by Stephanie Bayles

April 13, 1999

It is once again time to get down and dirty. You know, the cabin fever takes a-hold of your senses just as that familiar smell wafts through an open window. You can’t do anything but obey that primal urge…..TO PLANT! Yes, I’m talking about gardening! Oh, how I love it! The smell of fresh dirt under my fingernails, the mud splatters that go up to my knees, and the satisfaction of ripping out those pesky weeds that think they’ve got a head-start on the real plants!

Hubby Helper
I have pestered my husband to help me with a vegetable garden for several years now. He tried to convince me that he has an allergy to gardening from doing it for years as a child. Anyway, he finally consented and we now have the hallowed spot. The spot was not always hallowed, mind you. At first it was described as, well, !!@$#$%^&&?**!. Those are the exact words! The ground here is terrible! We tried to at least break it up with the hand tiller….no way! The tiller merely bounced over the surface. And believe me, after giving birth to four children, I bounced too.

My husband suggested we call in someone with a tractor to do the preliminary ground preparation. Curiously, it took him a while to come up with that suggestion. I think he enjoys watching me “bounce.” So, after a considerable dent in my wallet, I now have nice smooth broken clay-stuff. Nothing has grown in this spot for several years.

Maybe it needs some fertilizer?

Maybe it needs some sand?

And compost?

Maybe we need to just forget it?!


I look longingly out the window at the hallowed spot and my husband finally gives in again. We know this great place where you can have all the sand you want! You just have to haul it yourself… Then there’s the family farm about 15 miles away that has plentiful amounts of manure! Oh, the bliss of hard, manual labor. After shoveling one million (no joke) scoops of manure and sand over the hallowed spot, there is not one muscle on my entire body that doesn’t ache! And if there is, it smells of manure.

That Catchy Little Breeze
There was a little breeze that would catch each shovelfull as I tried to toss them out of the truck. That little breeze knew exactly when to blow just hard enough to send the manure dust and sand right back into my face! I tried to toss it in different directions, but I could never seem to outsmart the wind. Yes, It did turn to wind as it often does around here. I listened to it howl all the rest of the afternoon. Howling and howling, laughing at all my efforts. Mocking my aching back and legs and arms and feet. All I could do was watch helplessly as that same manure dust that had attacked me earlier now blew away to attack someone else.

The sand was not any kinder. It, too blew as if it was racing the manure to see who could find the next victim the fastest! I wanted to cry! Instead, I pulled out the brown paper bag of seeds I had collected and daydreamed about over the years. There were “Little Marvel” peas, and “Strait Eight” cucumbers. “California Wonder” bell peppers and “Jumbo Coreless” carrots.

The Master Builder
I sketched out the master plan, right down to the last watermelon seed and beet plant. I daydreamed the rest of the day away, planning my magnificent garden. The next day I hand tilled what was left of the manure and sand into two long rows. The manure was still a little lumpy, but I was getting dirty and loving it! Besides, the tiller was shaking out those tired muscles from the day before. Carefully I planted those “Little Marvels”. I envisioned miniature green vines creeping skyward. I actually saw the carrots stretching down into the soil as the feathery, green tops popped-out on top.

The next day was beautiful. I put on an old baseball cap, jeans and comfortable old shoes. I got my gardening gloves (so they don’t match, ok!) and headed out. The rows that I had tilled earlier had managed to survive the wind. I was careful to only step in between them. Reverently, I reached into the sack and pulled out the bag of “little marvels.” I held them into the sun and almost had a tear in my eye. It was like the moment when Simba was held up on Pride Rock for all to see. This was a great gardening moment. Furiously, I made a small furrow in the middle of the mound. I wasn’t about to let anyone or anything stop me from getting these seeds into the ground.

I sifted the little darlings into the ground and carefully tucked them in with a brush of the soil. Next I planted the carrots in the same careful fashion, then the radishes. It was still to early for anything else. I wouldn’t want it to freeze or anything. I carefully watered my two rows everyday, just enough to keep them damp. The sun shone lovingly and kept them nice and warm, and the nights were not too bad, either.

I thought everything was going great, until I woke up the next morning to SNOW! This was two weeks ago. So far, the only thing out in the hallowed ground are clumps of manure in various sizes.