In the Garden

Though I’m often not going to the woods or out “in the wild”, I’m still daily outside enjoying the natural world. For although a garden is domestic, in a sense it retains a wildness, an organic garden anyway. There is a great amount of biodiversity going on, and I take notice of it. There are a great variety of plant species, both the desirable and the undesirable. And so many animals! Big gray squash beetles lumber across the expanse of a squash plants, spotted and striped cucumber beetles are often seen nearby. Large, black ground beetles scuttle across the ground as it is laid bare in the absence of weeds and some dirt. And some many other beetles of brilliant shape and color inhabit the garden as well and often climb on my legs and arms. Bees and flies of all sorts buzz around, some less than pleasant when they bite. Let’s not forget the crawly spiders and harvestmen that become a little unnerving when they start climbing up an arm. Ant colonies are seen scurrying about, picking up the exposed eggs and relocating. In plump roundness and flashes of extraordinary colors are the caterpillars and larvae of other insects. Earthworms slide from unseen holes. The hopping of toads send shivers through the plants and are a delight to see, though can sometimes startle. Western chorus frogs sing unseen in weeds near at hand. Large animals visit the garden too, though I mostly observe the evidence they left behind instead of the animal itself. Small, elegant hoof prints of trespassing deer. Larger hoof prints of escaped cows. A few different sizes of dog tracks.

When the soil is saturated with water, my foot print is added to the mix. I garden barefoot, there really is no other way to garden. The damp soil is cool and soft, my bare toes provide an outlet to connect with the natural world around me. It is wonderful to sit in the garden, being serenaded by toads and frogs, watching the various creatures going about their business. Gardening can be peaceful and relaxing but at the same time productive, with satisfaction in working hard.

The enjoyment and wildness is not diminished by the sudden appearance of my nieces and nephews. I often welcome the intrusion, allowing me to enjoy nature, work and spend time with the kids. In fact, the garden is a perfect stepping stone to teaching them about the natural world, but not just facts, but how to appreciate it.

Kale 041Tuesday evening, I hadn’t even noticed Therese and Malachi showing up in the garden, and have no idea how long they had been there before I did notice. The corn they were weeding was tall and the weeds were tall, nearly hiding them from view. Not long after I noticed them, Alexis, Isabel and Bernadette arrived in the garden. They were supposed to be taking the pile of weeds out to be fed to calves and pigs.

“Lexie, Isabel, you can take my weeds too if you’d like,” I called to the girls. Eagerly they came over to pick up the weeds behind me, Bernadette came too. Alexis bent over and scooped up as much as her arms could hold, somewhat lifting them over my back and sprinkling dirt down my tank top in the process. Isabel didn’t fill her arms quite as full and Bernadette took handfuls instead of armfuls. The girls made a few trips before they got distracted. A few times Bernadette took the weeds from my hands out and other times she just put them in a small pile at the end of the row. Alexis and Isabel came and went.

Alexis found an earthworm, and cradled it in her hands. Isabel and Bernadette stood observing the worm with interest. I unearthed another one with a clump of weeds. I tried putting it into Bernadette’s hand but although she was fascinated by them she didn’t want to hold or even touch it. She squealed, “In Lexie hand,” pointing to Alexis’ hand, making it very clear that is where she wanted me to put it. Shortly after the worm finding, Alexis and Isabel left the garden. They buried the worms first.

Kale 048Bernadette sat beside me, yanking on the weeds, enjoying herself. “Me pulling weeds,” she cutely said many times. I showed her the difference between the plants and the weeds, gently reminding her not to pull out the kale. I’m not sure how long she helped but she kept me entertained with her talk. She would stop weeding, and again take the weeds from my hands and put them in a pile. A few times she played in the dirt, chattering away the whole time. I was enjoying every minute with her, especially since they were moving to a new place this week, moments like these would become infrequent. It was a delight when Bernadette sought out my company, and this night was the most special. Her incomplete sentences of excitement filled me with joy and a precious memory.

Sitting next to me, Bernadette placed her hand on my knee, exclaiming, “A WORM! COMING AT ME! W-O-R-M! WORM’S BUTT ON ME” She moved closer to me (the worm was several inches from touching her). Smiling I told her the worm was going back into a hole and that it was much smaller than her anyway. She shouted, “GOING BACK IN!” Those big brown eyes looked up at me smiling, she was scared and yet thrilled at the same time. I was soaking in the moment.

Then she shrieked, “nother worm! Taller than me!”

I laughed, “that’s a really big worm. I don’t think it is taller than you.” I continued to weed. Bernadette was still observing the ground. She had removed her hand, but a few minutes later quickly replaced it.

She squealed, “B-U-G!”

“Where?” I looked but didn’t see anything.

“THERE!” she shouted, pointing at a tiny spot. The beetle was so small it was barely visible.

“It’s just a small beetle nothing to be scared of.” She relaxed a bit. Then moved to the other side of me, sat down and began pulling weeds.

Bernadette loves to pull weeds and was having so much fun doing so. I instructed her to knock the dirt off the roots. (I had been hitting them on the ground to get some of the dirt off). Bernadette held a handful of weeds and brushed the dirt off with her fingers. Thrilled with her success, she shrieked, “I KNOCKED THE DIRT OFF!” eyes gleaming in delight.

Kale 049I smiled and praised her efforts, “Good job, Sweetie!”

There were a few weeds that held fast to the dirt and she struggled to pull out. She pulled with all her might but they still wouldn’t budge, “weeds hard,” she said though without defeat. I would loosen them a little and then let her pull them out the rest of the way. I’m not sure which one of us was having more fun.

Suddenly she became interested in pulling the weeds on the other side of the row, though she couldn’t reach. Leaning as far as she could, “Me can’t reach.”

“Step over to the other side.” I took her hand and helped guide her over the kale without stepping on them. She began pulling the smaller weeds in the walk way. She moved run ahead, pull a handful, run back and hand the weeds to me, which I added to our pile. This she did for the rest of the time, talking as she went: “can you see me? Me weeding. Me run into hole. Me sitting. My butt dirty.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the cuteness of her words. While we worked she nibbled on kale, lettuce, and beans. The sun was sinking lower, Bernadette seemed hungry and I was becoming hungry too. Reluctantly I told Bernadette it was time to go back to the houses. Malachi and Therese, who had been in the garden the whole time,  walked with us. I wanted to pause the moment, to make this time with the kids last, this last time of being together whilst they live right here. I was delighted to have spent the time in the garden with Bernadette, watching her marvel at the natural world around her.


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