I do believe that the garden is my responsibility. I am the one who decided to have a garden. I know that it is a cultural convention, but we could easily just have native forest around the house. It might even be better in some ways. But I wanted flowers, and foliage, and now I am hooked on new plants, and tinkering with plant combinations. So I am O.K. with the fact that I garden alone most of the time. I wish it were otherwise, but the garden-mad wife with the garden-indifferent husband is a fairly common pairing. And there is a lot to tolerate. Our house is surrounded by plants, and not in a good way, these are plants in pots, not lush manicured beds. On occasion, if I have been on a potting binge, it is hard to find a path to the front door. He likes working with rocks, so will move huge ones for me, using a hand-me-down hand truck, a come-along (a ratched winch device), and a homemade dolly. This is in the spirit of improvisation that seems to be a hallmark of this garden; when my back was hurting recently I used my son’s skateboard to move a large Viburnum davidii by myself. But the day-to-day stuff is mine alone. The kids help me water, and for a number of years my Mother’s Day and birthday present was a day of uncomplaining labor by all of them, but even that has fallen by the wayside. I miss it; we always got a lot done.
The one task which I have asked my husband to do consistently (and by consistently I mean daily, which he interprets as sort-of weekly) is to keep after the moles and gophers. He is an excellent mole trapper, and has even successfully trapped gophers, which is notoriously difficult. We have many more of these animals than we are supposed to, partly because I use a lot of manure so my soil is loaded with worms which are a mainstay of the mole diet, and partly because there are lots of weed plants to satisfy the herbivorous gophers. I stopped vegetable gardening a couple of years ago when I looked out the kitchen window and saw a gopher pulling my loaded bean vines hand-over-hand (paw over paw?) down into its tunnel. I have elaborate plans for a tunneling-mammal foiling vegetable garden, but it is so elaborate that its realization is either far in the future or only in my head.
Life has been extra busy recently, which is always an excuse for not going after them, so the moles and gophers had gotten the upper hand (the dirt mounds pictured in my last post are gopher mounds). Therefore this last weekend I asked him to PLEASE do vermin patrol THIS WEEKEND. I hate having to do this. I have already asked him to take on this job, he has agreed, why do I have to keep asking? He doesn’t have to remind me every morning to remember to raise the kids, I do it because it is my job. It’s like we are constantly renegotiating a contract, except I am never in on the process. And, in the meantime, my garden is being systematically dismantled. Anyway, he agreed yet again to address the vermin.
Part of the job is replacing the soil after traps are removed, and generally restoring the area. So, he spent some time moving traps, setting off smoke bombs and generally doing mole and gopher patrol. I didn’t pay a lot of attention, it isn’t my job and I was busy with other tasks. The day wore on, he went back in the house and I kept working. Than, along about dusk I encountered a big gopher mound in the area he had supposedly addressed. They tend to cluster, so I looked in and around the plants and there was another and another. I was beside myself. It was Sunday evening, there was no chance of any help until the next weekend, and even then it is always dicey, and to make matters worse this was all in an area where I had let a patch of Shasta daisies run amok, so there were six-foot tall dying daisies smacking me in the face every time I turned around. I decided that the only way to reclaim the area was to eliminate the daisies and level out the mounds. By this time it was nearly dark and I was in tears. My husband came out to see what I was up to and that was it. The candle was lit. I kept digging and crying and added shouting to it. Bear in mind that I wear a respirator while I garden to reduce my mold spore exposure, so this was very muffled crying and shouting, but the digging was extremely vigorous, fueled as it was by anger and worry. I wailed over and over that I get no help, that I do it all by myself, that I only ask for help with this one garden job and that he can’t even do that. Shouting and crying and digging.
The upshot was that he grabbed a shovel and helped me dig, stayed out and continued to dig after I could no longer see in the dark, and got up early the next morning to finish digging. All the Shasta daisies are gone from that bed. I now have mounds of dying daisy plants all over the place (they aren’t really dying, they’re just faking; nuclear warfare couldn’t kill a Shasta daisy), and a lot more got composted in the woods, but the bed is clear and I will always plant Shastas in much larger beds after this. I have learned another valuable lesson: I need to cry in the garden a lot more often.