Gardening on New Years Day

Gardening on New Years Day

I spent New Years Day gardening. This would be unremarkable except that I live in Montana. Livingston, Montana. Where it is supposed to be winter, real winter, not like the fake winters when I lived in the Bay Area. Don’t even get me started on my season’s pass to Bridger Bowl … that pass has yet to make it off my bulletin board and onto my jacket.

So, I’m a little superstitious about New Year’s day, and I think you should start the year out right. Since, in the brave new world of global warming, it was 40 degrees and sunny (and for once, there was no wind. We’ve had 50-75 mph winds most days since early December. I’m told this keeps up until at least April.) I decided to finally attack the bed just alongside of the living room windows, and to move the rocks from where the vegetable garden used to be, over to where the herb/rock garden will be. The bed along the south side of the house has kind of defeated me since I moved in in August. There are some wonderful overgrown rose canes, and way way too much mint, and a lot of slightly scary debris — old seashells and roofing debris and weird stuff that accumulated during all that time since 1903 that the last family lived here. I don’t know why it was scary, but it seems like that bed in particular held Mrs. Warnick’s ghost longer than some of the others — it just hasn’t seemed like it was my bed to mess with until now.

But suddenly, on New Years Day, it was time. So, I got out the clippers and lopped down the now-dead mint, and raked out all the vegetative debris — mint, weeds, some grass, and some old flat dianthus that didn’t look terribly interesting. By the time I got all that stuff cleaned out, I could cope with the roses. Clearly, they needed pruning, and I briefly considered cutting them all the way back, but I really want to see what they look like next summer. So I sort of topped the tallest ones (way over my 5 foot head), clipped out the dead wood, clipped out a few extraneous suckers, and we’ll have to hope for the best. I got a whole quart jar of lovely fat rosehips out of it, so that was something. After some vigorous raking, and much sorting of rocks from leaves, and roofing debris from rocks and leaves, I had a pile for the trash, a pile for the compost, and a pile of rocks for the herb/rock garden. I want to put a cold frame there by the back door, and although the soil is going to need some serious amendment, because it’s hard as concrete now, I can see where this might work. Also, if the roses are swell, I may put more in later, but first I need to see what color they are.

My rock-moving project was enormously satisfying. The tire has gone flat on my wheelbarrow, which was a problem, so I had to use my hand truck. It was Fun with Levers and Fulcrums … I’ve been remaking this yard all fall. It was cut into all sorts of fussy little spaces, so I’ve been pulling out weird little fences and trying to open it up. There’s a vegetable patch that is approximately 20 by 30 feet, which even as enthusiastic as I am about my future garden, seems excessive. The plan is that I’ll have about a 12 x 12 raised bed vegetable garden (in a sort of classic kitchen garden configuration), a flower bed along the fence that separates me and my neighbor, Paula, and then I’ll seed the rest with grass. The vegetable garden had a very old rock border, so I spent my day digging the rocks out of the southeast corner of the garden and hauling them over to the southwest corner. There were a couple of really big ones … like the biggest pumpkin you’ve ever seen, but rock. The hand truck was essential … but it felt so good to do something real. So I now have a pile of rocks, organic matter, and dirt in one corner which I need to cover with plastic to start solarizing (and to keep the dogs out of it), and a big bare patch of soft dirt that the puppy thinks is his new sandbox.

It was nearly a year ago I saw this house for the first time, and although it’s been slow going, I’m beginning to see how the yard and gardens are going to shape up. There’s part of me that feels like I’ve lived here forever, and part of me that stands out in that yard and still can’t believe that I pulled this off. I bought my own house. By myself. And if I can come up with the mortgage payment every month, I never have to move, ever ever again. That felt like a great way to start a new year.

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