Friday, June 05, 2009

The saga unfolded thusly

I took a day off from work today and rode my bike, ate at local restaurants, and sat in my backyard to finish a book. (The book in question was John Green's Paper Towns.) Once I finished reading, and before I went to get the kids from school, I put this on my Twitter stream.

"PaperTowns": a coming-of-age/American Graffiti tale of growing up, moving on,
self discovery. More details to come tonight over at #WWYG. from Tweetie

Now, of course, when I wrote that (approximately 2 pm), I meant tomorrow rather than tonight. Because I've already promised you, my friendly readers, the story of how our garden came to grow. And then I put it off, and put if off, and put it off.

But tonight seems to be the night.

So, here goes. And I'll be referring back to Twitter posts I made throughout the process, as it helps me remember things and adds exciting flow to the story!


1. Helping out with "square-foot gardening" at church. from Tweetie

It all began over two weeks ago, when Lynda and I were introduced to the idea of Square Foot Gardening at our church in New Albany. Now, we'd been informally mulling over the idea of starting a garden of some sort in our backyard for a while, for a few reasons: 1. we had an unimproved spot in the corner of the backyard that wasn't doing anything, so maybe it might become a garden spot? 2. I found it appealing and "green" to try and grow some of our own vegetables--stuff that the kids already enjoy, like beans, maybe a few corn plants, possibly a tomato for Lynda and I to under-utilize--but everyone has to grow tomatoes, right? And 3. the kids might enjoy digging around and learning about the growth cycle and whatnot.

But Sq. Ft. Gardening was something new. It demonstrated a small, manageable, logical way to introduce a garden into an area without excessive ground preparation. And it helped us keep out ambitions manageable. One small 4 ft. by 4 ft. frame, subdivided into twelve smaller quadrants was all we could realistically handle. After all, Dad had already warned me not to go overboard and not to get my expectations up too much. So, Square Foot Gardening it was! When could we get started?!

2. Stump removal estimate contains three terrible words: Emerald. Ash. Borer. (sigh) goodbye cheap expense. from Tweetie

Well, there would be some ground preparation. The aforementioned spot in the backyard was unimproved to be sure. It had lots of surface weeds, trash, and some stray plants growing from stumps that would make it very difficult to find a level spot for our garden frame. So, we began an estimate process to clear out the stumps back in the corner, along with a stump on the side yard that Lynda had unsuccessfully tried to dig out last Fall. And there were also two dead trees that needed removing and another stump that our neighbors wanted us to get rid of as well.

Along with all of that stuff we were expecting to have done, the first company informed us that the four trees lining the fenced portion of the backyard were suffering from Emerald Ash Borers and needed to come down. Thus, the estimate went up. WAY up. More than we could commit to at this time. So, we got another company to come out and tell us what they thought. These guys (without our prompting, I believe--though Lynda was doing the talking while I cooked dinner) said the Emerald Ash issue was a non-issue and they could remove all the other stuff for a very reasonable price indeed. SOLD!

Get that ground cleared! Get the supplies! Let's get gardening!

3. Bought wood for garden container. To be constructed tomorrow. Had great time at friends tonight. Maybe work tomorrow? (but only at home) from Tweetie

The sq. ft. Garden box is together. After stumps are removed we'll get soil mixture and start planting. Anyone have vegetable suggestions? from Tweetie

Can't you feel the optimism? Doesn't it all seem like it's going to work out swimmingly? The wood was purchase and the square frame was assembled. Heck, even I was able to do that without too much trouble, getting the kids to help me on a Memorial Day weekend. (Just to do my Dad proud, I even bought a container to organize all of the random screws, bolts, nails, and other stuff that had been accumulating in the garage shelves. I was Dad'ing it up all over the place.)

But it was great. The stumps weren't yet out of the ground, but the frame was ready. I was looking for vegetable ideas. The soil mixture would soon be bought. All was right in the world.

4. At home and aiming for a relaxing weekend. And stumps are being removed with extreme prejudice! from Tweetie

Last Friday I got home to find the stump removal guys had arrived and were practically done with the job. Dead, scraggly trees were gone, wood shavings were piled around. Things were looking UP! I was expecting a relaxing weekend, for heaven's sake. I figured all I had to do was get the frame on the ground (with a blanket serving as a weed barrier between our new cleared ground and the soil mix), mix up our soil, put down our seeds, water, and sit back to enjoy the bounty of Mother Earth!

