Just Flowers


I get a text from my son’s fiance about a farm sale, looking over the add I ask her if I can tag along. I have mixed feelings about these events despite a love of thrift and the realization that the ex farmers will not be needing the tools much longer. Wandering through the bones of another person’s broken dreams has an uncomfortable feel of what if that clings to it; you know this could be you next.

The farm is an hour away and going means dashing my Sunday plans to finally reorganize the old stable that functions as my garage, shop, boat house and now chicken rearing area that one of my chickens has gone broody on me and I lack the energy to fight her over it. Which is a touch ironic because all the stuff I was likely to buy would be going in there at the end of the day too. Not wanting to abandon all my goals for Sunday I resolve to complete the most irrational of my Coronademic tasks, the front yard garden.

All week long during when telework frustration mounts I have gone vented on the mud and clay morass in front of my house where small lily bulbs struggled wrapped in grass and blackberries. Its to small to mow and so for the last four years I have resrted to weed whacking once or twice once the flowers fade and letting it irritate me like a sore tooth for another year. I found some rather small sad looking lilac bushes at the hardware store and that got me started.

My first thought was to just plant the lilacs in the bed and call it good but the spade revealed no topsoil at all; my guess is that when the house was built it was all scraped off to level and never replenished. The thick clay shows no air or dirt and sticks to everything. The lilacs would struggle and get wrapped in vines and just add to the malaise, so I resolved to get something done here. By the weeks end I had a shallow trench about six feet wide by 12 long dug out around the ancient rose bush I always forget to cut back every fall, a pile of dirt in the driveway and new front tires on the tractor. With the help of my father in law the dirt is in and lilacs in bulbs replanted in a just about an hour.

Strangely the water shut off to the bathroom is buried outside under the window.

Its important to have these little moments of success, to look away from the plastic covering the next garden bed, the pile of wood that needs to be burned, the beams in the barn rotted away and the corner held up with a car jack and look at the lilacs. The time for their flowers is passed already and their little blooms only have the hint of fragrance but the new soil is black and loamy and rich. With water and luck they will grow tall and strong and bloom again next spring.

Just barely in time I dive into the shower and we head off to the farm sale. Except we were late because I forgot that the ball hitch from my truck was now attached to the tractor. Hours later with someone else’s trash now our treasure (a long handled mattock for $15? Why yes please!) I was packing the still messy barn with more tools and trying to make rooms for my son’s partner’s scores as she plans to be farming the lower pasture this year.

After words I go look at the diminutive lilacs for a minute just to remind myself something got accomplished today. It was in many ways a good day; time with my eldest son, time with my wife and a rare day with no young children, but it was in a small way productive too… and the East Coast Protestant work ethic part of my brain needs some of that from time to time.

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