Sweat dripping off my hair…sore hamstrings…aching back…soaked shirt and shorts…No, I hadn’t just finished a ten-mile jog. In fact, I hardly have time for my usual workouts since my husband Wade got a new project – The Garden. And no, I’m not talking about just a little rectangle of fertile dirt in the back yard.
It started with Wade’s wish to mow the meadow behind our new house. We had situated our home with the goal of privacy. The field was just perfect as is, I figured. It allowed us to relax on our deck with no one in sight, yet it required no maintenance at all. Paradise! But Wade had wished for a more productive and attractive field. Our friend Jim, who takes wishes both literally and seriously, showed up one evening while we were out. Jim proceeded to plow the entire half-acre meadow with his dad’s tractor. Jim and Wade spent many ecstatic hours on the tractor, tilling the rocky sand for hours.
Our shock at the size of the garden and the elevation drop from top to bottom was overshadowed by our desperation to plant seeds before it was too late in the spring. Who would plant a garden that size without owning a tractor, or at least a cultivator? Drought was predicted for summer and our garden hose certainly did not stretch far enough to water any of it.
Foolishly, maybe even recklessly, we went ahead. By far the most memorable adventure was shoveling truck loads of sheep manure one hot, never-ending Sunday afternoon. Wade assured me that our soil required this fertilizer. Luckily, my husband had just the wardrobe for such jobs – stained shorts, 1980’s t-shirts, straw cowboy hat, elastic-less socks, and scuffed work boots.
Not a kernel of the corn we planted sprouted, although the salt and sugar corn did grow into an irresistible treat for the deer. Despite our hard work, we didn’t get to eat a single ear. Success came in the form of bright red tomatoes that Wade loved in his sandwiches. Those cantaloupes left untouched by groundhogs were plentiful too, ripening over time to provide handy “free” fresh fruit for weeks. The pumpkins were darling – all sizes and enough to give away to the neighborhood kids for Jack-o-lanterns just in time for Halloween.
I had to admit that the satisfaction of this haul was well worth our efforts. We never claimed to have the best-tended garden (weeds and briars still rule, along with rocks and parched earth), but we loved all of our “babies,” especially the exercise we were able to benefit from. The best stress-relievers and sleep-inducers have to be moving boulders and weeding row upon row of seedlings by hand. Equally satisfying was our explosion of sunflowers. Those cheery faces on 6-foot tall stalks swaying in the breeze brightened our field and our lives. In the past year we have welcomed new neighbors with armloads of blooms, provided snacks for crows, and still have buckets of seeds for next spring!
So, my advice to you now is to plant a garden larger than you can manage. You’ll get the deep satisfaction of savoring what you grow and sharing it with your closest friends and family. You’ll have no energy left to agonize over what you don’t have. Instead, you can peacefully meditate on the magic of nature. Now that’s paradise!