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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Planting Spring Hope in the Valley…


Pilchuck snow I am weary of the garden. Tilling, weeding, hoeing, watering, propping up the plants, tying up the vines—I am darn tired of it all. This time of the year the backyard garden has become an unruly beast. In his book The Rural Life Verlyn Klinkenborg says of the fall garden: “The common mellifluousness of spring’s new growth is long gone. Everyone in the garden is a character now, for better or for worse.” I look out beyond the boxwood at the tangled jungle and think “Worse! Much worse!” The pumpkin vines have weasled their way among the corn stalks; the zucchini has elbowed aside the zinnias; the tender broccoli is now a thick hedge of seed pods; tomato vines are blighted, heaps of rotten fruit circle the blasted stems; chickweed, like kudzu, swallows the pepper plants. And the first fall windstorm has toppled the bean towers into a vast thicket of vines covering the potato hills. The corn patch looks like someone threw a brutal hand of Pick Up Sticks. The garden is a mess. I’m shed of it, I say. Or as my neighbor Peggy Anderson a while back yelled from the midst of her disheveled vegetable patch: “I HATE this garden!”

Every year, come fall, my old dairyman neighbor Herman Zylstra would express a similar pessimism. Perhaps it rubbed off on me. Herman, however, would always follow up his annual complaint with a  gentle optimism: “But in the spring you get new hope….” Even though we’re rushing headlong toward the winter solstice, I noticed some of this hope in the Valley the other day as Gladys and I tooled our way toward home. In Decks’ fresh cut cornfield I spied a set of discs at the ready, set to turn the field for next year’s planting. A manifestation of hope? Just good farmin’ policy? Or both?

I’ve heard it said “luck is the residue of design.” I would like to think “Forethought is the parent of Hope”; for Hope to manifest itself, you must have something to hope for. And that’s why yesterday—in spite of my mental set-to with the vegetative chaos that is the backyard garden--I did some gardening, planted some spring hope here on the place—spring bulbs, daffodils (jonquils?) and crocus. Fall bulbsI like to do a medley in the same pot. Daffodils I layer deeper (they are last to bloom); crocus, those bold, early bloomers, top layered.


spring color  spring crocus

The remaining crocus I plant in the lawn—“naturalizing” they call it-- and each fall I add a few more bulbs. And every spring the yard blooms a bit more.

Other folks in the Valley are hopeful, too. A few days ago a large cardboard box beside Van Hulle’s mailbox called me over to investigate. It was a box of Hope, Hope in the form of tulip bulbs. 

spring tulips






OVan Hulle's tulipsne fall, several years ago, my dad planted some spring hope even though he knew he was quite ill. “I don’t think I will live to see them bloom,” Dad told Mom. Next spring came. The flowers bloomed. And it is my belief that Dad knew how much we enjoyed them.

And who knows? Maybe the fall floods will wash us away; the winter gales blow us off the map; Jack Frost nip us in the bud…. But you have to hope, for Hope and Spring are eternal. The bulbs are planted. Come spring I hope to see them bloom.

Bee hopeful    



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