Glamping In The Garden

Last week, the BC Parks’ website and their phone lines were swamped with people trying to make reservations for campsites all around the province for the spring and summer. Some friends of ours have a fifth wheel, and they spent three hours just trying to make one reservation. Eventually, they managed to book a few campsites on Vancouver Island, with dates spread out over the summer and into the fall. Camping is their joy.

Well, it’s not really “camping” in a fifth wheel…it’s what they call “glamping”.

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I am not a camper. I can't afford one of those big rigs so I'd be the one with the tiny, poor excuse for a tent, the moth-infested sleeping bag and the rusted propane stove. Nuh uh.

I understand the back-to-nature thing. I love my walks, even when they're not in the forest or by the ocean. But I find the most peace and joy in my own yard. My own garden. On a spring or summer weekend evening, you will find me wandering around it with a glass of wine in hand, inspecting and admiring my work. That's my glamping.

Just as I am not a camper, I was not born a gardener. My Dad, however, had a knack for it and was known around our neighbourhood for his beautiful landscaping and neatly trimmed lawn.

I started out more like his father, my grandfather, who bought an apple orchard from a guy in Peachland in the late 1920s without knowing the difference between "dormant" and "dead" trees. As it turned out, half of them were dead and he'd been swindled. Yeah, I was more like that.

When my husband and I bought our first house, I didn't know the difference between a weed and a...well, pretty much anything else. I'm sure I killed numerous legitimate plants for no good reason other than I didn't know what they were. Whenever my Dad would visit us, he would help me out by weeding and cleaning the yard up. But I was pretty useless.

By the time we moved to our second house five years later, Dad made the decision that we were on our own with the yard work. Our new house was on a corner lot and had SO many more flower beds and a lot more lawn. I don't blame him for bowing out.

Everything in the yard was a mess for years as our daughters grew up. Finally, one day we decided that we would focus on fixing it up, and we hired some garden pros to give us some tips and advice. I remember the couple well. They were British, probably in their 60s at the time. But mostly I remember the look on their faces as they took a look around. "Holy crap. Amateurs." is the expression I saw.

They wrote down some names of things, bushes and plants, and gave us some advice on our fence and how we might re-think our lawns, and then left it to us to figure the rest out. I kind of took the position of head gardener, while my husband took over care of the lawns.

I could not propagate for the life of me. I spent gobs money on all kinds of plants, and promptly put them in the wrong spots, and then forgot about them, thinking they would take care of themselves. Dead, dead, dead. I didn't know a perennial from a pollinator. But I persisted. I dug up the dead stuff and started again. I tried different plants in better places. And I weeded. And weeded. And weeded. And then, slowly, my gardens started to blossom.

Over time, I've not only come to terms with my garden, I've come to love it. Mostly, I've become much better at taking care of it. And now my next door neighbour has garden envy. Just the other week, she was outside chatting with me while I was working in one of the flower beds. She said "I wouldn't know what a weed was if it hit me in the face! How do you tell?"

I thought about it.

"Well, I think of a weed as pretty much anything that I don't want," I said with a smart ass smirk.

"That's good! That's good! I'll remember that!" she laughed.

She's an amateur. But I have finally taken root.

The Inevitable Fall

Dried and colored leaves on Ringstraße in Vien...Image via WikipediaI’ve been aware of it for a couple of weeks now, but I avoid dealing with it like the plague.  And every day it gets worse, of course, because the winds whip up and more and more of those darn leaves come sauntering down, down, down.

So when I saw that it was a relatively wind-free and sunny day today, I finally put on the gardening clothes and the work boots, grabbed the rake and the smelly old tarp and proceeded to rake the back yard.

Is there supposed to be an art to it?  A technique?  I think I’m really smart at first and rake from the outside in to the centre of the yard, but it’s never quite as neat and organized as I’d like it to be.  I huff and puff and a blister forms on my thumb where it meets the rake handle.  I switch hands, but I’m not really good at it left-handed, so I switch back again.  I stop and look back over what I’ve done.  Did that bunch of leaves just fall there like that, or did I just miss them?  Crap.  Back I go to re-rake that part of the lawn.  I re-rake a lot.

I used to laugh at guys who used leaf blowers.  Wimps, I thought.  Why do guys always have to use big, loud machines to do everything for them?  Lazy wimps.  So I scoffed at my husband when he brought one home one year.  It took two or three years before I finally broke down and tried it.  I had to doff the ear muffs and secure the strap over my shoulder and hold it just right before I was prepared to turn it on.  Wow!  If it’s dry enough, a leaf blower works like a hot damn.  And I finally got it, why men like big, loud machines.

But I felt guilty using electricity to blow leaves, for pete’s sake.  So I went back to doing it the hard way. In our city, the city workers come around once a year with one of those big trucks and suck up the leaves along the boulevards.  They encourage home owners to rake the leaves from their yards out to the boulevard so they can be included in the great suck.  That means finding a way to get the leaves from the back yard into the front.  We use the tarp method…pile the leaves up onto a big tarp and drag it from the front yard to the back.

I didn’t have any help from my husband this time (something’s wrong with my laptop, dear, I have to take it in and get it fixed…ha!), so it was up to me to do the job.  I huffed and I puffed and re-raked and scraped until I got half the pile onto the tarp.  I folded the sides of the tarp up over the pile so the leaves wouldn’t escape and proceeded to haul it from the yard, around the van in the driveway, along the side of the house, all uphill, until I collapsed, out of breath on the boulevard.  Why is it that streams of cars drive by and people are always walking up the sidewalk when I’m at my dirtiest, sweat-soaked, wheezing self in the front yard?  It never fails.

One pile dumped, one more to go.  So I brought the tarp to the backyard again and scraped and huffed and re-raked some more and finally got the last little bunch of wet leaves onto the tarp.  I folding the sides of the tarp up, grabbed one end and stepped backwards, hauling it through the yard.  That’s when I saw one leaf fall down from the maple tree on to the lawn that I had finished raking.  It landed upright with its stock in the grass…it had two holes that looked like eyes and one hole that looked like a mouth.

And it was laughing at me.


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