Keeping Up Appearances

April 20, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Vera Videnovich

Spring cleanup always reminds me that I should be using the cardio-bike over the winter to keep in shape. The leaves from several giant oak trees in the farm lawn kept me busy for a few days as I ran a rickety rake along the groun, dumbed the leaves and twigs into a tarp and dragged them to the sandy spot of my vegetable garden: a mini-sand dune that I call the Sahara on 90+ degree days of summer. I’ve actually witnessed sand storms on a windy day! Not much can grow in that spot so I’ve been adding lots of organic matter like the oak leaves and tilling them in, hoping to “thicken up” the soil. It makes the dirt a little sour so I use the location for acidic soil-loving flowers that I’ll use to dye wool: orange cosmos, marigolds, and calendula. I waste nothing on the farm.

cosmos flowers in "the Sahara"
cosmos flowers in “the Sahara” – 10/1/2006

I finished trimming all the fruit trees before the buds opened. A challenge every year. As I tried to apply a dormant oil spray I noticed my shot-gun style sprayer had a leak in the muzzle area. A minor set-back that I’ll have to remedy with the soldering gun. Later. Did I mention the rototiller needs some work as the pull-chain has been threatening to pull my shoulder out of its sockets? The push-mower also needs some blade-sharpening before I can tackle the newly cleared lawn. OK, so I jerry-rigged the back yard with fencing and the sheep have already mowed it down to the dirt, but there’s still a lot of grass to maintain.

Working on the farm isn’t always in the vegetable garden. I wish I had more time to spruce up the place. The chicken coop needs window replacements and a quick coat of paint. A few rotting sheds need to be torn down. Those are farm projects for “down time.” Let’s not talk about keeping up with house maintenance (or laundry).

I always worked in the flower beds and learned as a child what was a volunteer flower and what was a weed as my dad watched over my shoulder. While at college I used to bring back flower seeds and perennials for my dad to plant in his nearly immaculate flower beds. His flower beds were some sort of holistic therapy for his failing health.

These days I try to keep up the beauty but without as much work. I’m a big fan of perennials and hope to have something pretty to look at without a lot of labor. Spring always looks great in there but the weeds take over by late summer. I consider the flower beds a “work in progress.” I think it’s the nature of a gardener to think that one year everything will be “perfect” but I still appreciate these simple treasures.

Helleborus aka Lenten Rose
Helleborus aka Lenten Rose