in the garden



Saturday afternoon my eight-year-old and I went to work on our new garden plot. My five-year-old screamed a great deal because he had to stay home with his daddy, but it really was the right decision in terms of getting work accomplished. For two and a half hours, my older son and I hoed, removed rocks and large roots, hauled garden-ready compost, raked and leveled. “Why are you smiling,” he asked at one point. I was just happy to be outdoors, working alongside so many other gardeners. He was ready to be done well before the work was done, repeatedly asking when we were going back home, but I made us stick with it until our plot was covered with a thin layer of compost.

Upon our return home, I consoled my younger son by telling him I’d take him to the garden on Monday.

That was indeed our destination Monday morning. We did some more root removal, compost hauling, and raking. We brought our seeds along, but ended up just working the soil that day. We returned Tuesday morning and planted broccoli, bok choy, onions, radishes and lettuce.

I grew up pushing a wheelbarrow around, but it had never occurred to me until this week that this is a new experience for my sons. Both wanted to try it. Both discovered that a wheelbarrow full of rich black compost is quite heavy and sort of tippy. Even leveling out piles of compost with a garden rake isn’t as easy as it looks.

We had always had a garden when I was a kid. At the time I would have never said I enjoyed gardening, but I did learn some useful skills in the process. So I bring my city boys with me to the garden, wondering whether they’ll ever take up gardening when given the choice. In the meantime, I hope they’re learning a few things, perhaps about the value of work or the joy of growing some of your own food.

Perhaps creating a few memorable moments as well… Yesterday my younger son was there when some women from Burma called me over to their plot, pointing to a tiny garter snake several of them were eyeing suspiciously. It doesn’t bite, I told them, and it isn’t dangerous. I used my most simple English. Whether they understood me or not, I could tell they didn’t believe the snake was harmless. Probably because in Burma, snakes may well be dangerous. I just scooped it up with a small shovel, carried it to the edge of the garden, and tossed it into some taller grass. Only then did they resume their hoeing.


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