Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Go into your own familiar yard ... "

"Go into your own familiar yard.  It may be a beautiful garden.  It may be only a weedy lawn with a few half-dead shrubs.  No matter -- if you throw back your shoulders and look up into the sky, you will see what else is yours."    -- Evelyn Corley Buzbee*

Myth:  Most people I meet assume I have a beautiful garden.

Fact:  Though my garden is not quite '... a weedy lawn with a few half-dead shrubs' -- it is the one in our family that everyone has a good time with, saying things to me like "Here -- try this.  Even you can grow this!"

And you know what?  I laugh with them!  I don't even begin to compare my garden and backyard world to theirs or anyone's, because I so love being in my own backyard world -- it is the place I am happily without my phone or e-mail.  It is the place I am always filled with wonder and joy.

True -- there are chores and things that need tending to in my 'own familiar yard'.  Yet my own backyard world is the one place I truly honor 'pause'.  What a lovely concept -- 'pause'.  (Yes, I do notice all the 'paws' that are printed in various places of feasting, and often 'pause' to do the necessary detective work.)

Still, no matter the chore, if a bird is singing, I stop what I am doing, and scan the trees to find it.  If I don't know the type of bird, I will grab at least one bird book from my collection, and identify my visitor -- taking a few more minutes to read about why that bird might be visiting this time of year, or what that song might mean (usually he's trying to impress a potential mate).

As expected, the chores and weeds do wait for me.

I can remember many times popping in to visit my grandmother, who was often in her garden.  No matter what she was doing, she would stop her work, and invite me to sit on the porch or in her garden so we could have a visit.  I now do the same, should a friend or neighbor stop by while I am in my garden.  Our conversations that begin in the garden are always delightful, always informative, always Rife with Life.  And it never fails, something will always call our attention skyward -- a bird, a puffy cloud, the silhouette of the pine trees at dusk.  I do so love going into my own familiar yard.

*Evelyn Corley Buzbee was my maternal grandmother and a national judge of hostas and daylilies.  After she passed away, we found her notes from speeches she had made all across America as she toured the country judging plants and flowers.  It is my great pleasure to live with her quotes every single day, and to be able to share them through this blog and in the Perpetual Gardening Record Book and Gardening Note Cards, available at

Friday, February 3, 2012

"How much rain did you get?"

If you're growing vegetables, you're going to be asked this question -- regularly.  And no, the answer is not, "Tons!  I've got puddles everywhere!"

Seems like a lifetime ago that I never even thought about how much rain I had gotten.  This was before I had a garden.  Now, I can't imagine a life where 'rainfall' is not a permanent topic of conversation.  

The post office in our little town is the main gathering place, and we always talk about the weather (among other things ;)).  If there is a 'big' rain, it is a 'big' deal around here.  Not only do we discuss it at the post office, but we're just as likely to talk about it again at the grocery store.  My phone actually rings with calls from friends and neighbors to see how much rain I got -- which can vary greatly from one part of town to the other!

In early spring during the first year I was growing a vegetable garden, my cousin called to see how much rain I had gotten.  I said, "Tons!  I've got puddles everywhere!"  This was hilarious to her, as she has been gardening and farming all her life.  It was in that conversation that my dear cousin Carolyn told me I needed to get a rain gauge. 

People, I am here to tell you that the rain gauge is a game-changer for your garden.  Ohmy.  That first year I had a rain gauge, I was so excited to see how much rain I had gotten that I would actually run outside, while it was still pouring, just to see how it was coming along.  I gave them as gifts to everyone I knew who didn't already have one of these fine instruments, just for the fun of being able to call them and ask how much rain they had gotten -- such an easy way to share joy!

Yet it wasn't until I started writing down when it rained and how much it rained that I saw the true value of the rain gauge.  Here is the game-changing part:  most vegetables require 1" of water per week, but how do you know if you've had 1" of rain if you don't measure it and write it down?  In other words, how do you know if you need to water? 

Before I started recording rainfall, I was letting my plants tell me when they needed water.  Sadly, they were already in distress by the time they spoke up -- which is not good if you want a lush, healthy garden.  Within 3 weeks of recording rainfall (and watering accordingly), my garden was as beautiful as any I had seen.  I was delighted, and so was my garden :)

 Below is a haiku I wrote, which expresses my true sentiments about the wonderful rain gauge:

Latest measurement ---
oh the joy for man and bean!
bounty overflows.
                                                                 - Lauren Graves