Another Day in the County
by pulling weeds
© Another Day in the Country
It’s that time of year when weeds are pretending they’re vegetables. The grass grows singular, upright and thick-stemmed, right beside the onions, hoping you won’t recognize the difference. In the early morning, I go out to pull weeds — ideally, after a little rainfall during the night.
This morning I wanted to get the mulching finished. Art brought me four bales of old hay that someone had thrown away, and it was like receiving a much-longed-for gift. I love old prairie hay in the garden. The only down side is that sometimes it has seeds in it that spring back to life, which definitely complicates the weeding process. But, all in all, old — really old, beginning to rot — prairie hay is my favorite mulch.
I put old newspapers under the hay. I’ve been known to break down cardboard boxes and put them under the mulch. Last year I tried old, worn-out sheets under the hay where the tomatoes stood. They did fine.
While mulching is fun, it is also tiring. As the sun grew warmer and I got slower, I contemplated quitting before the job was done, but I pushed myself instead.
“You can do it, old girl,” I told myself. “You’re almost done, and won’t that feel good?”
Finally, finished, I staggered over to the porch and flopped down in the hammock. It was done. I was relieved.
“You did it!” I grinned. “Mission accomplished.”
In the hammock I took some long thoughts. I remember feeling just this shagged out and weary the summer I was 15. I’d just completed my sophomore year in high school. I needed a summer job, and one of my father’s fringe church members said she needed some youngster to do yard work.
“Did Pastor know of anyone?”
Of course, he knew me!
I’d never done yard work on my own before. I was used to helping Mom in the garden and Dad with the lawn, but being the only worker in the yard was something new — especially this yard, ringed with flower beds and sporting a huge rock garden.
Mrs. Kensington (not her real name — not because I’m protecting her identity so much as I can’t remember her name after all these years) had a migrant worker to mow the lawn, so I didn’t have to worry about mowing.
She had an automatic watering system, so I didn’t have to concern myself with watering.
She had a pool boy to keep the swimming pool sparkling clean.
What she needed was someone to weed the flower beds — especially the rock garden, which turned out to be the worst job ever.
First, I had to learn which plants belonged and which didn’t. This was a whole new world for me: rock gardens.
What I discovered, under the hot summer sun in 1953, was that weeding a rock garden often meant digging everything up. The weeds and the succulents were intensely entwined. The job was endless, time consuming, boring, awful!
The other beds were a piece of cake by comparison. By the time this huge rock garden was completely free of weeds, the summer was almost over, and it was time for me to go back to school.
Mrs. Kensington had an “indoor girl” as well as me, the “outdoor girl.” I envied the girl who cleaned the house in air conditioned comfort.
Mid-morning, Mrs. K would call me in for a glass of lemonade. Mid-afternoon the same. At lunchtime I’d sometimes eat my sandwich at the kitchen table with the girl who cleaned. This meant that the lady of the house had a luncheon engagement elsewhere.
I learned a lot that summer. I got a glimpse into the world of the wealthy — people who have sweeping flowerbeds, manicured lawns, fancy gates and wrought iron fences, real china and crystal.
The indoor girl taught me that canned milk works as well as glue when it comes to putting a china figurine back together. She’d learned this skill was useful when dusting shelf after shelf of knickknacks.
I learned that rock gardens weren’t for me. I’ve never ever had one to this day.
That summer of my 15th year was the only time I ever “hired out” to pull weeds, pushing myself to labor on under the hot sun when my fingers were sore and my back weary.
Now, it’s just the weeds in my own garden that I’m eradicating on another day in the country.