August 31, 2011
248: Backyard 2.0
If I'm at loose ends, I no longer want to be sitting around the house. I want to be in our backyard with my camera, taking pictures of the beautiful things that weren't there before.
As much as we fell in love with our perfect house, it came with baggage: a not-so-secret shame, in a weed-patch backyard fit for the dogs – which our neighbour reported, was previously the case – surrounded by rotting scraps of mismatched fences. Four summers we tolerated it, an uneasy truce with the green menace out the window (sometimes, you know, it looked kinda OK after a mow, with dandelions evened out nicely with the patches of sharp grass).
Nightcrawlers bored canyons, neighbourhood cats pooped, ants erected sandy temples. A tentacled mystery shrub that took a hole two feet deep to uproot and ultimately halt. We eventually carved a happy patch of dirt for a few summers of happy tomatoes. We found a hotspot where they were foolproof.
At the end of our fourth year we hid our secret shame from the outside world, erecting a fence – a wedding present from my brother. The ensuing winter, we could stand no more. Our hired landscaping crew brought in a digger-ma-jig one rainy day last June and scraped the whole damned thing clean. At work while the deed was done, I would love to have watched; I would have danced on the muck and gumbo left in its wake.
A few short weeks later the crew left, leaving behind a blank slate – a squeaky-clean mat of grass, patio and dirt beds waiting for a purpose. Already well into July, we stuffed the soil with garden-centre scraps and seeds. Things grew. The year was not a total gardening write-off.
Neither was this year, not by the longest of long-shots. Raised veggie beds were stuffed – mebbe too stuffed (our bad) – with chard, lettuce, eggplants, beets, peas, beans, corn, basil, carrots, peppers, sunflowers and high, high holy mounds of atomic tomato plants. A spindly rogue of yellow Sweet 100s shot up between the beets and carrots, uninvited but wholly welcome. Yard beds were packed with raspberry canes, a start-up rhubarb, ferns, wild strawberries, lupins and a native plant community of prairie grasses, coneflowers, asters, false sunflowers and a purplish jobbie the bumblebees go ape-shit for.
And in and amidst all of this, we sit, drink wine and have dinners. Or read newspapers with beers, and look out on all of the beautiful things that weren't there before.