Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Dirt Garden

When we first moved to Winlock, Washington we lived in a 100 year old home that at first had no running water. 
Details of this experience are written about In The Trenches - Financial Survival During Times of Hardship.  In the spring we were able to rebuild the box that housed the gravity flow spring so were able to have a very limited amount of water with pressure so low that most would consider it still as having no water but we could then flush the toilet, do a load of laundry (4 hours), and run a bath (45 minutes).  Just don't flush a toilet while someone was taking their drizzling shower or they were done, you might as well step out dry  yourself off and get going because there would be no more water for a while.  I think to this day that most of my family still makes the announcement "I'm getting in the shower now" to anybody that is within earshot.  It is still important that everyone in the house knows and old self-preservation habits die hard.  Despite the quantity of the water it was the best tasting water in the world.  It would compare to any of the finest spring water that money can buy and sparkled when in the glass.

Amidst these water conditions I wanted a garden:  flower gardens and vegetable gardens.  So I began digging.  All around the house I dug flower beds that were a minimum of two feet wide and one foot deep.  When I finished with that I dug a garden whose circumference was approximately six feet around an old cherry tree stump that had blown down the first year we lived there.  A friend brought over a tractor and roto-tiller and plowed a space 10 by 20 for vegetables.

I had more rocks than any person would know what to do with so I began taking them out of the garden spaces in five gallon buckets and putting them around the base of a tall pine tree.  I worked and worked to get the ground soft and breakable within my fingers.  My shovel, a garden fork with a broken handle, and arm muscles were my tools.  When the clay mixed dirt was as loose as potting soil I raked and smoothed it to perfection. 

Planting time came and no money for plants.  Thankfully garden seeds don't cost a lot so I was able to squeeze my budget that first year for around $5.  The vegetable garden had rows and rows of lettuce, beans, beets, and other garden seeds.  To water I would put the hose in a garbage can and wait for 20 minutes to half hour for it to fill and would then use a coffee can to water the individual plants without wasting a drop.

Our fields were full of wild daffodils so I went out and dug up almost 100 bulbs to plant around the old stump.  A friend brought over a few starts for the garden around the house but with almost 200 or more square feet of garden they didn't go very far.

My digging had unearthed some old long dormant seeds and iris bulbs that sprouted into action feeling the freedom from their clay packed soil.  A trumpet vine also took hold and began to make an arch around the back door.  The photo on the left gives an idea of the type of plant though mine went over the doorway and was a congregational spot for hummingbirds.   A hydrangea that must have been over 50 years budded out and began to grow.  I had also spotted some old time wild roses by the road where the original mailbox would have been and dug them up and planted them in a row.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention the huge and beautiful quince tree that had blue bells planted underneath.  These were the gifts left to me by the former owners who had long since passed away. 

Most of my friends also like to garden and when we visited one another we would take the tour and walk around one another's house and admire and compliment them on the hard work they had done.  My flower gardens affectionately became known as "The Dirt Garden"  because I had nothing yet to plant in them that first few years.

Every year I was outside at the first sign of spring and began my digging.  But since it took quite some time to make any real economic changes in my life there was still little money for plants.  By the second year I had purchased a push mower with a self-propeller and was mowing two acres.  When I still had extra energy I would take the mower in the field and mow around the fence line to help reduce the thistles.  Earlier in the year I had already pruned the apple trees from which I made more applesauce than anyone could eat and I have learned much about life and it's seasons.

I had been in Winlock almost 8 years and slow progress was being made when the most amazing thing happened.  I was able to obtain a position at a local company who was a wholesale distributor to Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, and many other stores.  The product?  Plants and flowers!

I worked in the office, I worked in the green houses, and I loved my job!   And, can you guess what the fringe benefit was?  I got to bring home any of the plants that had not sold and were going to be dumped!  My home now had twenty hanging baskets at any given time.  After the daffodils had died down I was able to fill the garden with petunias and then flats of chrysanthemums.  One of my favorites was a Mr. Lincoln rose given by a dear friend.  Under the pine tree the rock garden was now filled with potted fuchsias.  I would bring home as much as I could and wake at 4am and start digging and planting.  My gardens were overflowing with impatiens, begonias, marigolds, and all the plants you can imagine.   I wish I still had the pictures to be able to show you.

The moral to the story?  I guess there could be many but to me there is one:  God is good.

Photos from google

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