Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Before I met Michael I lived the simple life.
I gardened during the week for my clients and lived in a second floor apartment with a 10 x 17 foot deck, cluttered - albiet tastefully - with plants in pots. At one point I had 17 different species of willow. I was obviously a man who needed a piece of dirt.
But I also am a man who loves free time for reading and socializing, so I resisted moving to Michael’s 7 acre farm. Eventually I caved in. A year and a a half ago I moved. The absolutley uncontrolable expanse of 7 acres nestled into Carnation Marsh, a 150 acre Audobon Society bird sanctuary, was quite a jump from the little self-contained world of my deck.
As someone who spends most of his week controlling, or at least thinking he’s controlling, other peoples properties, 3 estates totaling about 10 acres, I was loath to fill my weekends with yet more gardening. That’s where the resistance came in. Actually I looked forward to planting trees it was the weeding I dreaded. I have always been a firm believer in “getting all the weeds out”. I think it was my mother - her garden was always weed free - who put that idea in my head.
But the longer I’m here the less weeds I see.
I find weeds among the vegetables actually keeping the soil cooler and moister in this dry, hot summer. And we still have a bountiful harvest. The bigger weed problems of reed canary grass and blackberries we have on the run. Yet the unstoppable buttercup and morning glory remain unstoppable.
These challenges are equally balanced with blessings. The insurmountable weed problem is letting a little lassez-faire attitude creep into my life. Am I relaxing? Also the extra space - can you imagine 7 acres? - allows us to plant behemoths like gunnera, rambling roses and giant sequoias, and still have room for a 60 x 160 foot vegetable patch.
I never imagined I’d have a garden needing to be managed with a riding mower, a chain saw and a weed wacker. I never imagined weeding willows. I, also, never imagined myself doing battle with nature. So I imagine myself a barber on a giant scale, giving nature just a trim around the edges, because truly that is all I’m doing. I still get down on my hands and knees and tweeze weeds from among the onions with thumb and forefinger. But I’ve stopped imaging the perfectly designed garden composed of all my favorite plants, an exquisite replica of my mind’s eden. Instead we have natures eden to contend with, I wonder sometimes if Adam and Eve weren’t expelled from the garden but walked willingly away from the uncontrollable mess called “Nature”.
Michael and I are trying to strike a balance between wildness and control. Sometimes I think we are just teetering on the edge of the abyss. I know the minute we look away the morning glory just yanked starts growing again. I envy Michael’s seeming ease in the face of it all. My “standards” often get in the way, stopping me from just being happy with what is. It took the flood to make me realize whose garden this really is. Not ours. We’re momentary inhabitants, like the black headed grosbeaks who summer here.
But tomorrow you might catch me out weeding somewhere because we are expecting visitors in the garden.