So about two weeks ago, I re-vamped the little plot of space that sat outside my front door. It looked like many years ago someone had put a lot of care and time into that little garden, but that it had since been taken over by mother nature. One of the main reasons Keegan and I looked for a house instead of an apartment was for the chance to get outside and into the dirt. I love the dirt. One of my favorite memories, though at the time I thought it was the greatest inconvenience, was working with my parents in the garden. We used to have a massive garden filled with zucchini and tomato plants, green beans, pumpkins, sunflowers, peppers, and potato plants. It was a beautiful sight, but quite the behemoth in terms of upkeep. Every spring my father would go out there with the tiller and turn up all the old dirt. My siblings and I followed behind picking rocks. This moment always reminds me of a beautiful passage in one of my favorite books: The Time of Man by Elizabeth Madox Roberts. If you haven’t read it, you should.
In this passage, the main character, Ellen, is a small girl from a family of itinerant farmers out working with her Pappy in a field where “no plow iron ever cut this-here hill afore, not in the whole time of man.” She looks at the field and imagines the races of men before her and before them. It’s a ceremonial experience for her, and it brings her closer to the earth and its history. The next scene is pretty cool and starts with a question I know I must have asked my father as we followed him picking rock after rock, year after year:
“Pappy, where do rocks come from?”
“Why, don’t you know? Rocks grow.”
“I never see any grow. I never see one a-growen.”
“I never see one a-growen neither, but they grow all the same. You pick up all the rocks offen this-here hill and in a year there’s as many out again. I lay there’ll be a stack to pick up right here again next year.”
“I can’t seem to think it! Rocks a-growen now! They don’t seem alive. They seem dead-like. Maybe they’ve got another kind of way to be alive…Maybe they take soil, like everything else, but it’s a strange wonder nohow. Like ants now, and like where wind comes from, like horsehairs that turn to snakes, or like warts that go away and you never know when.”
Like Ellen, I’ve always wondered where all the rocks come from. It seems a never-ending battle to convert the chaotic wilderness into a patch of cultivated flowers and plants. But, we were excited for the battle, and my first attempt was with this little garden. Here’s what it looked like before:
Notice the random bricks and cement planters. There are enough flowers for me to know that someone cared once. So I got in there with my shovel and rake and proceeded to clear out the weeds. It felt like part demolition and part archeological field dig. As I was going through the garden, I found the sad remnants from the old owners: old weed barrier, half-buried decorative stones, and a few plants that survived. I salvaged as much as I could and re-planted it (we are on a budget, so I was trying to keep this renovation around the cost of not costing me anything at all). That tall pink flower actually has a bulb that looked like a shallot, and as I dug around, I found a ton of them. I’m not sure what they are. But I replanted them all in a row, so we shall see what becomes of them. Those purple flowers are called Purple Heart and are related to the Wandering Jew plants. I see them all over Louisiana, and they are great for ground cover. I also love that they are purple. On the side of the stairs, I found a wild spider plant. It looked like someone had dumped the plant out of a planter when they moved, but those things are resilient and it just rooted itself into that spot.
This was a good bit of work as the ground was quite compacted, and I only had a little shovel to turn it all over. But I managed, and here is what it looks like now:
I’ve actually planted a few more things since this picture (mostly cute plants I find outside in the “wilderness” of my backyard, dig up, and then re-plant in my random little garden) and some more of those pink flowers have cropped up. That center plant is a Tabasco pepper plant that a friend gave to me.
Fun fact: That little red jar of Tabasco sauce in your fridge is probably made by the McIlhenny Company which is located right here in Louisiana since 1868.
Meanwhile, as I was outside toiling away, here’s what my little buddy, Lola, did all morning:
Oh, to be a cat. I’ll leave you with that image until next time:-)