Day 61: Make no mistake, I had begun to lose faith by late last week, feeling the amount I’d committed to do was more than I had time or strength to manage. But at some point I readied myself for likely plant loss, so that I could inch forward with continuing focus. The riding mower has packed it in, which means I will likely lose the use of its workhorse trailer as it sits in a repair shop for two weeks. This means I needed to plan for car access so the new trees can be watered with siphon from twenty litre blue “kersene” jugs just acquired at Canadian Tire. I spent hours on the phone and driving silly distances just to track down enough all-purpose (sharp) sand to be able to transplant my carrots: you would think it was rare gems I’d been seeking. I drove fourteen bags of the stuff (surplus) up here with my car shocks groaning. I’ve had to cut both a foot path and separate car trail through woods, and haul the resulting debris to a wood pile, just to be able to access the planned garden location. The plans have needed adjustment several times as I realize flaws in the aesthetics or math. The measuring of the field seemed endless, making parallel lines with no visual references seemed unobtainable, and the heat limits how much sun I can work under. This morning at 9:10am I reached a pivotal moment. The area was staked, double checked, and swiftly then three cherry tree holes were dug waiting for early morning planting tomorrow. The apple tree hole I dug is now a design change, so another will be dug tomorrow. After the snail’s pace things are moving inexorably toward proving what has just been a very brazen dream and theory until now. Two cedars this afternoon were “given room” as rose supports, so four beautiful David Austin roses can go in the ground anytime it’s cool enough to plant again. I may be sitting in a sea of unmown dandelions, but it really feels now as though the bottle has been smashed, this ocean liner has been christened, and it is now set free to the waves.
Month: May 2018
Day 56: It is going to be a tiring day today..far too much to do. Because there is too much, I have learned what “heeling in” fruit trees and roses consists of, the end lives of…I am learning the limitations of a Canadian spring, and it would seem I’ve gained some deeply resonating understanding of my mad father combing the front hills in the cold wind and pouring rain with trees and spade in hand, and a nitroglycerin pack taped to his failing chest. I will never forget late in his life his nearly suicidal admission to me once over the phone that he had only managed to plant fifty trees.
Day 48: Let it be known that at 5pm Eastern Standard Time today May 14 2018, Blue Saphire Iris went in the ground. I split one plant across the rhizome twice, so even in this the first year, the path will span the length of the intended walk with several of them. Then followed beside it like a soldier, Black Dragon Iris, also divided, and ten tiny basement raised Sweetness Dianthus. Tomorrow Rosalie Figge Iris will join the ranks. Oddly, this changes everything.
Back Breaking Work
Day 47: I have degenerative disk disease in my back, and periodically it has crippled me since I was a teenager. So over the decades I have learned a few things about what triggers painful paralysis and what does not, and it’s not obvious to those who haven’t experienced this. In returning to Hamilton last week, I spent a day sitting on a cushion in my city back yard, ridding the beds of two inch lightly rooted weeds flowering in soft sandy loam. My back went seriously out, I should have known better, and drugs and time on my back on the hard floors delayed my return to the farm. I had six fruit trees to pick up and get to Bruce County before they could wake up from their winter nap or die, so next day, I barely stivered to the car hoping the drive would not make things worse.
Three cherry, two plums and a quince.
Still hunched as I got out of the car on arrival, I despaired at my spring ambitions, and unpacked. The following day was a new world. Digging a pretty shallow trench for my longed-for iris walk to the barn, I struggled to create two dug blocks, thirty-three inches by twenty-seven inches, about ten inches deep. From two holes, about fifty percent of the volume is rock. My back became fine. Had I decided to lean over the bathroom sink slightly to brush my teeth, my back likely would have “gone out” for days. My iris dream continues, and the car is also packed with edible or blooming basement babies again for another green instalment heading north. Time to get spuds in the ground.
The Cost of a Pea
Day 44: When travelling, this expression has a very different meaning. However, the cost of getting 24 pea plants into the May 2018 limestone rocky ground in Bruce County, also protected from groundhogs, is not to be underestimated.
Eleven dollars a pea is what I estimate. It took me several days to be able to say that monumental task was done, two of those days spent just laying out parameters to allow for house expansions. As with most new projects, what I dreamed was simple, is far from that. There was the polypropylene I’d laid down to suppress weeds: free in the back shed or not, I will never use that horrible, slimy, slippery, shredding, environmentally and aesthetically despicable junk again. And not thought through, since the entire garden carries a pronounced slope along its length westward, and any new border hedge will memorialize that slope, the evolution of plans now includes undefined time to terrace the slope. Any hedge to mask animal barriers must wait months to begin. So must laying paths.
Any thought of having the time or energy to amend the soil is laughable at this point. But Ontario appropriate, and well deserved, I sat by seven with a bottle of Black Fly to relax under my newly acquired solar chandelier as the sun set over the chicken wire barrier around 24 two inch plants that hopefully are merely the torch-bearers for a decade of grander things to come.
My back hurt like Hades..
Fears and Fantasies
Day 40: As with most things in life, greatest joy is in the anticipation. Doing is mostly very tedious and pedantic work. In my case it will also be lonely work. A trip around the amazing world begins with standing in a demeaning government line to renew one’s passport, packing one’s meagre suitcase, arranging for bills to be paid and funds to be accessed while away, sorting out intricate train, plane and bus route schedules, and on it goes for the entire trip. So too with my 2018 journey back to Styx Crossing I feel my exhilaration abruptly diffuse upward like warm vapour on a cold day.
Unlike any other year I go prepared this time to garden, though what that means is a great resource for fears and fantasies. Fear I’ll kill my little plants with frost, weeds, bad planning, exhaustion, ineptitude or neglect; fantasies about grand glories that could be after ten years of someone else’s hard labour or a monk’s life that is not something I at all wish for my longed-for self-indulgent old age. I have packed my paraphernalia and suitcase – more crucially my plant cases and flower pots, and will be back in seven days for another instalment.
For the basement again I have newly started sunflowers, squashes, pumpkins, courgettes of all colours and sizes, and cosmos, all for a later trip. So many because this will be the year of variety trials so that next year I may know a few standbys. I have longed for and researched fantastic subterranean or prefab greenhouses with optimal heating for each, but more appropriately, when and how to plant out various delicate greenery that is now only three inches high and soon to be in my car. I have changed my mind four times about how I wish to build the view out the kitchen window, formerly to be confined narrowly now widely, the size and order of the six rotation sections of kitchen garden, the future possible rill down the rose-lined hill now barren or forested, the more immediate location and build of necessary cold frames, and the exact makeup and width of a new iris walk to the barn. I have never enjoyed attention to minutiae in anyone least of all me, but gardening is teaching me a late character lesson about devils and details. Finally every Easter flower from my house is now either packed to go north with me, or has been transplanted into my city garden. The seedlings I am leaving behind for a week are sitting in wet beds.
It is time to stop theorizing and dreaming: the dread of the necessary endless hours at the end of a shovel hitting stone after stone in the ground has started to fray my formerly enormous nerve.