Trees: We grow them, we depend on them, we even hug them. But have you ever wondered why? This short, humorous, fantasy story will make you see them in a whole new light.
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It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The first item on my “to do” list today was “fix up garden.” Having done most of the hard work last fall, it was just a matter of clearing out winter debris, pulling a few stray plants, and planting the spring bulbs.
Two hours work, tops, right?
That was before my kids got involved.
I figured this was one of those projects my children and I could do together. So, first came the prep. My family is fair-skinned, so I broke out the sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. My kids took the slathering and accessorizing without complaint. I was lulled into a false sense of security.
Then it was off to the garage to get the tools. You should know my youngest son has a fixation with buttons; he is particularly fond of the garage because the door is automatic. It’s big, it’s very noisy, and you operate it with a button.
Twenty minutes later, after thoroughly exploring every angle at which you can halt the progress of a garage door, we managed to get the tools into the front yard. Among other things, I brought out two rakes: one was toddler-sized, new and bright green, while the other is ancient, unwieldy, and held together with duct tape. Of course, they all wanted mine.
They picked up the knack of raking in no time. Unfortunately, there being a great deal more rake handle than kid, their technique left me with a cauliflower ear, a bruised elbow, and a poked gut. They weren’t particularly interested in the patch of lawn I’d shown them either, preferring to rake the garden just like mummy. Sadly, the lily of the valley fared worse than I did — it’s just as well I was pulling it out anyway.
I finally convinced them to switch rakes, and I thought we were making good progress. Then I realized they were taking great armloads of leaves and throwing them *back* into the flower beds and dissolving into giggles. I decided it was time to demonstrate how much fun bagging leaves could be.
That was when they decided to explore the juniper. Juniper are not nice bushes. They’re very prickly and scratchy, and they have thin branches which make it impossible to push off and stand up. Toddlers are not very patient about this sort of thing. Fortunately, my daughter is not allergic to them; me, I get a bright red, stinging rash on contact. We won’t go into how I got the black eye, except that it has to do with impatient toddlers flailing about before they realize they’ve been rescued.
After fishing her out, pausing for a snack, finishing the raking, stopping for a nappy change, bagging the leaves, and feeding them lunch, it was time to plant. I gave each of them their very own pot full of dirt and a trowel, which they thought was great. And for fifteen minutes, I was able to work quickly and quietly, digging holes and dropping in bulbs according to the pattern I’d plotted out in my head.
Did I mention toddlers have the ability to teleport?
One minute she was happily flinging dirt onto the grass; the next minute she was beside me, having already rearranged all of the “onions!” I’d just planted and added a few choice items of her own. I will have anemone squeezed in between the freesia, tigridia mixed in with the mirabilis, and tulips shooting up beside the Fisher Price gas station action figure.
I will not say much about what happened when it was time to water the garden, except that I learned three things:
1) My shoes are not waterproof. 2) Diapers really *are* very absorbent. The brand we use can hold approximately 38 lbs of water without falling off. 3) Upturned pant cuffs, pockets and sleeves are apparently great places to hide handfuls of dirt.
So here I sit, bruised, battered, itching like mad, and contemplating an evening of mud-caked laundry … after I’ve dealt with the bathtub, which now holds most of the garden’s topsoil.
Would I do it again?
Only if I can find where they planted my rake.
Mail order catalogues are evil things.
I have always claimed that I hate shopping, and I also like to think I’m not an impulse buyer. Me? Fall prey to an offer on something I don’t really need? Never.
Apparently that’s only true if you’re talking about traditional shopping. That is, something that involves a long drive to the store, hunting around for what you need, searching in vain for sales staff to help you, standing in line at the checkout, etc. I hate shopping this way and if I’m forced to do it, I try to make it a ‘get in and get out’ type errand. No browsing.
Give me a mail order catalogue on the other hand, and there are just two words to describe me: Suck. Er.
I realized this the other day when I found myself tucked up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a pile of catalogues from that most seductive of categories: gardening. I caught myself turning down page corners and saying things like: “Ooh, that looks cool!” and “I could use one of those!”
The flower catalogues are the worst. Is it just me or does anyone else find the pages and pages of gorgeous blooms completely alluring?If I won the lottery tomorrow I’m sure I’d spend most of it on bulbs and perennials.
Part of that may be because flower catalogue designers know what they’re doing. They have only the best photographers and copywriters. Over the years, through sometimes bitter experience, I’ve learned to translate some of that copy:
“Masses of blooms.” Yes, this will bloom profusely. But we’ve taken this photograph with a 100x zoom, to make you think that you’ll actually be able to see these flowers without a magnifying glass.
