Monday, October 17, 2011

Dirt Manicure

   I woke up this morning with a list of necessary chores to do outside, a tailgate full of autumn blooms to sink into the earth, and ideal weather and schedule conditions for both.  So after zipping through a few inside jobs and enjoying some time on the phone with my little sister, I found my boots and headed outside for what I refer to as a Dirt Manicure.

   Dirt Manicures are really good for you.  They generally happen outdoors, under the sun, in the fresh air, with your back bent in satisfying labor.  Dirt Manicures don't get your head all filled and sick with chemical fumes like at a nail salon; they are more likely to perfume your body with that sharp, sweet fragrance of tomato leaves or the grassiness of horse manure.  Dirt Manicures are evidence that you've done something constructive and maybe even creative.  The act of getting one helps you reconnect with nature.  And that is one of life's best beauty treatments.

My Grandpa Stubbs taught me that if you find a Y-shaped branch in your tomato vine
that has sprouted a center stem, just pinch that center stem off with your thumbnail.  
This helps the tomato plant conserve energy and grow stronger branches and better fruits.

Check out this little green baby.  
His collar is HUGE, hopefully signalling a nice, big fruit.
He is in the very good company of dozens of bright yellow tomato flowers 
as well as dozens of other green 'maters.  
The Second Chance Garden is still going strong!

   I kept feeling guilty while I "worked" outside, because it didn't feel like work at all.  It was playtime, even if I was the only one on the playground.  And although I've been W-2 challenged for almost eleven years now, I still have strong bouts of guilt over staying home and living this luxurious lifestyle.  The least I can do is take a few blurry photos of it all.


This is a stone urn we keep at at our front door, 
pictured here with leftovers from the brutal summertime.
Think of this as a container garden bone yard.  
Admittedly a neglected spot on the farm.
The only things here that are still viable are daffodil bulbs, 
and they're not due to bloom for many months.
Much ripping and composting was called for.

Same urn, about ten minutes and eight bucks later.  
I removed the dead dwarf evergreen and replaced it with a $5 something or other.
I added one small golden mum and three tiny white-with-purple pansies.
Following the tall/fat/trailing recipe for container gardens, 
I needed something to fall over the urn's edge
but had not bought anything like that at Home Depot.
So I searched the east flower bed and found some vinca vine that had gone a little crazy.  Bingo.
Oh, and I found some feathers blowing around and stuck those in too.
Here we have goose, turkey, and macaw feathers, just for fun.

   One of my favorite things about an unhurried morning in the garden is the rediscovery of plants that have been quietly plodding along, unfurling themselves and growing slowly, gradually, blooming and bursting with life while I was busy elsewhere.

The cannas really like the warm soil and cool air we've been enjoying lately.
With just a little extra water now and then, they are generouos with color and texture.

And once the scarlet gossamer blooms fall to the ground,
we get to see these fuzzy, stained-red seed pods and their tissue paper casings.
I cannot decide which one I like better.

   Designing a garden on paper is fun, but reacting to a garden's ongoing expression is where you can find  real pleasure.  Identifying vacant spots, experimenting with color combinations, rotating plants to find the prettiest "face," just sifting that cold, silky dirt with your bare hands...I love the crunch of my spade when it slices into a patch of crabgrass.  I love the textures of sand and loam, mixed together like brackish water.  I love to shakeout my ponytail at the end of the day and see dirt and possibly ladybugs fly out.  

I am kind of hoping that mums have bug-repelling properties like marigolds do.

   My morning in the garden was an investment.  Not only do we have some color to enjoy again; I also spent that time calming my thoughts, soothing some anger over recent family events, and reminding myself that life is beautiful.  We all grow best when not rushed, just nourished and surrounded with beauty and health.  I hope you have time for a Dirt Manicure soon.


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