Saturday, May 13, 2006

Hoe, hoe, hoe.

God help me, I've turned into a gardener.

I am one of those people I used to look at with bafflement and pity... the earnest people in the gardening centres who toss around terms like "PH levels" and "bone meal" and who debate the relative merits of bark mulch versus fabric weed barrier, and who know without checking whether a plant is an annual, a biennial or a perennial. The people who get excited over receiving seed and bulb catalogues in the dead of January, and who actually sketch their yard on a piece of graph paper planning what's going to go where.

The sad souls who think that spending three hours sweating in the back yard on their knees pulling weeks and raking rocks is pure heaven - no, scratch that. That isn't the part that's pure heaven. That's still hard work. But bits of it - digging a hole in rich, warm, black earth with your hands, putting a small fragile living thing into that hole, pulling the soil back around the roots like a warm blanket, and pressing it down firmly like a prayer for survival around the little thing - that's pure heaven. Gardening, any gardener knows, is all about faith and miracles, and it's the most spiritual thing I do.

The fact is, it's addictive - hopelessly addictive - and the sweetest thing is when you realize that it is not some secret club that you haven't been initiated into - instead, it is a loose collective of people who are all figuring it out as they stumble along, and that if you've read one gardening book, you're well on your way to knowing as much or more as your neigbours. We're all just figuring it out as we go along, all looking up to the experts and being delighted when something, against all odds, works out.

I've particularly enjoyed watching this process happen with a co-worker and good friend who is from India. She and her husband bought a house two years ago and she told me in no uncertain terms she could "never be a gardener" and would "never have a garden" because she didn't understand the Canadian climate, soil, or plants. It was an even bigger mystery to her, she said, than the rest of us, and she was incorrigibly hopeless.

I gave her a coneflower as a housewarming gift. Then, like a dealer lighting some poor child's first crack pipe, I helped her plant it.

Yesterday she said to me, "So. I bought a 30 litre bag of peat moss. Now, do you suggest spreading that on top of my garden? Or mixing it into the soil?"

It's been an extraordinarily busy weekend and it's only half over. Today we got "a guy wid' a truck" to come by and haul away a great pile of accumulated detritus - everything from a pile of winter backyard trash and bush prunings, to an old apartment-sized dryer, to a couple of old matresses. Then we reclaimed our front porch by cleaning it out, and then went shopping for a new microwave cart and for a barbeque to replace the several-years-old "Canadian Tire Special" familiar to any Canadian :) .

Finally, late this afternoon, there was a couple of hours of gardening, including preparing my microscopic garden plot for planting (this year I'm planting the snow peas which grew so fantastically before, carrots, tomatoes and, ambitiously, yellow zucchini) and some weeding (already!). We don't use herbicides or pesticides, on principle and because the kitties go into the back yard, so dandelions and weeds must be hand-pulled and slugs and other pests hand-tricked (beer bait) or hand-picked.

In between, via email, I've been working with a friend of mine who is applying for a fellowship grant from a charitable foundation to continue work he's been doing in his native Somalia. He had founded a charitable agency in that country and they'd started a school which at one point educated 500 children in eight grades; then the school building was destroyed by mortar fire and in the chaos of the civil war, they were unable to rebuild it. In the meantime, he emigrated to Canada with his family and now is trying to figure out how to reactivate his network in Somalia to rebuild or relocate the school and pay for teachers and books... I have been helping him with his letters and documents, just assisting with editing his English, which is his fourth language. I'm very keen to help him in any way on this because it feels like a very immediate and direct way to make a difference. Unfortunately, even as I was editing his letter for spelling tonight, I saw on the news that Mogadishu and much of Somalia has taken a fairly dramatic turn for the worse, so even if he gets the grant, his work may have to wait. One step forward, it seems, two steps back.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we are taking Husband's Mom for brunch as it is, of course, Mother's Day. She is doing really well adjusting to life without her husband, but confesses to "moments" of great sadness and distress, which is perfectly normal, of course, and I am glad she can talk to us about how she is feeling about things. She cooked me a fabulous roast beef (with Yorkshire pudding!) dinner for my birthday. She's a jewel.

I made a card for my own Mom and hopefully it got to her - the postal service to Newfoundland is pathetic. I'll call her tomorrow, of course. (You can do that now. For many many years, so many Newfoundlanders lived off the island that on Mother's Day the phone system would be completely overwhelmed and you would have to try calling all day long in order to get a line into the province. Can you imagine? Now with fibre optics, that's a thing of the past. The numbers of expats who must call long-distance to say "Happy Mother's Day" to Newfoundland moms, on the other hand, is not.)

And after that? Well, the hammock hasn't been out yet this year, and Husband did just buy that brand new barbeque...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

(an earworm for your gardening needs )

Stuck mowing a bad lawn (boom boom boom boom boom boom)
It's been brown since way before the fall ... (boom baboom boom boom boom)
If it wasn't for quackgrass (boom boom boom)
I wouldn't have no grass ... (boom boom)
If it wasn't for weed quackgrass (boom!)
I wouldn't have no grass at all
(boom boom boom boom boom boom)

You're welcome.

Mike P.

8:37 a.m.  

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