Dirt & Mulch

Four yards of black dirt and six yards of mulch don’t look all that big until you start at the piles with a scoop shovel and a spade.  Then, words like, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” seem appropriate.  Or overwhelming.  Fortunately, Bill has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting: spreading newspapers to smother weeds, pushing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of black dirt to a thickness of six inches on the ground, then more wheelbarrow pushing of mulch.

As for me, I’m getting used to this gardening in the city gig, finally, after living here for over twelve years. Bemoaning too much shade, too many volunteer baby maples, too little black dirt.  I’m buying native shade plants, pulling three-inch high maple seedlings, and buying dirt.  Plus a bit of cow manure.  

The front of our house, near a busy t-intersection, gets the most sun.  I’ve hesitated to work much out there.  I prefer the privacy of the backyard. This year, I’ve put my big girl bra on and headed to the front.  We’ve converted one whole piece of the dead front lawn to a huge flower garden.  (Well, to readers in the Midwest, it's more like the size of a postage stamp.) Again, much thanks to Bill’s turning the earth, laying newspapers, and hauling dirt.  

In the past, when working in the small gardens out front, I always tried to bend over with my butt facing the house, not the street.  In my youth, there were too many old-lady-bending-over-gardening “yard art” pieces; they left a mark.  One late afternoon last summer when I was bent over pulling weeds, a car-load of kids came whizzing down the hill, and as they turned the corner, one of them yelled, “We can see your tits!”  And off to the backyard I retreated.  For a year.

In fact, they saw cleavage.  If we were on the beach, no one would have shouted that out.  I had no comeback as they sped off, but I’ve come up with a few since that day.  I think the best one would’ve been, “I’m calling your mom!”  Of course, he never would’ve known whether I really knew his mom or not, particularly if I shouted it out with gusto.  I have another comeback should they have gotten stuck in traffic in front of my house.  “I’m glad you noticed because I’ve worked hard to keep them!”  And then gone into the surgeries, the chemo, etc., etc. Yup, I think I would’ve pulled the breast cancer card on him.

Speaking of which, I’m nine years out from diagnosis and will be on the 10-year treatment plan of dousing all estrogen and progesterone hormones through 2020.  This spring’s MRI looked good, my bones don’t seem to be suffering from lack of hormones, and my left arm used to be 12% bigger than my right, but now it’s only 6% bigger.  That bit of swelling is a result of having lymph nodes removed when I had the surgery in 2009.  Now, I’m nearly 52, and many of my friends are joining the club with hot flashes.  To them, I say, “Welcome!” It’s good to have them along for the hot summer ride.

Back to the front.  Since I now have the comebacks in my back pocket, I’ve been confidently planting and weeding out front. I’ve met quite a few early morning walkers, and late in the day during rush hour, a few cars have pulled over to say how much they like driving through the intersection when all my flowers are blooming.  Plus, I’ve chatted with families stopping by in the evenings to go through the books in the Little Free Library.  

All in all, the former weedy areas look and feel a lot different with high-quality black dirt spread over the top like thick chocolate frosting.  And a handful of one-liners at the ready.