Putting Down Roots

The snow is now completely gone from the front yard. The backyard has a foot-wide patch of gritty grey-white ice that is holding on by some quirk of nature.

I almost miss the snow, since now the muck and mud that was frozen underneath is revitalized and soggy. 

Getting out of the passenger’s side of our car is like a bizarre obstacle course. We have a make-shift path of bricks – barely big enough to plant your foot on spaced haphazardly across the muddiest patch. 

Unfortunately, when the path was put in place we lacked enough bricks to bridget the gap comfortably so the poor adventurers (us, in this case) are forced to hop from brick to brick and hope that your foot lands solidly on the small rectangle of hard ground.

If you haven’t heard, our “soil” has a good deal of red clay, which makes it thick and sticky. Water sits on top of the ruts and ridges in the ground rather than sinking into it, and if you happen to step in it the stuff clings to everything and is nearly impossible to get off. 

Image: the mucky pup herself, helping to make the bed after getting our sheets muddy.

Our daily walks with the pup have left tiny muddy footprints all over the first floor of the house. (Note to self, we should give the floors a good deep clean this weekend.) Mud is unavoidable.

Frankly, the only thing that makes the muck appealing is the prospect of taming it into a garden for the summer months. And (maybe?) that this muck is our muck.

I have never been a gardener, so this may be a loftier goal than I realize. Nevertheless, I put in an order for an assortment of seeds to grow sunflowers, string beans, tomatoes – all the classics, plus a few out-of-the-ordinary items. (Parsnips? Why not!?)

I’ve had gardening tutorials playing in the background all morning as I answer emails and finalize details around my approaching job transition. 

Before buying a house I enjoyed the idea of gardening but never had the impulse to put much time and effort into the small array of potted plants we’ve had on apartment porches in the past. 

Now that we own land? I want to work it!

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with this house. [REDACTED] and I have agreed – we will try to tackle one home improvement project each year, and the garden is project number one.

Image: seeds I bought on impulse when picking up some groceries after [REDACTED] and I talked about going garden supply shopping over the weekend
(not my best partner moment, but also not the worst?)

[REDACTED] and I are giddy envisioning working sand and compost into our thick reddish brown muck with a tiller (something that [REDACTED] keeps talking about while I nod along agreeably without any understanding of what a “tiller” is.)

Don’t worry, friends – I haven’t quite forgotten the nearly insurmountable task that was our driveway this past fall. I do remember the naive belief that we would be able to lay the groundwork for our gravel driveway by hand only to realize that waterlogged muck is nearly impossible to move quickly or easily with a shovel and ten frozen fingers.

BUT! When we watched tutorial videos on installing gravel driveways for that DIY Home Improvement adventure the tutors were speaking from sunny days with dry dirt to work with – that was different. We weren’t fully prepared. 

Now we know what red clay muck is made of. This is a known enemy. And we have mulch!

So. Much. Mulch. 

The mulch was bequeathed to us by the seller when we purchased the house. Between [REDACTED], myself, and our massive amounts of mulch, I believe we can turn our mud puddle of a backyard into a green space. 

That’s the hope, anyways. 

I admit, thinking about planting a garden and watching things grow has me daydreaming into the future. 

I’m imagining little hands and tiny bare feet running between the garden beds followed closely by a watchful pup. I know kids are still a few years off for us. I know there is a massive wash of fear around planning a family and thinking about the future of our world. 

Image: the only thriving plants currently in my life, on the windowsill of my office space
(the office that I will be leaving as of this Friday for my NEW JOB!)

I understand the fear. I understand the danger our planet faces due to climate change. At the same time, it feels like a problem that is too big for me to bear the weight of it solely on my shoulders. For better or for worse it is not a fear I have internalized. 

Planting things in our barren mucky backyard and turning it into a (hopefully) lush and green garden feels like a good way to engage with the earth in a way I haven’t before. It feels like a small protest to the destruction and waste that is occurring elsewhere on the planet. 

It’s hopeful and naive and I don’t know how successful we may or may not be at taming our backyard mud pit, or how we all might combat and slow the destruction of our earth. I choose to remain naive and hopeful either way. It worked for the driveway.

We’ll see how the rest goes. 

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