Down and Dirty
Posted by Exile on April 3, 2011
I’ve never been much of a gardener. My father was. He couldn’t bear to see a patch of earth with nothing growing in it. He had to dig it up and plant something. It always grew. He loved his garden. Me? Not so much. However, now I’ve got the idea into my head that I can grow tobacco and screw the tax man, well, I have to go out and dig. I swear I could hear the old man laughing at me as I toiled with it.
Our garden hasn’t really been touched since we moved in around eleven years ago. OK, I’ve trimmed the hedges and mown the bloody lawn (I hate mowing the lawn) but apart from that, nothing much as happened in the earth department. Today, all that changed. I haven’t dug into the soil since I dug fire trenches and foxholes in the army about thirty years ago, so to say I am unaccustomed to this physical effort is a bit of an understatement. Remembering how my father marked out his patch, I drove four stakes into the lawn to give me a border to work to and started swinging my trusty spade. The first bit was hard. Hedge roots and tree roots, bramble and old rhubarb roots all had to go. I found artichokes too. My wife planted them years ago and they produce tubers every year. Add to that the grass, ivy and cooch grass and you can imagine how much time I spent removing the rubbish as opposed to actually digging. The patch is about 4 x 4 meters, the first of 2 that I intend to cultivate. It will provide the room I need for my Virginia tobacco and a few potatoes. Patch number two, when I get round to it, will be a little smaller but doubtless less difficult to get through as it’s only covered by the lawn now. I dug like a demon. I sweated oil. I cursed, puffed and panted and just as I hit my second wind at the half way point, it started to rain. I had to abandon the project temporarily and seek shelter from the downpour. An hour later and the rain had stopped. Determined to get the job done, I returned to the patch and grabbed my spade and started again. The rain had not helped. The soil was heavier and sticky and the going was tougher than before. Undaunted, I continued and, after an hour or so again, I was finished. Luckily, so was the digging. 16 square meters of newly dug black loam laid out before me. It actually smells good.
Really earthy and strangely fresh. And full of worms. I seem to remember that worms are good. The dogs had been keeping a close eye on my labours and, even though they do not understand what is going on, they respected my shouting “Get off my bloody garden”, which is something I also learned from my father many years ago.
To ensure they respect the newly tilled soil, I erected a temporary fence in Dachshund defensive height. That will have to do until I can get some woven willow fence to enclose the patch. The plan now, is to let the elements break it down a little before I actually get round to planting anything. My tobacco seedlings are doing well but it is far too early to consider putting them out yet. They need to be potted now and placed in the mini greenhouse, which I also had to build, to harden and reach a size fit for planting out. I suppose I could get my spuds down though. I’ll have to make a decision regarding that soon.
Right now, I ache all over and have pain in places I didn’t know I had. The visual satisfaction is enough to compensate though. The effort was well worth the result and I‘ll be back out there sometime later in the week to start patch number two.
One small notice of belated appreciation has to be placed here. I have done less than one tenth of what my father did, every year, in the garden today. He fed a family of seven from his garden and allotment. My mother rarely had to buy vegetables. Feeling as I do now, I have nothing but respect for that monumental effort he put into the soil. I hope he can see me now, wherever he may be, and is content with my poor accomplishment.