Loam Sweet Loam

by Peter Wallace, © 2007

I realized some time ago that my hobbies turn out to be nothing but different kinds of work. In addition to my regular job, I enjoy teaching, free lance writing (such as this) and gardening. Yes, gardening can be relaxing, but there is a lot of work to it, especially if you have a large garden.

As with every other year, our garden looked great in May, very good in June, okay into July, but awful in August, and embarrassing by September. Weeds are amazing, and it’s hard not to admire their determination to live long enough to reproduce. Some anthropologists say at some level, that’s all any of us are really trying to do, but people can’t match weeds for their success.

Last weekend was the beginning of the end of the gardening season. It’s been longer than most this year, due to a temperate October. It was nice to go out to the garden and pick some tomatoes or peppers in late October. But, the hard freezes put an end to that, and all that was left was about 13 million mushy tomatoes and lots of dead weeds.

So, bit by bit I’ve been cutting, digging, burning, and such. And Sunday, I was able to till under the larger part of our garden – the part used for our various vegetable crops.

Tilling is much easier than using a shovel to “turn over” a garden. But, once the soil gets a little hard, operating a tiller requires some strength as the operator holds it back to keep it from cascading across the top of the ground. It’s a slow process, involving leaning back to counter the forward progress, but sometimes pushing forward to get the darn thing to make any progress at all.

I started tilling a little after 3:00, which I know because I wear ear protectors with a built in radio, and the Packers were in the process of winning the game. I got done at 5:30, at which time it was pitch dark. I had been soaked in sweat for the last two hours.

A few days before, I had seen some snow throwers at the store with headlights, but I bet nobody ever thought to put headlights on a roto-tiller.

Monday morning I went out to inspect my work in the light of day, and I liked how the soil looked, and I reflected on how much easier it will be to put in the garden next spring, having done this work now. I looked forward to adding lots more organic matter yet this fall. Yes, that’s right. Organic matter. That’s what I think of in my spare time.

I think gardening is a great hobby, because it is done outside during the best time of the year, and no matter how badly you screw things up, there’s always next year – and all winter to plan how to do things better.

Oh… and I also planted a bed with 32 tulips, and given the many days and nights of shivering we’ll withstand in the next five months or so, they will truly be a sight for sore eyes next spring… something to look forward to.

I guess it’s important to me to deal with nature in some way, instead of always being involved with cars, airplanes, computers, and cell phones. And it’s nice to be tired from doing work outside instead of from staring at a computer screen for too many hours. Historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. said this: “For me, a garden is peace of mind. It immediately takes my mind off the thing I’m puzzling about in my work and gives me repose.” What better result can a hobby provide?


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