What could be simpler?

5. Today: more ground clearing, branch trimming, soil and box garden prep. But chocolate chip pancakes start the day off right. from Tweetie

Now it is Saturday. And I'm still in a pretty good mood. Sure, the weeds have to be cleared off the ground and then the ground has to be levelled a bit. But those things aren't too hard, right?

6. Garden slowed down by the noticeable presence of un-removed stumps. from Tweetie

Oh, dear, what's this? It seems that all of the stumps were NOT removed. It seems that Lynda and I had to spend about two hours of our morning digging two of them up ourselves. That doesn't really fit into our relaxing garden adventure, now does it?

Oh well. We got it done eventually. And then it was back on schedule, levelling, getting the frame ready, getting all of the soil components, purchasing the seed packets, what . . . wait, WHAT?!

Yeah, I bought treated wood from the frame. The box is sitting outside all summer. It's gonna get rained on?! If the wood isn't treated, then it's just rot away, right?


What do you mean I wasted money and time on that frame? What do you mean treated wood will contaminate the food we're growing? What, start over?!!

. . .

7. Just so angry right now. THIS is why you shouldn't learn anything new in life. The failure just gets in the way of happiness. from Tweetie

(leave me alone)

. . .

. . .

8. Getting calm. Resigned to new set of tasks. Will laugh about later? from Tweetie

By Saturday evening, I was accepting of the fact that a new frame had to be built, with untreated wood. Lynda went out and got the wood, the soil for mixing, and the seeds. She then put together the frame and we were back in business.

On Sunday, after we spent the morning and early afternoon at a church (where it all began) picnic eating hamburgers and flying kites, we got back to the task of nurturing food out of the ground. The ground was cleared. The frame was approved. The soil components were assembled. Thunderbirds were GO!

And then, the other shoe dropped.

Lynda was halfway through mixing and spreading the soil inside the frame when we came inside and head-motioned for me to come out into the backyard with her.

"Take a look and tell me what you see," she said.

Immediately, I KNEW. But I stood there silently for a bit, breathing, thinking, wondering what to say and do.

"That spot we spent all that time clearing. It's not as sunny as we thought is it?" I said.

"Nope," she said. "What do you want to do?"

(Scream?) "Well, honestly, I'm ready to just keep going and see what happens. It's not totally in the shade, right?" (But I knew it was foolish to really consider that.)


"I guess we should move it. We'll shovel the soil mix out of the frame onto a tarp, then move the blanket barrier and the frame to a sunny spot in the yard--maybe over here in front of the juniper--drag the tarp over, and shovel the soil mix back in. I'll go get a shovel and be right back."

(All of that sounds really measured and thoughtful. But really we were both extremely tired, frustrated with the project, and angry that out enthusiasm had gotten ahead of our commonsense throughout the entire process and we'd had to start over so many times. We were both beaten down and ready to do something, anything, to get this done and find something positive again.)

In actual fact, the moving of the frame was pretty simple and painless. It got us started back up into happy territory again. By the end of that Sunday night, all was in place and seeds were under the soil, watered, and hope waited to spring forth.

The fact that two days of hard rain immediately followed made me worry a bit that the new plants might get waterlogged too soon--and frankly, some of them still might. It's been a week and nothing significant has started struggling forth yet. But we've been watering daily, looking, hoping. We've got two tomato plants potted, a green pepper plant, some lima beans, some garden peas, green beans, squash, and zucchini out there trying to decide what comes next.

You'd think that--as parents of three children--we'd be comfortable with stepping out in hope, prepared to accept the unknown. But parenting is emotional labor, mental labor. This was physical labor.

(And there is a reason that nerds don't win body building competitions.)

But the negativity is gone now. The struggles only added up to make the story more interesting. And we've got the hope back.

As things grow, I'll let you know.

9. Sore. Stumps and box story to be detailed later in the #WWYG forum. Now time for coffee and many aspirin. from web

And now the story is done.

No comments: