My sister Mimi Hedl joins me again with this post from her farm in central Missouri.
My friend Jenny has often written about her temenos, her garden, her sacred enclosure. At Strawdog, my temenos, the gardens expand to three acres and within those boundaries, many special places exist, nurtured and cared for as if only they mattered.
Only wealthy people have this kind of luxury, this form of wealth, to tend a small kingdom and watch it thrive. My richness comes not in the normal sense of money and power, but rather in my freedom to do what I love, take care of this piece of earth. When I write about my surgical maneuvers, removing shrubs, eradicating this or that, it may not sound glamorous to you who don’t garden with the same passion, but for someone trying to find the harmony of their land, to put what will grow well in each micro-environment, it feels like solving an impossible puzzle. The thrill of finding a seedling growing in a spot I never thought of putting it, seems like a hand reaching out and ever so gently guiding me.
The compost piles have always impressed, especially children. Firstly, they can’t believe a pile of weeds and coffee grounds, lemon peels and melon rinds, will turn into the soil they see in the next bin, ready to spread, so light and fluffy it looks good enough to eat.
The last 8 years I’ve dedicated to giving more ground to all the critters, from bees and butterflies, to deer and turkey. It shouldn’t have surprised me when rabbits and squirrels and chipmunks and even armadillos moved in. Many screaming fits have resulted. They solve nothing and make me feel foolish. So now I realize I simply have to get smarter, plant more and share with everyone.
I figured that growing vertically might make a good move. With my largesse of cut bamboo, from a lengthy eradication campaign a few years ago, I have plenty of material for trellises of all types. I like teepees. I like the way they look, how easily they go up and how I can secure the base with a 10” tall strip of old screen wire, looking for a purpose in life.
At last count, a dozen teepees stand tall, my own village. These enchant children and if not for Covid I’d see Brady and Logan, my grandsons, running around them, trying to pick the beans and cucumbers from on high. Of course they’ll want to go inside and of course they can’t. So I decided to erect a wire cattle panel as a refuge for them, for children of all ages. When the heat bears down, going inside a shaded area, even for a short period, extends the time a gardener can endure. Plus it’s nice to watch the bees going about their work, a butterfly flitting here and there, as you stand still, inside a quiet cocoon.
The cattle panels had stood behind the asparagus, where, come high summer, the ferns fall over and the head gardener complains of having to push the mower through the jungle. To keep her content, at great trouble I put up the cattle panels to keep the ferns out of her way. Now, years later, the asparagus crowns push under the panel and she can’t easily weed, so it’s been requested I remove these panels.
I sigh and comply as I feel grateful for any and all help. But where to store the panels? They’re 16’ long, 4’ wide and made of steel, heavy. I lug three of them over to the daffodil bed, now quiet, pound in 2 fence posts with my handy post driver and manage to angle them up against the fence posts, tying them in place. I still have one more, at the head of the bed and I hate to drag it the 100’ down to the corralled panels, so I say, “the arbor!”, as I remember my plan for the children.
These wire panels are awkward, heavy, tough to navigate through all the shrubbery and gardens. I so wish for help but with this pandemic, don’t think of hollering for any unless I have an emergency. Ron put up 4 arbors, did I help him? I don’t remember. If I did, I probably didn’t pay attention but rather was thinking of the next job I’d do, or navel gazing… I could’ve saved myself much misery, in countless ways, if I’d paid more attention. Sigh….
I find the spot in the second 1/4 acre where I want the arbor and proceed to try to bend it into an arch. It would’ve made a funny video to watch my clumsy attempts. As I said, this panel is not only heavy, it’s strong and seemingly unbendable. I’m ignoring some basic principle, I mutter as I try again and again to put it in place. Oh how badly I want to call Mark, my helper. I persevere. I have no luck and in an hour simply wear myself out trying. I lay the panel on the grass, sigh again and go about other tasks.
As I work, I think of all the adages Ron used to repeat: “The job’s not too tough, the hammer’s just not big enough”; “If I had a lever long enough, I could move the earth.” I stopped at that one. I don’t want to move the earth, I just want to bend that panel. Hmmmm…I said to myself. And thought on it until the next day.
Fresh and inspired by Archimedes, I pounded two stakes into the ground with my trusty post driver, lugged the panel in front of the stakes, went to the other end of the panel, and lifted it up, pushing it against the stakes. I won’t exaggerate and say it was easy, I was sweating bullets to push it into place, but I did it, and shouted so loud, “I’m a genius!!” anyone nearby must’ve wondered who got hurt and if they should come help. Once I had it bent, I pounded in the other two stakes, secured them to the panel with wire, and admired my brilliant work.
Now moon flowers grow along with a Thai kang kob squash. I hadn’t planned on the squash, but it saw the panel, grabbed ahold with its tendrils, and climbed over the top. It’s such fun to see the squash hanging down, the flowers rich and glorious in their gold, that I’ll let melons and whatever, grow over the panel in the future.
Now I realize part of the adage Ron left out is necessary, “give me a lever long enough and A FULCRUM ON WHICH TO PLACE IT and I shall move the earth.” Thank you, Archimedes. You’re welcome to come into this wonderful temenos anytime you want relief from the burdens of understanding the universe.