Clay happens

So my Mother’s Day gardening was a bit of a bust.

(For those that didn’t read my endearing Mother’s Day post I had a whole thing on how stay-at-home moms never get a break, and so Mother’s Day was our only work holiday. And with my work holiday I was going to spend the whole day gardening. No Nemo, no diapers, just gardening. Then I gave a nice tribute to my own mom, cause that’s what you do when you’re a writer on Mother’s day. Unless you have a bad relationship with your mother then you probably write some bad poetry.)

But like I said, the gardening was a bit of a bust…

First, it was about 6 million degrees. Which I was actually a little ok with because rain would be worse, right? Can’t look sunshine in the mouth. So, I took an old sunhat of mine that never fit right, cut a whole for my massive bun of hair, and I was back in business. Sure I looked ridiculous in my bright pink sneakers, oversized sunglasses (also pink), ill-fitting tie dye tank top, and sunhat opened like a tin can— but it’s gardening, not the met. (Besides, a tin can hobo hat might be welcome at the met. Sounds a bit avant-garde.)

I’ll admit my plan was a bit ambitious. My family and I just moved into our first house. A charming 1960’s ranch that opens onto not one, but two cul-de-sacs.  How is this possible? (No, seriously, I’m not sure but somehow both our front yard and our back yard opens up on to a cul-de-sac. So I basically have two front yards. Twice the judgement with none of the privacy!)  I sound like I don’t like it, but I freaking love our house. It’s charming, the mortgage is much lower than our rent was… and every kid needs a yard right? (Or two front yards in our case.)


Either way I had a very ambitious plan for our backyard (that in all other respects resembles a front yard.) I was going to do several big beautiful flowerbeds, one more natural, the other more formal, and the last was going to be edible, eventually turning it into a vegetable garden. I’ve been working on a compost pile in a DIY compost tumbler in anticipation of all this exciting gardening. (Compost tumbler= rubbermaid storage bin with a bunch of holes drilled into it for ventilation. Soil quality is everything, people!) So I felt ready for this. Sure, I needed to mow because our front yard-back yard was starting to look more like a prairie (and not in a good native landscaping kind of way) but I was still pumped!

I start by marking out the beds with a can of orange spray paint. This causes several neighbors to stop and wonder what the heck I am doing. Possibly calling the cops for vandalism, understandably thinking I am a homeless lunatic with a broken sunhat. (Remember the judgement part?… Also remember that I have anxiety so they were probably not even remotely judgey, just curious, and I am clinically sensitive.) At some point the can back sprays sending a jet of wet paint up my arm. This wouldn’t be such a big deal but there is a lot of plant dander in the air so I immediately get grass and dandelion seeds pasted to my skin. Gross but not a dealbreaker.  After all…This is gardening! (I hope you said that in a This is Sparta! tone because that was what I was going for.)


So after the spray paint I decide to clear the messy existing flower bed nearest to the house for my vegetable garden. There are about six thousand circle stepping stones hidden under brambles of unknown plants and weeds and perennials, so first I had to take those out. No problem right? It’s manual labor for sure but they’re just stepping stones?

That’s when I discover the clay. The whole thing is one giant hardened piece of clay like the world’s saddest childhood pinch-pot. Which means both the stepping stones and the plants have been vacuum sucked to the ground. Crap… But I am not deterred. I hook up my brand new hose and try to loosen up the clay. Part of me knows that this will turn it into an evil bog but it’s the only way I can think to remove the stepping stones.

So the once messy clay flowerbed is now a disgusting slippery mess but all the stepping stones and random large rocks are out of the bed. I think, maybe I can salvage some of these plants? There are some pretty bulbs in there I just know it. So I start to bumble through the bog looking for the better plants. I see a big hole and my heart sinks a little. Rabbits? That might suck for a vegetable garden but there are no vegetables yet. It’s fine. It’ll be fine. Then my crazy rises up and is like, “It’s snakes! There are snakes in your flowerbed!” Still, I power through.

That’s when I see it…a snake the size of a python. I don’t see the whole thing, just a coil of it’s terrifying emerald body. I don’t even think, I react. I scream, pick up my hoe and slam the sharp edge down on it, severing its hollow body in half. Wait… hollow? It was a hose. Thankfully not my new hose. An old hose that had been left in the snarl that was this flowerbed.  So, now the neighbors really do think I am a lunatic.

This isn’t helped when I start to hear other screams. Like for real, people screaming, a couple, a man and a woman screaming at each other. Which naturally unnerves me, so I start looking everywhere for the source of the screaming, running down the back cul-de-sac with my hoe and my cell phone ready to call 911. There are people everywhere but no one else seems bothered by the potential homicide in progress. A group of landscapers stare at me warily like I am sizing them up for a fight with my garden hoe, and these people are still screaming at each other. After a while of searching up and down for the source, the noise fades, and I can’t do a thing about it. I hope that they’re ok, whoever they were. I do feel a little bad for not being able to help, but I feel really less secure about landscapers. I would hope that a huge group of men with knives and power tools would come to my rescue if I was being murdered. But apparently not. Must not be in the union bylaws.


So I go back to my messy bog garden. Winded from my repeated circling of the cul-de-sac, I stare at the muddy pathetic mess and I want to say, “screw it.” But then I think, you need to turn the compost. And you got that cool compost starter to make it go faster, that will feel like you’ve accomplished something— just do it. So, I add the latest scraps from the kitchen, a fair amount of eggshells, a lot of wasted greens that I bought just a little too much of and a ton of wet teabags. Then I add the weeds that I spent several hours the night before corkscrewing out of the lawn because I don’t want to poison my two year old with pesticides.  Then I add the compost starter and wet the whole thing down. Now it’s time to turn the compost. This is why I made a DIY compost tumbler. You don’t have to stir, you just lock the top and roll the whole thing on the ground. I lock the top, tip it over, and… the top breaks, spilling fresh compost all over the ground.

Now any eco-gardener knows that fresh compost is not very fresh. Essentially, it’s garbage. So I have hot wet garbage all over my backyard (that is really just another front yard remember), a messy wet bog flower garden full of weeds and holes, a decapitated garden hose that nearly gave me a heart attack, a possible domestic homicide on my conscience, as well as wild orange spray painted circles in my hillbilly level overgrown grass that I still need to mow.

This is gardening? I think weakly, defeated.

Finally, when harsh hot winds knock over my tools and blow fresh garbage smell in my face, I hoe the spilled compost under a bush, take my dirty tools into the garage and immediately get into a fight with my husband over his non-existent mother’s day gift. Because the one of I gave myself was turning out to be a hot pile of garbage, that’s for sure. At least I knew that we could scream as much as we want and no one would do a thing. Not a thing. Not those landscapers for sure, probably on a break. *

*My husband and I don’t scream at each other. Or at least he never screams at me. He’s good like that. He also sweetly made up for this much later with Netflix, pink wine, and gluten free brownies out of the freezer. Sure it was no longer Mother’s day by that point but a stay-at-home mom takes her breaks when she can get them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s