How do you horrify a horticulturist? You break the rules. That's what you do. I'm doing it right here in my Morrisonville yard. I'll get to that in a minute. Since I can remember, my drummer has marched me to an oddball beat, and even though the golden years are approaching, I'm trying to remain one step ahead.
In an effort to melt away that excess 100-pound sack of fat I've been carrying around, I began to hit the pavement, albeit at a less than frantic pace. So far, at least, I seem to be remaining a little ways in front of the old man with the sickle. Five days a week, my corpulence is in evidence slogging along the road for a couple miles at considerably less than a power walk. Never mind. I feel better, and I get to wave at many passersby. Exercise makes me hungry, but I'm trying to cut calories. I really am.
Toward that end, I recently seized the shovels, hoes and rakes between spring rains and started digging in the dirt along the fence between our house and the local fire department. Kaye and I love to work outside and, while she prettied her flower gardens, I was inspired to prepare what we have lovingly referred to as our "crop strip." It's a narrow band of land that starts where Kaye's flowers end and continues to the Saranac River Bank.
As I shook out the clumps of sod, I could hear my late mother's voice saying, "You'd better hold off for a while. You could still get a frost." Her green thumb always inspired me, and it will be a sad springtime when I can no longer put seeds and plants into Mother Earth.
I might have waited a couple weeks, but the mailman is at fault for my jumping the gun. I checked the post office box and spied a long, plastic bag with all the bills. Some time ago, I had sent a check to the Arbor Day Foundation to fulfill their mission statement: "To inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees." Their thanks came in that slim package containing a number of small Colorado blue spruce seedlings along with several fragrant purple lilacs.
I was compelled to plant them. Kaye helped. We dug holes here and there, set the little trees and bushes carefully with black dirt and watered them liberally on one of the few dry days in May. I marked the calendar so we could mark their progress and stood back to admire my handiwork. The planting bug had bit along with black flies. While Kaye set out all the lovely things she received for Mother's Day, I moved to the crop strip and got busy.
One day I turned over clods, and the next day I shook them out, removed the copious stones and raked the dirt smooth. That should have been enough to deserve a nap and wait a couple weeks, right? Wrong. I listened to that oddball drummer and planted butternut squash, cucumbers and string beans.
Was I finished? Of course not. Kaye was working at her favorite local michigan hot dog stand, and my conscience took a holiday. I hopped into the hybrid and motored to a local roadside stand where I chose some healthy-looking tomato and pepper plants. It put them into their proper places along the crop strip and opted to suffer the consequences, should that late frost occur.
That happened on Friday, the 13th. Figures. I overrode my mother's admonitions. "Wait till June 1," she always said. Had I always followed her advice, perhaps my childhood would have been less rocky than my crop strip. But it didn't work out that way, and here we are, at the mercy of nature once again. It rained for days after, but the plants remained tall and, hopefully, the little seeds didn't rot under the soggy earth.
Stay tuned. When I stood in the store and picked out my seed packets, I noticed many others doing the same. Some of them looked like first-time gardeners who were horrified by the high price of groceries and decided to try home-grown. Good for them. I wonder if their living or deceased mothers still whisper in their ears about wearing clean underwear and not planting tomatoes until after Memorial Day.
Have a great day and please, drive carefully.
Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the "Our Little Corner" television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.