There is a white plastic lawn chair in the center of my garden. The chair is upright, with all four legs planted on the ground. It sits starkly alone, a white form in the midst of dark brown soil, and dark green weeds. I don’t remember when I put it there, nor why. But for some reason I find the sight of that chair to be very relaxing.
My wife was reading a gardening book and announced how lucky we are that we can garden all year round. People in most other areas on the continent, mostly north or east, must wait for the snow to disappear before planting anything. “Lucky me” I thought, having just finished mowing the lawn for the first time this year. I probably should have mowed it sooner, in spite of the rain. I had finally resolved to mow slowly with the rotary push mower, to accommodate the wet grass. It occurred to me that I could have done that before. The lawn had been “as high as an elephants eye” (my apologies to “Oklahoma” reference to corn), and the wheelbarrow loads of grass clippings seemed to get heavier and heavier. I used composting places that should have been good for several mowings. A job which usually takes only an hour and a half on the riding lawn mower took three times that long, stretched over a couple of days. Not so bad I suppose, because that included trimming the edges, and sweeping the sidewalk. The only problem is that the lawn needs mowing again already!
Have you ever noticed how one job leads to another? While mowing the lawn I found my efforts impeded by drooping branches of various shrubs. When did they grow that long? I suppose that last season I just got used to them. But all of a sudden, with this surge in mowing activity, those shrubs gave me a slap in the face! So my next job became pruning the shrubbery. I assembled various tools and cutting implements, pruning shears, loppers and saws. It took some constraint to avoid getting the chain saw out and doing a permanent prune job. Back and forth, back and forth I pushed the wheelbarrow with loads of branches and clippings, this time to various burn piles. Usually one burn pile is enough, but this time I had to start a new pile. Of course, I should have pruned these earlier in the year, maybe at the same time I pruned the orchard. Now I had to take more care to restrict the cutting since the sap was flowing and the leaves were still coming out. I kept to the dead branches, removed broken branches, and gently took out the branches hanging in the lawn. This job took an afternoon but felt more like three days.
While moving the lawn clippings, I found another job needing attention. Supporting timbers on a couple of raised beds had completely rotted. It’s amazing how wood can look quite intact on the outside, but has totally crumbled on the inside. But this is not surprising. I have said before that anything put on or in soil will eventually decay, dissolve, or otherwise disappear. In the case of confining timbers for raised beds, we have made the conscious decision to avoid treating the timbers with toxic wood preservatives in order to assure vegetables grown within are not contaminated. The downside cost of this is that we have to replace the containment structures every 3 or 4 years. Or less. The other downside cost is all the work required to replace the timbers. The first part of this job is to remove the old soil. The labor saving method to do this is to set up another raised bed nearby, then to move the soil to that location. This circumvents double-handling the soil from the first bed. It also requires finding new soil for the reconstructed raised bed. The second step is to remove the timbers. I put the rotten wood to one side and proceeded to step 3, replacing the damaged wood. Then I got the wheelbarrow and wheeled the rotten wood to the burn pile behind the barn, and then loaded the wheelbarrow with soil from the compost pile behind the barn. Saved some walking back and forth, but it was still a lot of work because the wheelbarrow was loaded going both ways.
Soon the job was done. I took a moment to reflect on my accomplishments. I sat in the chair in the garden and suddenly remembered why I had left the white chair there. It was to remind me how relaxing gardening is!