Monday, April 19, 2010

Working Things

While looking through some old photos the other day I came across a shot of me and my brother some 28 years ago.  He was sitting on a short fence near our curb, clearly posing for the picture.  And I'm in the background pushing a lawnmower around.  It's not the clearest of exposures but it gives me a clue as to how long I've been tending yards.

I'm the oldest so I assume that the heavy-lifting chores fell upon me by default.  I didn't mind.  For some reason I found simple landscaping relaxing and enjoyable, even as I used a push mower.  Eventually I graduated to a gasoline-powered mower.  The machine made cutting easy; sometimes the hardest part was turning it on.

The occasional planting or pruning job arose which demanded the use of our small arsenal of unsophisticated garden tools.  My mother's pride and joy was a container garden which was situated under a makeshift gazebo.  My grandmother's yard, on the other hand, had the typical St. Augustine grass layout with trees on the borders.  My time was split between a free-flowing array of decoratives and the more conservative scheme that's so popular with Laredoans.

The makeup of the yards have changed over the years, and I've since moved on to other locations.  I currently own a home, but rented land and familial land has seen my handy work in action.  There's nothing more satisfying than having complete artistic control over my little plot of earth.  With that responsibility, I make all the gardening purchases.  Ask me for directions to the nearest nursery and you shall receive.  The nursery itself can be a place of wonder.  I still recall fond memories of Gentry's Nursery which was located on Meadow and Plum.  The place was a labyrinth filled with enough plantable material to keep you busy for a long time.

A task that I've adopted in recent years is that of composting.  It's really more of a recycling of garden refuse that I employ; I use fallen leaves and grass clippings to protect a plant's roots and soil instead of springing for store-bought mulch.  Inevitably I have enough material left over to create a compost pile.  I don't put much thought into it but it's there.  Dave Grossman expounds: 
Although I am undeniably a pile maker and relish the art of compost I also apply the scientific side of my personality to the building of compost piles.
I don't get technical with the structure of my piles.  Like I said, I just stack up what's on hand.  I don't go through the trouble of adding proper amounts of nitrogen and carbon materials. Nevertheless some decomposition takes place and occasionally I discover a dark substance that once had another form.
it is the fervor of building the real compost pile that makes me such a fan of compost and heals me when I feel broken and ragged.
Caring for my landscape has a therapeutic effect on me.  This labor of love not only brings colorful blooms but peace of mind as well.  But the process that takes place in a compost pile is equally as intriguing.  Something valuable is created out of that which is so often discarded.  I marvel at the crumbly dark mess that's produced.  My yard is a showplace of sorts but also a lab.  In it I put garden waste through an experiment.  There's no time table, and the technique is what I would call lackadaisical, but I know that something is going to happen.  Even if it's not pretty or useful, it's something that I've created. 

I don't get paid for working in the yard anymore, but the sense of accomplishment that I derive from toiling under the Laredo sun is fulfilling all the same, even if the end result is just dirt.

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