in his twisted way of relaxing, when we went up to our lake house and later at the beach place. Early in the morning, out he would go, a cigar stuck in his mouth, and with his University of Alabama coffee cup and machete in hand, armed for warfare. A few hours of hacking at the underbrush, sticker vines, and honey suckle, he would emerge from the newly tamed jungle, blood oozing from the scratches on his arms, bucket loads of sweat pouring off his skin, his cigar shorter, and coffee gone. He would smile and reach for a cold Heineken beer and feel the piety of beginning a day with such a determined effort. This was usually before 7 am or so, while we snoozed away, knowing that once again we would be safe from all of the encroaching vegetation, saved by my favorite super hero, dad. Of course this pattern perpetually repeated itself as the vegetation always grew back allowing the ritual to continue.

I did pause Sunday, as I worked, and looked around, and listened, enjoying the pleasure of being able to be outdoors again, and even though working hard, not dieing from the heat. It was pleasant, apart from a few nasty fire ants that got into my glove, to be working with the soil, making room for new plants. The scent of the herbs that I hit as I weeded filled my nose and made my mouth water. First, closest to the gate is the bed of chocolate mint, a small leaved mint that has a distinct sweet and yes, chocolate smell, like peppermint patties. Then the garlic chives mixed with this, followed by the thick scent of the basil stems I broke, and then the rosemary chimed in. It was an olfactory overload, but very nice.

Across the pond from the garden, the tall sweet gum trees were filled with the autumn arrivals, the fish crows. This time of year these birds come in large groups and sit at the very tops of the trees boisterously yakking back and forth with a nasal sort of honking and beeping. They are smaller than the regular crows we have here year round and they do not make the “caw” type sound of the larger birds. Theirs is a sound that now quintessential October background noise for me, like June bugs in June. These fish crows will hang around for a while and then be gone to parts unknown, hopefully to return to sing their songs next October, and for more after that.

My back “told me so” the next morning when I got up, about that weeding thing, but a few Tylenol later I was up and kicking. I rode my mare, Sunset, back to the creek, through the woods on the south border of the property. We sauntered along like I was on a Thelwell pony, with her grabbing bits of grass as we walked in the filtered sunlight, leaves crunching under her feet, and lazily made our way back to the creek. The creek was very low and the swamp maples were only hinting at turning colors but showed promise of doing so soon. The trails had done like my garden and were a bit thick to travel through in parts but it was a nice hack.

The perimeter trail ends on the north side into a field that doesn’t get cut regularly and tends to grow wild after a few years. When I came out of the shade of the woods I came into a field of golden sunflower/daisy like flowers blooming on very tall shafts. Goldenrod blooms laid out in a blanket of gold below it and sporadically placed were towers of a pink wild flower I don’t know the name of.

It was spectacular, and it was peaceful. It is nice sometimes to be able to be totally blown away at a simple field of wild flowers and not just be a viewer from a car window, but to be riding a nice horse through it, and just be, there, in a sweet moment suspended in time, and one of sheer unexpected beauty.

Today I will do battle with the willful garden again, and give those remaining weeds what for and the ol heave ho. Adios and farewell ye weeds. Collards are coming to take your place, and snow peas, and chard, and maybe some broccoli. It has been said that to be a gardener one must be an optimist, living for the reward of one’s efforts, and I eagerly await the fresh greens that will grow from this soil.


  1. Beautiful post all the way around. Thank you:)
    Larry T

  2. thanks larry. collards are in the dirt as i write