"If I don't believe in solipsism, who will?" - Al Batt

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Digging, Planting and Cutting

Good gardening involves planning, careful observation and hard work. Granted, I spend a lot of time sitting and enjoying the results, but there is still plenty of drudgery and stiff backs involved. Even a small perennial garden like mine requires half an hour a day, occasionally much more. I would not have it any other way. I do not get true joy from looking at other people's gardens or public gardens. Certainly I appreciate their beauty, but mostly I find myself  looking for ideas I can scale down for my own garden. I cannot image having a gardener do all the work, then go out out in the evening to sit and enjoy it. This is what Lorna does, though she pays a terrible price for it. She is a Lady Chatterly. She sleeps with the gardener. 


My grandfather, N.C. grew flowers. Both he and my grandmother Nellie worked in the vegetable garden. The flowers were his. His gardens were neat and symmetrical. I suspect he cringed inwardly when later in life he walked through my loose floral free-for-all. He had a separate circular garden for his roses, hybrid teas marching in ranks around a large tree-trained rose in the center. This was a feature on their north lawn for years until The Incident. N.C. grew hybrid tea roses in Minnesota, which means you have to protect them over winter. My grandfather's solution was to dig up all his roses and bury them together in a long trench - the only guaranteed method. The trench was off site, not in the garden, which had compost tilled in in the Fall. One Spring after the snow had melted and things had dried out, he went out to dig up the roses. ....... alas, N.C. couldn't remember where he had buried them the previous Fall. My grandmother said he spent days digging all over the farm in any location that looked disturbed. The trench, where ever it was, became a mass grave and the rondelle garden was relegated to annuals. N.C. didn't appreciate the incident being brought up and never again grew roses on any scale.

My Old Man came to gardening late. He was not the kind of person I expected to enjoy gardening, but he was out there with his coveralls over the white shirt and necktie, hoeing away. A one time farmer, he was mostly interested in produce and dahlias - enormous, course "manly" flowers, but I'll be damned he couldn't make things grow. I asked him where he learned so much about gardening. He said it was just farming, only with different crops. It's just farming. I would like to think what I do out there digging in the dirt is not just farming, just growing so much colored hay.


It doesn't take long to discover that cheap tools are a terrible investment. Things that appear to be "good enough", aren't. They fall apart and bend in your hand. Most of mine are good quality, even some drop-forged English forks and shovels. Some I bought, others I inherited from my father, grandfather, father-in-law, or brother. The small trowel was L.P.'s son's junior high metal shop project, the scoop cut from a heavy galvanized pipe and riveted to a handle formed from steel bar. It's lasted me ...what is it, 30 years now? I take care of them. I oil them and sharpen them. Shovels are not blunt instruments, they are supposed to be sharp-edged tools, edged weapons, like knives. The older I get, the more sentimental I become. I think about who's tools they were almost every time I pick them up. I worry that they should be labeled. Who will know who's hands burnished the wood of that handle? Worse, I worry about who will inherit them. We're not taking about a collection of rare volumes or paintings here, we're talking about a bunch of old clippers, forks and shovels. I gotta get things in perspective.

(The title should be Digging, Planting, Feeding, Watering and Cutting.)  


Echelon 133 said...

Hey? What Does N.C. stand for? Oh as for tools I have a level collection. Must be the architect in me.

Gunnar Berg said...

Neil Christian Berg (originally Niels Christiansen) but he was generally called N.C. by people other than my grandmother.

YOU are as true as a level, as straight as a chalkline and as right as a rule. Etc.

Do you remember the beautiful inlaid sliderules? Oh, never mind, that was an engineer thing. But I have pretty nice set of drafting compasses - which spans our common ground of obsolescence.