Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Let me Take You Down..."

Worth it for the flowers if you never got a strawberry.

We planted strawberries this spring encouraged by our plant man, The Bean. Of course they'll grow, he countered when we waffled. "As long as you water them!" It was a very wet Spring but now the rain is spotty at best. The strawberries lived, though they were slow to grow. Home for a few hours recently, The Bean cooked us dinner, ate, hugged and left. But then he called to lecture me. I realized he’d had his eyes open, on wide angle lens mode.

“Mom,” he said, “do you like those strawberries we planted?”

“Of course I do,” I answered, “we don’t get many because the pigeons are mad for them, but, when we do, they’re so sweet and delicious!”

 He’d gone out to check things in the garden when he was home and came upon the strawberry plants, gasping with thirst, begging for water. He inspected the soil. Dry as dust.

“Well, could you give the poor things a drink once in a while? Never mind the watering cans, that’s drudgery and they’re too heavy for you. Just attach the sprinkler to the hose and let it run, ten or fifteen minutes at a time.”

Nothing like being lectured by your youngest child, especially when it’s deserved. I didn’t have a leg to stand on. Meekly I agreed to water the babies.

Where I grew up, the last thing you had to worry about was watering your garden. The “blessed rain from heaven” had that job covered. People love to moan about the weather in Ireland but nobody ever has to water their flowers or vegetables. I came in for a lot of “Mary, Mary, quite contrary,” as a child, but her watering can was just a pretty prop as far as I knew, like her bonnet. We had a long garden but I don’t remember that we ever even owned a watering can. Mother had a flower bed that ran the entire length of one side, filled with beautiful perennials that bloomed year after year, no special watering required. She pulled the weeds and pruned, or more often, had us pull the weeds while she did the pruning.

Across the path from the flowers was a strawberry patch which drew us like a magnet, not because we were botanically inclined, but because of our sweet teeth. But trying to sneak strawberries on the sly was next to impossible. Seemed like, no matter where you went in the garden, you could be seen from the kitchen window. Those juicy treats were gathered up and served as dessert with dollops of whipped cream.  And I don’t believe we ever had to water those plants.

“Train a child up in the way he should go
And when he is grown he will not depart from it.”

How true. I was trained up to leave the watering to the elements.  And now that I’m grown I have not departed from it. Which would be fine if I still lived in Ireland.

My brother, a bachelor, lives alone in the house we grew up in. Housekeeping is not high on his list of priorities. In fact it’s probably at the very bottom. There’s no wife to keep him in order, no children to be ashamed to bring their friends over, and the brother is as happy as a pig in poop.

Once, when I was home and staying with the Blister, she and I went over to the brother’s. We were on a mission. We were going to clean and organize the house come hell or high water. The dust and the cobwebs and the general clutter were further complicated by the dark and stifling presence of every piece of antique furniture in the county. Or so it seemed. Shoulder to shoulder they crowded my mother’s once elegant, comfortable sitting room, waiting their turn for the brother’s tender and skillful attentions in his workshop in the garage. The green marble-like tiles of the hallway, polished to a high gloss by mother every week of my childhood, were invisible under a ratty old rug and more lumbering antiques. Candidates for repair and restoration crammed every available space in every room, except the bathroom and that was only because they wouldn't fit.

After barely an hour we threw our hands in the air, defeated.

But, walk out the back door and it’s a different story.  The garden is beautiful. At least he inherited the maternal green thumb and keeps the garden in beautiful shape. The beds are tended, the hedges clipped, the fish in his pond swim happily to and fro. Why can he not apply these skills indoors? Mother’s heart would stop, all over again, if she could see the state of her kitchen, but if she only haunted the garden she could rest in eternal serenity among her flowers in the moonlight.

We packed up, went back to the Blister’s and had a restorative cup of tea.

Let him wallow.

My point being, The Bean came by his green thumb honestly, didn’t lick it up off the floor, as the Little Blister so colorfully phrases it. And, not having grown up in Ireland, he doesn’t wait for Mother Nature to water his plants. It’s not that I intend to do them harm, it just doesn’t occur to me until “Oh dear, looks like this poor plant is dead!”
The Bean rolls his eyes. “Water mom, just a little bit of water. Think of it as magic!”

Steeling myself against the blistering sunshine, I donned hat and gardening gloves and sallied forth to the strawberry bed. To my shame he was right. Not only were they thirsty, their leaves were all fetally curled  and they were being jostled by a bullying army of weeds and still, generously, offering up the occasional juicy, scarlet jewel that had escaped the attention of the pigeons.

 There they are, under the skeleton of last year's okra. 

I sat down in the dirt, keeping a weather eye for ants. “Wax on, wax off.” Soon I was in the zone, unhurried, yanking out one weed at a time. “Wax on, wax off." I made a little trough around each plant being careful not to damage the runners that, in spite of neglect and dire thirst, were reaching out in all directions.

Finally, I filled the rag-tag crew of battered watering cans that live in our garden, and gave those strawberries a nice long drink. After it had soaked into the parched and sandy soil, I trudged back to the faucet nearby, filled the cans up again, wobbled back to the strawberry bed, groaning under the weight but thoroughly delighted with my accomplishment. I could almost hear the plants sighing with contentment.

“The Bean will be so impressed,” I thought smugly.

I talked to him today.

“You should see the strawberry patch,” I boasted.
“Did you hook up the sprinkler?”

Drat, I thought. It hadn’t even occurred to me. My comfort zone is far from the realm of things mechanical. I’d rather struggle under the weight of watering cans than figure out threads on hoses. And so I listened to the lecture again. But I was happy and those plants were happy. Trouble is, by now they’re probably gasping again.

I guess I’d better go and hook up that sprinkler.


Elephant's Child said...

How very, very familiar.
I wish that water from the sky would deal with my plants needs as well. It very rarely does. And I too would (mostly) rather lug a watering can around that wrestle with the hoses.
Gardening trumps housework though. Every time.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Probably why I like growing geraniums .... they like not being watered .

molly said...

EC and S&S---guess what it started doing as soon as I hit "publish?" And it hasn't stopped for hours. If it doesn't stop soon, the house, the garden, and all the strawberries will be washed away down the highway!

Will be away from computer for a few days. Will catch up with your blogs early next week.

Pam said...

Well, send some of your rain over here, will you? I keep having to water things in pots because, as we all know, Scotland is a very dry country. (?)

What does "Wax on, wax off" mean?

Thimbleanna said...

What a fabulous post Miss Molly -- I do wish you would write more! I love hearing your tales. I think we'd get along famously -- I get all excited about gardening when it's planting time. Then I forget to water and it all turns to a big mess.

Pam is much too well-read and sophisticated to know about The Karate Kid. Oh, and let her know, I feel confident that the rain will be there in late August! ;-D

Secret Agent Woman said...

Ha! Did you hook up the sprinkler? That's funny.

We're gettig a fair amount of rainnow, which I'm grateful for. As we move further into summer, I'll be watering more frequently.

Lee said...

I hope by now you have hooked up that sprinkler, Molly! :) Poor strawberries...when they start producing their beautiful fruit you'll reap the rewards and be thankful that you did.

I love your story. It brought a smile to my face...I hope your strawberry plants bring a bounty to you...and I hope The Bean will be satisfied, too. :)

We, of course, will require future progress reports!!!

Pauline said...

It's not pigeons here but chipmunks - and squirrels and mice and the occasional bird that eat the strawberries before I do. And does the sprinkler work?