Wednesday, June 29, 2011

one last stand

There is a strip of my yard - a narrow, untended, overgrown strip between my neighbor's garage and the play area with a sandbox, trampoline and playhouse - where I put plants for one last shot at life in my care.  They end up there because a) I don't really like them, b) I have too many of them, and like them too much to get rid of them, c) I have no idea what to do with them, or d) curious to see if this should be the plant that takes over this narrow strip. 

Some unknown mint had taken over a garden along the side fence, so one summer I pulled all of it out ... it has one massive and stubborn white root system ...and threw it into the compost.  Except for a few stray roots.  Let's see if you really want to live!  And I planted a few into no man's land. 

A beautiful white Japanese anemone had taken over a front garden bed.  Pulled it all out.  No thick white roots here, but thin, hairlike roots that were almost impossible to completely irradicate.  It still hides in corners of that bed, under the blue spruce, tangled into the monkshood and lady's slipper roots.  Every spring those hairroots send up new growth and somehow manage a white flower before I yank them.  I couldn't get rid of them all, could I?  No.  A few go into the "anything goes" patch.

I had clumps of iris that had to be separated.  And when you separate iris, you either need to find many friends who need purple iris, or put them into unsuspecting neighbor's cars when they leave their doors unlocked, or dig up lawn to make more space for iris.  After trying all of the above, I just gave up and put one iris clump on top of the ground on the strip of chaos.  Didn't even plant it.  (That's passive aggressive gardening).  I'm not throwing you out.  Quite.  But not planting any more.  I'll just set you here for a few chilly months.  I'll check on you in the spring. 

Yarrow?  Yup.  Random lily bulbs?  Check.  2 raspberry bushes ... um yes.  But those are different!!!  There was a thought at the back of my head that maybe this random 'live if you want to' patch should become a nicely contained raspberry patch.  There is really no other place for raspberries.  But I couldn't quite get rid of all of the other courageous plants that will not die. 

Were you wondering about the iris?  The next spring, after abandoning the iris clump to the cold Saskatoon winter, I was taking a walkabout the yard, and that crazy iris was sending up shoots!  It doesn't bloom there; doesn't get enough light, but it lives.  The lily is blooming.  I really cannot remember how it got there.  The mint is spreading with abandon.  It supplies flavor for a great grilled pepper recipe from Jeana.  I'll get my first raspberries this summer.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

hot compost…

It was a secret withheld for years of my life.
I’d read about it in gardening magazines, but I knew no one who had successfully heated anything up in their backyard. My dad dismantled the composter in his yard after the neighbours complained of the smell. I tried one out of chicken wire – the pile of leaves just dried up more and sat stubbornly in a pile… through the winter they waited and sat through another summer; unchanged and uncomposted. I tried one out of a green garbage can, with holes drilled into it. It sometimes worked, but was more muck and smell than anything the magazines described.
During our first fall in Saskatoon I watched with horror as the gigantic poplar tree in our backyard covered our lawn (and all of the neighbors’ yards) with millions of huge lily pad sized leaves. I bagged them. Those 9 bags of leaves sat under the poplar tree for the winter… in the spring they were still there. 9 bags of leaves unchanged and uncomposted.
The second fall I just took the lawn mower to the offerings from that huge poplar. Drove over and mowed all of the leaves, dumped them in a pile in the back corner together with whatever grass clippings decided to come along, and soaked the whole thing. (My boys couldn’t figure out why I was watering the pile of leaves and grass.)
A few days later the first Saskatchewan snow fell, and when I looked into the backyard everything was white except that crazy pile of leaves. I went out to look, put my hand out, and felt heat radiating from that thing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dandelion Dilemma

Written 12 years ago... 
this bearer of dandelions bouquets will be 17 this summer.

As your 5 year old comes and silently stands beside you,
       you vigorously dig your long "dandelion root destroyer"
       5 inches into the ground with one hand,
       and pull at the plant with the other hand
       till the whole thing comes out of the ground.
          Satisfied, you move to the next plant.

Quietly your 5 year old asks you what you are doing?
       And you (with no small amount of guilt)
       recall  the little hands gripping precious yellow flowers,
       bringing them into the kitchen with kisses
       and promises that he will always bring you flowers...
       every day when he is five, and then when he gets older
        and even when he is a Grandpa,
       he'll always bring you flowers.

              The promise is sealed with a kiss.   

Sitting on the grass
     with my 5 year old's arms around me,
     and a memory of a bright yellow bouquet
        on my kitchen table,

I wonder who thought to call them weeds.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

prairie footprints

straight lines betray our presence

     rows of evergreens lining the farm yards
     fenceposts rising and falling over the hills

     telephone posts disappearing into the horizon
     parallel tracks of steel

     fading gold rows of last year's grain fields

but the river
meanders in and out of view
traveling through the valley it carved out for itself
in no hurry
to determine it's path

bushes and trees
tumble over the hills in dark veins
following the gathering rain as it tumbles out of the sky, 

the wind-tousled tangle of grasses
give way to a fox and his tail

the horizon... stretching from sunrise to sunset
     crooked line where land meets sky
          interupted by poplar stands and house tops
               blinking towers and river valleys

Saturday, June 4, 2011


you have no idea what I would give
if you asked

you ask for half my inheritance
so that you can run away

it runs through your fingers like sand
turns to corn husk and mire

I would give it all to you
if you stayed

like sand on the sea shore
stars in the sky