The gentleman gardener …

There are Master Gardeners and then there are gardeners. I fall into more of the latter. If that. By now Ellen and Reid know their old man is a little foggy on the nuances and fine points of gentleman agriculture; soil testing, plant diseases, pest control, etc. That stuff is green and growing and provides a meal or two of something to eat is close enough for me.

Wherever it was my move took me, it was a big deal for their dad to have a plot of soil, however large or small, to get his hands dirty. It’s not so much a retiree thing; their grandfather kept a large garden his entire life. I built a raised bed for Ellen a few weeks back and perhaps at some point both will find tilling the good earth firmly rooted in their genes. Just as it is in mine.

May 28, 2018

Ellen/Reid: I’m out on the back deck, a few feet from the raindrops that are forecast to become a deluge later today when we get smacked by the tropical storm churning in the Gulf. At least the grass is mowed and all the garden work is done for the time being. The mama wood swallow is poking her head out of the cedar bird house about 25 feet from where I sit. It’s been fun to watch the brood pair build the nest and conduct their aerial acrobatics. 

I’ve enjoyed the garden plots as much as I thought I would. I just like to get my hands dirty and this is likely a holdover from the influence of your grandfather as a gardener. Both sets of berries, red and blue, seem to be holding their own and are setting fruit as we speak. It’s good they are in raised beds because it’s quite boggy in the flat area. At least there’s some drainage owning to the raised beds so the peas, tomatoes, et al won’t get quite the wet feet that my other plants are experiencing.


I can spend – and have – hours poking around in the garden. I love everything about it, even if my efforts end up an abysmal failure. I can always turn the soil over and try again.

Already the lettuce (arugula and spinach) are harvestable and the sugar snap peas aren’t far behind. The day lillies are about to bloom. I pirated a new butterfly bush from a mountain trail the other day since my prior bush didn’t make it. The herbs, basil, rosemary, oregano and chive, are getting along nicely in pots on both ends of the back porch. A simple compost pile was made of some heavy wire mesh yesterday. Once the butterfly bush is of some size it should hide the two foot high mesh contraption. At least that’s the theory. For the first time, I took a leap of faith to plant a dozen or so dahlias, courtesy of Robbie, in one of the 5×5 beds. They say the blooms will be enormous and bountiful. I’m not much of a flower guy but perhaps those will turn the tide.

For mulch I walk literally 10 feet away to rip out swaths of foot-tall clover that’s allowed to grow unchecked in the enormous field out back. Clover is high in nitrogen and it makes for good – and cheap – bedding for the plants. Plus, it attracts swarms of honey bees. A bunch of it was tossed in the new compost thing to give the rotting process a head start. Coffee grinds, egg shells and other kitchen debris will be added for good measure. A plastic jug is kept by the sink to hold the residue from food prep. With all that lucious clover, in the back of my mind is the construct of bee boxes although I know nothing about how to raise bees. 

To the east of the largest bed is a new squirrel-proof feeder and some surgery fluid for the hummingbirds although none have showed up. And they might not since the nearest trees are about 75 yards away and that’s a long way for them to flit since it takes enormous energy for them to get from one spot to another. 

My Alps hike is coming up, and up too is my weight. Too much food here in Brevard and the doc noticed this week my weight had crept up 11-12 pounds since my last visit. I’ve got to get serious about losing it since each retained pound effectively adds one pound to my pack. I don’t like being this heavy, and needless to say it has expansively impacted my wardrobe. 

Reid, I hope you like the outdoor gear. I tried to notice what 30-year-olds were wearing and buy things accordingly since you know my sense of style isn’t to be trusted. Ellen, can’t wait to see photos of your new raised bed garden in action. It’s good for the girls to dig around and get a feel for the dirt. It’s in their genes to poke around and have fun and watch things grow. Maybe it’ll stick with them as they get older.

The White Squirrel Festival was great fun but heavy rain killed a lot of the late Saturday music and revelry. Sunday wasn’t quite so bad. We’ll just have to look for some of our own white squirrels in November when you’re all here. We’ll find ‘em.

Love, Dad


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