How can it be that I missed the first day of spring? I'll tell you how -- I was outside, working hard, and didn't give the day a thought! I love spring, love, love, LOVE. Spring and fall are my two favorite seasons, and probably spring the most, though in this State (Tennessee) of hot, humid summers, seeing summer finally break is also a treat. I've done my first gardening, and am seeing the results. Look:
It's two of my first three rows of spinach, sprouting! I've never had spinach sprout! I think I always planted it too late -- it's definitely a cool-weather crop, and needs to be sown here very early. I know, you can see that the soil is dry. I thought I might hold out for rain, but I promise that tomorrow I will water it by hand, with tender loving care, even though it's supposed to rain on Wednesday. I'm not going to risk it. I should have done it sooner, even. But I'm so thrilled to see it coming up! While I'm out there, I'm going to till soil and plant 3 more short rows, as well as some lettuce and peas. I'm planting things that don't grow high in the bed near the fence, because last year my green beans were decimated by deer! I don't think they can reach in far enough to get to spinach and lettuce in this bed. I'm also going to hang shiny CDs to startle them away. People advocate smelly and even toxic repellants, but I just can't. I'll try the old-fashioned stuff first. I asked for those disposable aluminum pie tins on Freecycle, but nobody responded. So I think shiny CDs (I have tons from AOL, otherwise known as AO-Hell) hung at frequent intervals might provide a deterrant. We'll see.
Here's one more veggie garden shot:
The rhubarb is up -- all 3 crowns of it! I see some little pest has been at it already on one leaf -- but we don't eat the leaves anyway! Now I've just got to get some compost and manure on it, as well as seeing to the grapevines, raspberries, strawberries, perennial herbs (rosemary and thyme, and sage in the front perennial bed), and especially the asparagus crowns. The garden is way full of suspicious and menacing little holes in those beds -- maybe my fence didn't sink deep enough? Hmmm. Lots of work to be done there.
But this spring, I have a new love. Yes, I've spent some time cutting brush and also thorny locust sprouts from the fencerow and the only growth that separates me from a fairly major highway. And I've enjoyed that. Some regular attention to these spaces could enhance my quality of life, seriously. I'm very close to US (not Interstate) 70, which runs from who knows where to Nashville, and beyond. Lots of traffic, except for the very wee hours of the morning (let's say from 2 till 5 am). What I really would like is some kind of tall, soundproof barrier, like they use on the Interstates. That's not going to happen. So instead of the wild assortment of wild rose, locust suckers, hickory and oak starters from nuts the squirrels have buried, and those low plants with pointy leaves whose name currently escapes me (not agave -- what?), and poison ivy -- I'd like to cultivate a tall privet hedge from the privet that grows wild and invasively here. The oak and hickory trees are fine, but I don't like the other stuff. Some privet is coming up already, and all I need to do is let it grow. Eventually someone could cut it down every 5 years or so, and it would grow tall and thick and give me privacy, at least, if not a bit of a sound barrier. Also, out there in front, something is killing my hemlocks. Since I refuse to use any kind of poison, my guess is that it's some pest, and they will all die eventually. I'd love it if this strong and essentially evergreen privet would grow thick instead.
But I haven't told you about my new love yet. It's a labyrinth. For years, I've dreamed that this parish might fund and create a labyrinth on its grounds. We have 18.8 acres, and about an acre of cleared space behind the church (partly for parking, partly just a clearing, but all underlaid with gravel, so not "getting stuck in mud" territory). I dreamed of a labyrinth that might attract anyone on a spiritual journey in all of Cumberland County. Well, no-go. Before this year, people didn't have the knowledge, energy, or interest. This year, nobody has the funds, either. Within the last few months, I've walked a couple of simple, non-fussy labyrinths, one in the backyard of a colleague. I've decided that I can do this. I've researched patterns on-line. I got an easy-to-construct, 7-circuit classical labyrinth. Then, as I ran with my dogs one day, I found a nearly endless source of stone. I have a clearing in my own backyard, in the wooded area behind the lawn, where I could construct this thing. I decided to build myself a personal labyrinth, that I will happily share with all parishioners. It's in my back yard -- well, in the woods right behind my back yard. Here it is:
So far, so good. It has really been fun. I found the pattern from the internet, and I found a really good source of stone (a subdivision under development -- every time you move earth on a mountaintop, you get lots of stone!). You can see that I'm already running into "tree issues." I'll eventually mulch the path with a variety of things -- wood chips, pine needles, whatever comes along. But I've only laid out maybe half of it, maybe not even that, since the circuits get bigger each time around. That's still lots of stone to gather and lay! The paths are two feet wide, and I started out with an 8-foot diameter "seed pattern." I'm loving it.
Other good spring news is that lots of things are in bloom around here. Daffodils and hyancinths are in full bloom, and the earliest ones are fading already. The cherry tree and quince are starting. The viburnum by the front door is fading fast, as are the witch hazels and (plentiful) Lenten roses. I have a pretty little star magnolia that got terribly damaged in our April freeze two years ago. We had to cut back dead wood severely, but it did survive:
It's a little lopsided and considerably smaller than it was 2 years ago, but it has survived! I like survivors (like me). Behind it you can see the veggie garden, and behind that the woodsy-brushy screen that conceals the labyrinth.
I love having this much space. I love it that the magnolia is in bloom. Within a week or so the pink one behind the potting shed will bloom. A few weeks later, I'll get something from the dark one (almost maroon) outside my back door. I've been watching the courtship at my bird feeder outside the dining room window. It's all such a pleasure. It's nearly time to fill the hummingbird feeders.
There's more gardening work than I can ever do by myself -- ever, ever, ever. But I've decided once again to enjoy myself. As long as it's fun and soul-satisfying, I'll do it. I'll take little stabs at it here and there, time after time. Nothing will ever be perfect, but in the gentle course of time, everything will be better than it is now. Having my hands in the dirt is something I expect I'll need for as long as I live -- at least a bit. Maybe eventually a raised bed or window box will be enough, but the dirt literally "grounds" me. Gotta do it.
I hope you all know the satisfaction of tending living things. I hope you can have the experience of feeding people with what you've grown with your own hands. God does love a garden.