June 19, 2008

Playing in the dirt

My father with his chainsaw

When we built our house nine years ago, Builder Friend wanted to just bulldoze everything on the front two acres of the land and put the house in the middle. I explained to him that I liked the woods and asked that he cut down as few trees as possible. Each spring, I do a little landscaping myself, cutting down non-native trees like the scotch pines that were planted by the CCC and planting trees that are native like river birches. And then I add stuff that grows well here, like lilacs and day lilies and peonies. I'm all about gardens that require no care.

This year, I've decided to work on a section of the front yard, getting rid of some of the smaller trees, keeping the two maples, and filling the low spots to discourage the poison ivy and mosquitoes. I'll probably add another garden of coneflowers or daylilies, and this fall I'll plant some white pines near the road. I'm thinking that eventually I want to put a hammock between the two maples.

My father came over this week with his chainsaw to cut the trees I had marked, and my mother and I dragged the tops of the trees and branches off into the woods. Minutes later, a truck arrived to deliver the dirt I had ordered: 15 cubic yards of dirt. So that's what I've been doing for the last 48 hours, shoveling dirt into a wheelbarrow and carting it around to where I need it.

I like working outside, and I like manual labor. After a few hours, blisters began forming on my hands (I never remember to buy gardening gloves and I don't like wearing them anyhow), so I cut up the cuff of an old sock to put around my palms. When my arms got tired last night, I recruited Shaggy Hair Boy to help me for awhile. But mostly, I work by myself in the early morning, before it gets too hot. I move a few wheelbarrows of dirt, I rake dirt into low spots, and then I walk around and look at the yard from different angles, planning what trees I want to plant and where. It's like building a snowfort or a house of fallen leaves or a fort from bedsheets. The process is the fun part.

Taking a break to play in the dirt

That's my father in the top photo and Shaggy Hair Boy in the bottom photo.


Nels said...

Do you ever relate that idea of the process being the fun part to your students when you're teaching writing? Do you have another great metaphor going on here?

jo(e) said...

Nels: You and I think alike! Yes, that's part of what I keep trying to get my students to understand. And sometimes, they get it.

sherry said...

I am with you. My entire yard is in native plants and the only "mowing" that needs to be done is a 3 foot wide strip of grass in the front. (this is out of 1.7 acres)

Your dad is amazing. He weeds swamps, he chops trees, he builds docks....the only thing is he's wearing a jacket and a knitted hat. Is it really still that cold?

jo(e) said...

Sherry: Yeah, my Dad can do just about anything. For instance, he built his own sailboat in his basement and taught himself to sail.

But he's not exactly a snappy dresser. We all tease him for wearing a winter hat in the summer. It isn't that cold here, but it was raining lightly when he was cutting the trees down. And I guess your head does get cold when you're going bald.

BlackenedBoy said...

No wonder you and your family are in such good shape! If I had my way, I, too, would have a lot of land and a great deal of trees.

Oh, course, down here we can grow magnolias.