This week has been a welcome break. Warm, Spring-like weather has awakened the gardener in me and I’ve spent as much time outside as possible.

Tuesday I began the task of pulling aside the cardboard and turning over the damp soil under it.  As I did so, I pulled out roots and grass and broke up clumps.

Wiggly worms of all sizes were exposed to light as the cardboard came off.  I imagined them blinking their non-existent eyes as their world suddenly went from darkness to sunlit.

In some places the cardboard and newspaper was little more than compost. This I incorporated into the soil – a welcome amendment.

The cardboard that resisted the touch of earth, rain and the nibble of earthworms became a walkway between rows – the ground underneath will not be turned until the garden is prepped for next season.

Three hours I worked in the warm sun.  The dirt, cool and sweet smelling, yielded itself easily to the touch and pull of the garden fork. My right hand became my work hand as she busied herself plucking grass and roots from the damp overturned soil.  Before long she was dirt encrusted and heavy.

My old work shoes (yes, I still have them) became heavy from the load of dirt the soles carried. Three times I took them off and knocked the dirt from them.

As I worked, I felt muscles come alive that had grown stiff and shriveled. Alive – that’s how I felt…what I felt.

After three hours of work, I stepped back and surveyed my garden.  11/12’s of it was still covered with untouched cardboard. A 12 x 12 plot had been dug and a cardboard path marked its center.

A fat robin sat atop the fence and eyed the freshly turned soil.  I admonished her to leave my earthworms alone (I’d carefully covered each with soil) and that she was to eat only “bad” bugs. She hopped from her perch and plucked a grub from the soil and gulped it down.

I’ve a lot yet to do. Perhaps I bit off more than I can chew with the size of this backyard garden.

No, this is the middle of February. There’s plenty of time (if sunny days outnumber rainy and occasional warm days thaw the ground). I can do this.

I know God will give me the strength and the ability.

After all, His eye is on the Robin and I know He watches me.

The Garden – in the Beginning

This past week I began a personal relationship with the yard tools in my dad’s shed.

With April in full swing, I knew it was time to dig up Dad’s garden plot if we were going to enjoy fresh-picked, sun-warmed, home-grown veggies this summer.

Last Spring, Son tilled Dad’s garden, but Dad’s health declined quickly and he wasn’t able to prepare it for planting.

Mom loves home-grown tomatoes and I enjoy gardening.  The two of us put our heads together and decided it would be good to have a garden this year: tomatoes, okra, gooseneck squash, zucchinibroccoli, brussels sprouts….

The ground stayed too wet to work for several weeks.  And, then last week we had light rainfall and then several days of warm, sunny weather – perfect for digging the garden.

Dad’s old garden tiller is in his shed – in the same spot Son placed it last Spring after tilling the garden plot.  I looked it over, attempted to move it and decided quickly that I was not interested in using it.

My brother’s Honda lawn mower, the kind that pulls itself, gave me enough of a work out last Saturday when I cut Mom’s lawn.  I could only imagine what the tiller would do to me.

If I didn’t use the tiller, how would I break up the soil?

Grass had grown thick over the plot and it would be like starting over.  I wasn’t crazy about using a spade to dig it out…dig it up…break it up.  But, I would if necessary.

I stood in Dad’s shed and looked around.  Hanging from rusty nails was a selection of gardening tools.  All clean…not a speck of dirt on them.  Dad took care of his tools.

What would Daddy do?  How had he broken up the garden before he bought the tiller?

Memories came and I smiled as I selected a garden fork and a hoe, then headed across the yard.

Mom, curious about my undertaking had a front row seat on the patio and sat rocking, watching me.

Her next door neighbor noticed the activity in her backyard and dropped by to comment and share memories with her (bags of fresh tomatoes waiting for them when they got home from work) and hopes for this year’s garden (bags of fresh tomatoes waiting for them…freshly made salsa, sliced tomatoes on perfectly cooked burgers…).

Breaking up soil is hard work.  I’ll spare you the details. If you’ve never taken a garden fork in hand and used it to break up sod, I encourage you to do so.  There’s ample opportunity in the task to learn – about the soil…about yourself.

It took me two afternoons to prepare the garden – just in time for the rain on Thursday.  Hubby and I spread a tarp over the fresh dirt so it wouldn’t wash or be too wet for me to work and plant this week. (Broccoli and brussels sprouts should have been in the ground by the end of March.)

Breaking up the sod and getting the ground ready is just the first step toward eating home-grown produce.  It’s also the hardest.  And, that chore is now behind me.  Next I will smooth the soil and create rows.  Then I will plant.

And, then Mom and I will count the days (seeds take X days to germinate) and watch for signs of the soil cracking open as seeds come to life and reach for the sun.

That’s when the real work begins – and the fun starts.