Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Gardener's Trials

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

There are parts about being a gardener that remind us how different we are from those with other pursuits. I really enjoy gardening now that I don't have to depend on hard work as a means of survival. When we moved to Vermont in the early 50's, green beans and squash from the garden and deer from the woods were staples. I couldn't stand spinach or Brussels sprouts or cabbage prepared any way imaginable or even carrots or broccoli, with or without cabbage worms despite repeated soakings in salt water. Those were memorable times but not great memories.

During the summer months when our nursery business is in full swing, there are certain parts about our lives that change. I am reminded of my younger years. Our house becomes a series of piles--piles of clothes, piles of mail, piles of ironing, piles of unread magazines. This list goes on and the house is a challenge to live in. When things get really bad, Gail hires someone to come in and mumble to themselves for a few hours while they put enough of us back together to make it through another couple weeks.

Liz lives next door and she is called upon annually to come bail us out. She does a great job and never rearranges things like Gail's friend, Corrine. Corrine also does a great job but with it comes a couple months of finding out where she hid everything. She's one of those people who will move around a wing chair so when she is finished you kind of have to put a hand behind yourself before you try to sit down because the chair you are shooting for might not be there any more. Liz cleans and organizes but she doesn't move stuff and I really appreciate that. Gail had her come in a couple weeks back and she spent parts of a couple days here.

Gardeners bring a lot of dirt into the house. I don't know if you're a better gardener if you bring in lots of dirt but Gail and I bring in tons. Within a week or so there was so much dirt that it was almost time to bring Liz back.

Two days ago I came back in the house to get the tractor keys and I noticed Gail with a hand full of dirty laundry heading for the washer. In one hand she was dragging a bath towel across the floor, kind of rearranging the dirt or maybe making some kind of fancy pattern in the dust. She resented the fact that I caught her performance which apparently was some attempt to rearrange the dirt so I wouldn't notice it and complain. I do a lot of work in the summer but house cleaning is never on my list.

Watching Gail brought me to an instant flashback of a time when I was about 8 so probably around 1955-6. We lived out of town and there weren't a lot of kids around so if I wanted to play with anyone else, I had to ride my bike or walk. A little over a mile away lived a couple of brothers with whom I occasionally played baseball. It wasn't all that much of a sport as we took turns hitting balls in the farm field and usually we spent more time finding the ball in the grass than hitting or catching it.

One day Delmar called and asked if I wanted to come down. Delmar was the older of the two boys who lived with their mother and without their father which I could never figure out. Delmar called JK13 which was our phone number back then. It was a party line and every one got on it at the same time when they heard it ring. Privacy was an unfamiliar term and once in a while I heard my father say some nasty words to scare away some of the unwelcome listeners.

Anyway, Delmar called and I said I'd be right down. "Right down" meant coasting down the first half mile and then pushing the bike up the next hill, holding firm to my baseball glove, bat and ball. When I got to Delmar's I thought we'd start playing ball right away but his mother had other plans for him first. She was in the cleaning mood and because Delmar was about a foot and a half taller than she was, she wanted him to clean the living room before he played ball. Back in those days people had a lot of glassware and knick knacks in the living room and the stuff always collected dust.

Apparently there had been some sort of discussion before I arrived as the house never seemed to be an example of "clean and tidy" during previous visits so I was unclear why it had to be cleaned before we played ball. The mother persisted and Delmar protested and finally his younger brother and I sat on the steps waiting for him to get started.

Back in those days people often had vacuum cleaners like Electrolux that came with a variety of attachments. One common attachment was a paint sprayer which I absolutely never saw anyone use. Just the same, that attachment required you to put the vac in reverse and blow air, hence paint.

Now Delmar was taller than his mother and surely no dummy. He took the vac and reversed the air flow as if he was using the paint sprayer, which he wasn't. In short order he went around the living room blowing air on all the shelves. When the vacuum quieted down there was some terrible noise of the two fighting and then Delmar said "There, now you can reach the dust ." His idea of cleaning was to blow the dust down to a height his mother could reach. Words flew like the dust and as the door slammed, we crossed to road to the field and began playing ball.

Everyone has dirt in their house sometime and gardeners, especially busy gardeners, have different amounts. When people come to our place we want them to see the flowers, not the dirt on the floor. Unlike Delmar, we don't blow it down and pile it up. Wherever Delmar is now, I'll bet he has a leaf blower in the garage.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it is cool, quiet and nice, kinda like hitting a long ball that is neither caught nor lost in the grass.

Garden greetings,

George Africa

P.S. The daylilies are exceptional this year. If you haven't stopped by yet, try to make it over!

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