“Lift in fall.” Even though you live in Canada, we will dazzle you with beautiful pictures of almost-tropical flowers and plants that you feel you must have. We will con you into thinking you can have them in your garden by suggesting that all you have to do is dig them up in the fall and replant in the spring. This assumes that you will have time to dig these things up in the fall; that you can find where you had planted them; that you have some place to store then that is squirrel proof, mould and mildew proof, and not subject to sub-zero temperatures; and that you can remember where you stored them in spring.
“Will expand where happy.” This plant will completely take over your garden. And your lawn. And your neighbour’s lawn. As much as you might like the look of this thing now, you will come to hate it in two seasons. Meanwhile, your neighbours will come to hate you.
“Neverending Perennial Garden.” Our artist sketch shows you what this garden would look like if all of the plants were to bloom at once. This means one of two things will happen. A) The garden actually will bloom all at once on April 5th, and leave you with brown, dead stalks for the rest of the summer or B) Each plant will bloom one at a time, which means that you’ll see exactly one flower in your garden all year long.
“Deer Proof.” But not squirrel proof, cat proof, raccoon child proof, and definitely not lawn mower proof. And of course having a deer proof garden is especially important if you live in downtown Toronto, where entire herds have been known to swarm a single window planter box.
“Perfect for Containers.” Will only grow in a special container, and requires expensive potting soil, twice daily watering and weekly feeding. Because clearly, if you’re shopping via catalogue, you have the time for this kind of maintenance.
You’d think, knowing what I know now, that I’d stop even looking at these catalogues. But no, apparently when it comes to being able to turn down flower deals, I’m all thumbs.
Sadly, none of them are green enough.
We writers like to take up causes and point out injustices whenever we can. We do this so that we can rationalize a job that requires us — requires, I say — to sit in comfy computer chairs and slurp caramel machiatos.
So it is with a great deal of caffeine-fueled righteous indignation that I bring the plight of the lowly garden gnome to your attention.
I wrote about these poor creatures a few years ago and sadly, even though 2004 supposedly marked the Year of the Gnome, not much has changed for this group.
Every year, thousands of innocent gnomes are hunted down in their natural habitat, the forest, and taken prisoner. They are then sold by the truckload by well known home improvement retailers, which I won’t name in this space for fear of lawsuits, but which may as well be called Gnome Depot.
City dwellers buy them and put them in urban gardens, turning them into, well, metrognomes. It’s a hard life — gnomes are forced to inhale car exhaust, listen to the constant roar of traffic and noise, and endure the changing seasons without so much as a toadstool for cover. Many have been injured in lawnmower accidents or poisoned by fertilizers and weed sprays.
“Few other groups in this day and age are allowed to suffer such indignities with society’s implicit permission,” says one of a growing group of radicals, writing under the gnome de guerre ‘Larry.’ “When will our people rise up and whack our oppressors on the ankle?”
Even worse, gnomes must face this hardship alone. Rarely are gnomes ever placed in gardens in pairs, and they’re never, ever allowed female companionship.Indeed, the so-called International Association for the Protection of the Garden Gnome was so horrified that anyone should think of female gnomes that it fined a fellow named Reinhard Griebel £45 for raising the issue in 2002.
“It’s tough out here, all by yourself,” says one gnome, an aging veteran of the Toronto landscape. His face is lined with cracks and his pointy red hat on his balding head only just covers that worst of hairstyle offenses, the gnomeover. “And what are you going to do if you escape? It’s not like you can go find yourself a wife and go gnomesteading.”
Indeed, the annual round up of male gnomes from the forest has many ecologists wondering how much longer the exploitation can continue before gnomes become extinct in the wild. “We still know very, very little about these people,” says Dr. Paul Imer, a member of the Gnome and Garden study group. “We’ve not even had a chance to study their DNA, you know, their gegnome.”
What would it take to turn life around for these oppressed garden creatures? “Gnome rule,” says Larry without hesitation. “Our goal is to set up a provisional government within a year, staffed by by those who have escaped their captors or that have been liberated by our human sympathizers in the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. Then we will set up a search and rescue group called Gnome Free for the systematic emancipation of the rest of our oppressed brothers.”
Personally, dear readers, I’m torn on this issue. Usually I am all for freedom and liberty. However, if Larry’s group succeeds, well…
… then I’ll have nothing to write gnome about.