The Eternal Optimism of the Backyard Gardener.

In my mind, I am many things, most of which I won’t share. Because I won’t, so don’t ask.

Of all of those things, I can tell you that one of them is “gardener”. The appellation of “gardener” rests most uneasily, because it really not very true. In fact, it’s not true at all.  As much as I might want it to be the case, I’m really all sweet talk, no action when it comes to putting in a garden, maintaining it, weeding it and watering it. I want all the benefits but none of the work. I want to grow prize-winning tomatoes, but I’m too lazy to stake them. I weed sporadically, usually when I’m on the phone. The only remotely successful thing I’ve (correction: We’ve) ever grown were some green bean plants last summer, which provided us with more green beans than we knew that to do with (I lie: they got turned into pickled green beans and all was right with the world, but I digress). I’m still half-convinced that was a fluke.

Here’s what I do every spring: I always, ALWAYS start every growing season by making a grand plan for the garden. After I’ve decided what I’m going to grow, I fantasize about working in the garden with my boys, teaching them about varietals of flowers, showing them how to pick off the runners on tomato plants. We’ll plant three different types of peppers, twelve herbs, four types of tomatoes, some asparagus, and a full butterfly garden full of indigenous wild flowers. And of course,  it will all fit and grow under the branches of the very large tree in my backyard, whose canopy shades all but a three-by-two foot patch of clay-like soil right at the back of the yard beside where my neighbour keeps her garbage cans.  Won’t it?

Some time in June I’ll buy the best of what’s left at the local garden centre and haphazardly throw it into the soil. By August every year, I have to again face the fact that I’m not really any good at this gardening stuff. I mean, I like it. I know what I’m supposed to do to get the green shoots to keep growing and the pretty things to smell good. I’m just unrealistic about what I can achieve, underwhelmed by how much work I need to do to get even half-way there, and just a bit annoyed that gardening is actually, you know, work, and not just a way to get free tomatoes every night. But that hasn’t stopped me from starting to peruse the seed displays at our local Canadian Tire on my way to work and wondering whether we have enough room to grow watermelons.


The Great Spring Purge

Spring has officially arrived but the unusually mild winter and early taste of summer has buffered me from my annual winter blahs.  Nonetheless, I am eager to count down the days for when I can put away the heavy coats and mittens.  Any Canadian worth their salt will tell you that it’s foolish to act too quickly.  There is always a “sprinter” storm to send winter on its way with good riddance.

There is something intoxicating about the heady spring air.  Windows open, people smile, patios overflow, and children play outside.  After the long winter people, like hibernating bears, come out from their dens.  And people really are everywhere!

“So that neighbour was pregnant!”

“Wow, the kids across the street have really sprouted!”

“The new neighbour isn’t as much as a curmudgeon as I thought!”

While most people take to the outdoors to welcome spring, I see it as a different kind of rebirth:  one of purging and organizing.

I am a regular purger and an obsessive sorter.  In the office the books are shelved according to colour and I have a system to keep paper clutter at bay that would make Peter Walsh proud.  In the playroom, the toy bins are separated into categories and neatly labeled.  Each boy has their own cubby and hook in the mudroom for mittens, hats, shoes and coats.  Getting them to follow the system is a bit more of a challenge.  Read: a giant pain in the ass that involves lots of lecturing (from me) and eyeball rolling (from them).

However, the kitchen always seems to get away from me.  With the steady traffic of kids, friends and family in our kitchen (which also doubles as our family room) the cupboards and drawers quickly become cluttered catch-alls.  It doesn’t help that the 18 month old is a compulsive drawer/cupboard emptier.  Therefore, most of the contents of our lower cupboards and drawers have been relocated to the upper “bunk”.

Top on the list is to tackle the cutlery drawer that I am embarrassed to share.  Any suggestions?

Game On

The sound coming from outside  is just unusual enough to make me worry, so I poke my head out the front door:

Chip, chip, chip.


Chip. Chip, chip.


Last week, the sidewalk in front of my house was covered in ice. By the middle of last week, it was covered in ice with two inches of rain- and melt water on top. By the weekend, the ice was again so thick that we could have held an Ice Capades reunion show on the paved area that spans the front of our neighbours’ and our houses.

Today, the sun is shining. The sidewalk is still splattered with great patches of wet, but there’s still a dark, decaying pile of snow and ice, three inches high in the middle, covering our lawn and part of the front of the neighbour’s house.

My boys are out front with the neighbour boys. Snow shovels and hockey sticks in hand, they’re hacking away at that block of ice, trying to free the neighbour boys’ ball hockey net, which has been entombed by ice since December.

Thump. Thump. A piece, maybe four inches long by six inches wide, skitters away from the net. A wrist shot, and the ice goes flying toward the street.

Chip chip chip. Shards of ice get swept away. Another piece of ice breaks free and gets passed, hockey stick to hockey stick, until it rests in the gutter.

There’s still so much ice that they could be out here for the rest of the afternoon, and still wouldn’t get the net free, but no matter.  In August, when the umpteenth ball hockey game of the summer is played, when their tired-eyed Moms and Dads grow weary of squinting to follow the ball in twilight and call them in for bed, the boys probably won’t remember the afternoon in March when they systematically chipped away at what was left of winter and threw it to the curb.

But I will.