More Than Dirt

Alf and I got tired of the lunar look of our backyard, with its deep ruts and crevices and dead everything. We used to have steady visitors of cats and squirrels and noisy ravens, but lately even the butterflies do fly-overs instead of landing. So with the help of a longtime neighbor, who builds commercial nurseries for plants, we are working on a new garden together. photo (47)

I quickly sketched my idea of an English garden with pathways and gravel and flowering plants. Something that Alice in Wonderland would choose as she read and conversed with the Cheshire Cat.

I didn’t want a lawn. I was convinced of the versatility and beauty of drought-tolerant plants. I’m a survivor of too many droughts and didn’t want the demands of water guzzling green things anymore. They remind me of crying infants when they’re hungry. I don’t have time to invest in pruning, trimming and talking to them either. I hardly have time to do this with Alf.

I’ve been learning a few things about myself through this. I’m impatient. I thought the re-design would take a month. In my mind it was a simple idea without a lot of fuss. Dig up the dead lawn, and then stick some Woolly Bluecurls, Tree Anemones, and Sticky Monkey-flowers in there, and let them duke it out. I was wrong. I have no understanding of soil, bricks and greenery and what it takes to put all three together in an artful way. It’s taken all summer.

Another problem arose. My neighbor’s taste and mine are not in sync. It’s an act of high level diplomacy every time we disagree. We compromise. We change things. We discard stuff. Always smiling. It’s like a marriage. I’m sure he goes home muttering under his breath. But through it all, a glorious garden is coming into view, and the best part is we haven’t filed divorce papers. That’s the important thing. It may not be ready for the fall, and by winter it will be too cold for tea parties, but then there’s next year. The plants will be settled and feeling good about their new home. And maybe the squirrels and ravens will return chattering and cawing their approval.

When the project is complete, I expect my neighbor to be over many times, showcasing me as his still-friend and my garden to future drought-tolerant fans.

Calvin says, “I’m not so stinking happy. You took away my favorite pee spots.” beagle

Coming Up Spring

Alf surprised me with daffodils and purple flowers that are popping up this spring. My azalea is bursting red so the garden is draped in the primary colors these days. My garden has never looked so colorful. It makes me smile.
We have the worst soil on the planet. The Mojave has more chances of sprouting flowers than my front and backyards. It’s hard clay, and when broken up with toil and sweat, it winks at you for a moment, and then scampers back to form its impenetrable layer of steel. No matter how much rich soil and delicious nutrients you pour down its black hole of a gullet, it regurgitates the clay. I’m convinced the clay runs deep to the core of the planet.
It’s a wonder Alf is succeeding where I haven’t. IMG_0173 (1)
“What’s your secret?” I asked.
“Patience,” he said.
“That’s never worked for me,” I said.
“Maybe it’s the rain. That helps.”
We used to have a rainy season, but that was so long ago. I had given up on it.
“It must be the rain,” I said.
“And not my green thumb?”
“You don’t have one. You’re from New York,” I said.
“How do you think Central Park came into being then?”
I checked Wikipedia.
“Not by New Yorkers. The two landscape architects were from England and Connecticut respectively. It proves my point. Brits know a thing or two about gardens.”
“Then we should import one and really go mad,” Alf said.
Calvin says, “I love our clay soil. I like hearing the splashing sound my pee makes on it. Kills all things green. Adds character to the command, ‘Go potty!'”   beagle

Gorgeous in Rags

Riding into work this morning on the subway, a tall blonde got on board.

The car was full so she grabbed a strap and hung on for the ride into the city.

I suspected this was her preferred mode anyway even if the car had been empty.

She was dressed in torn, filthy beige overalls. Her parka had layers of grime on it. Her backpack was vintage muck.

Construction tools spilled out of every pocket. Spiral bound notebooks, too. A pencil.

I looked at her face. She was very pretty. Clear skin, rosy cheeks, bright brown eyes, and she looked freshly scrubbed.  Maybe mid-twenties.electrician

She was one crazy contrast.

I was intrigued.

I got off at my stop and noticed she did, too. We got in line for the escalator. She was in front of me.

I couldn’t resist.

“What kind of work do you do?” I asked from behind.

She looked down, removed her earbuds. “Are you asking me?”

“Yes, I’m curious.”

“I’m an electrician,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

She smiled. “I know,” she said looking at her clothes.

“Do you like it?”

“I love it!” she said with gusto. “I can get dirty everyday while working on fancy new buildings.”

“How do the others treat you, being you’re in a man’s world?” I asked.

“Fine. Most of them are wimps. They’re all babies, you know.”

We reached the top and said good-bye to each other. She smiled.

Babies. I think she gave herself away.

Calvin says, “Never judge a person by their clothes. Take me for instance. You’d never guess that a cynical, freewheeling, and persnickety heart lurks underneath this silken fur.”  beagle

 

 

A Fast One

It was perfect timing for the drought.

Our front lawn has been in sorry shape for a while now.

We’ve needed new grass and fresh plants, but we’ve been lazy.

Now we have a perfect excuse to ignore it.  lawn

Except the other day, Pedro a Hispanic gardener came by and sold Alf on the idea of spreading grass seed all over our patchy lawn. He mixed it in with mulch and spread it everywhere.

The front of the house looks like a blighted patch of earth.

“Water it a little bit every morning,” Pedro said.

That was a month ago.

The blight continues.

We haven’t seen Pedro again.

Every morning Alf goes out to see if green is poking through.

“I see a bit this morning,” he said coming back into the house.

“Are you sure it’s not just the shadows of the bushes?” I said.

We send Calvin out to determine the true status of things.

He runs around sniffing the edges, sticking his nose in mulch, kicking up dirt.

“Pee here,” I say pointing to areas that need water badly.

“No! It’ll kill the seed,”Alf said.

Calvin’s too quick. He dashes from spot to spot leaving his calling card everywhere. We shoo him back into the house, but not before he gives us a toothy grin.

Calvin says, “You were hoodwinked. Nothing but foul smelling dirt out there. How I love it!”   beagle