Thursday, April 08, 2010

Over My Shoulder

As I have mentioned I have been spending all my time in the garden. Tilling, raking, laying out rows and beds. All is pretty much finished now and all ready for putting plants and seeds in the ground. As I worked furiously yesterday to finish up the rows before the rain I couldn't help but think, as always, of my late father. He loved to garden and had all of us boys and Mom out in the early spring laying out the rows. Being an engineer he was a stickler for precision. Accurate measurements and arrow straight rows. Perfect spacing for every variety.

In later years, after the MS had pretty much confined him to the wheelchair, he still insisted on a garden but was dependent on us boys and Mom to do all the work. I can still see him now...rolling back and forth using his accurate eye to chide us all on an uneven row or tomato plant not quite in line with the rest. Lots of strings and stakes to insure that everything was square and 'Bristol fashion'. There was even the exercise of  insuring all of the tomato stakes were pounded into the ground exactly true and at the same depth...the goal being to look down the row and see only the first stake.

There I was yesterday, carefully measuring and stringing lines back and forth across the garden. Marking the starting and ending points of each row with garden lime so that I and the TroyBilt could guide ourselves across the garden and produce a razor straight row and starting over when a root or rock caused us to deviate from the planned course. Hours and hours of backbreaking work but with the satisfaction of being able to look across a perfectly laid out garden with geometric precision and not a wandering line anywhere.

Plants, of course, don't care if they are in a straight row. The tomato plants don't care if they are not precisely spaced. A couple of inches here and there mean nothing as long as they have enough sun and space for their roots. To some it might seem silly, applying tape measure and strings and all to something like a a vegetable garden but it matters to me and what's more I know Dad is watching and would approve. Like every spring for the last fifty years or more I have made endless trips back and forth across the garden making seemingly minor corrections to this or that. It started as a chore, commanded and enforced by someone else but now it is my charge to insure perfection and I won't lay down that charge lightly, aching back and exhaustion are no excuse. I even considered doing it all at night so I could use my laser level to align the rows but decided that if strings and stakes and tape measures had done the job so well for so many years I shouldn't mess with tradition.

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