Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hobbit Houses--Or Merely Moles In Residence?

Friday was a beautiful day--a promise that we really will have spring.
Ignoring all the untidy things I should have sorted in the house, I put on comfortable layers of clothes, pulled on boots,  and went up the path to the barn to fetch gardening tools.
The air was cool, but the sun shone brightly, the sky was a clear, brilliant blue--very encouraging after days of dim grey clouds and cold weather.
I began raking leaves from the two perennial strips.
The north winds blow leaves in the fall from the maple trees along the drive directly into the strips and they lodge there. I was surprised to see how deeply they had drifted in some spots.

Who do you suppose lives in the earthy burrow?
There is another entrance a few feet away tucked  beside a clump of  nepeta.
I would like to think fondly of well-furnished chambers and creatures who resemble Beatrix Potter illustrations--or maybe Mole's snug house from Wind In The Willows.
Sadly, I suspect it may be part of a far-ranging mole tunnel.
Moles have lived here before our tenancy began.
During this winter I have become aware that a great deal of activity is happening just below the surface of the ground. Long ridges of dirt sink slightly underfoot when I peg out laundry on the clothesline.
The outdoor cats walk along, eyes on the ground, stopping to pat at depressions in the earth.

I labored to clear weeds under the Knock-Out roses, yanking away long ropes of mint which have done what mint always does--invade.
Here Edward digs in the newly loosened earth.
I thought he had an unsavory purpose to his excavations, but it seems he was exploring.
On the other side of the rosebush his brother Nellie was likewise poking his furry 'arm' into a tunnel--and came out with a small grey creature--which I pretended not to see.

Several obnoxious weeds are evergreen in our temperate winters.
One of them is locally called 'hen bit'--a relative of lamium. It has colonized ruthlessly, seeming to prefer spots that I have laboriously cleared.
I had forgotten there were two clumps of catnip at the far end of this planting.
Charlie has found one and is wallowing dementedly.

Willis likewise had a roll in the catnip and has stomped off, larger than life, to lay claim to the
bulkhead wall.
To the right of Willis [across the bulkhead] the herb garden has been raked.
Stalks of lavender and sage need to be trimmed--a task for another day.

I didn't stop for lunch and by mid-afternoon my energy was ebbing fast; my shoulders ached and I felt slow and lumbering.
Still, I was reluctant to stop work.
I had a bonfire smoldering away and decided that the raked piles of leaves and rubble should be burned.
I should have brought out the wheelbarrow, but getting it from the garage, trundling it around J.'s projects--a tight fit in the small space--seemed like too much effort.
I scooped up bundles of leaves, holding them against the wire tines of the rake, trailing some behind as I made repeated treks to the fire.
Nellie pounced in the leaves, smacking at real or imagined creatures, sprawling in my path with leaves caught in his fur.
Most of the mulch so painstakingly spread over the gardens in the summer has disappeared.
There are patches of bare earth where clumps of plants should be emerging.
I counted only three poppy plants where dozens self-sowed during the past two winters.
Do I blame the peristant scrapings and up-earthings of the cats?
Disturbance of the the ground by moles who may have nibbled or severed the roots of plants?

I put away my tools and limped toward the house wanting the comfort of a hot shower, wondering how many more years I will be physically able to garden in such a labor-intensive fashion.

Dressed in clean jeans and a warm pullover I drove to the store, hurriedly selecting salad makings.
Aware of my rumbling hungry innards I snatched up sandwich rolls and a package of thinly sliced turkey.
Back home, I fell into my rocking chair by the fire with a sandwich and a mug of tea.
Lurking beneath the very real misery of aching old bones was the satisfaction of having my fingers in the cool sweet earth, of hearing bird song; there was the joy of seeing transplanted lilies well settled in their new location, of brushing aside leaves and winter-blackened foliage to find the fat pink stubs of peonies thrusting up into the light.
I didn't garden today--didn't 'do' much of anything; tired; but my mind plays with images from the nursery catalogs stacked in the basket by my chair. I ponder the possibilites of the seeds and plants I have circled.
I think about the anticipated first trip to the greenhouses in the Mennonite community--a trip planned for later in the week with G. and her visiting friend.
Tired muscles, moles, weeds, blights and bugs can't quite triumph over the need
to garden in yet another season.


  1. It sounds like a lot of work but you will be well rewarded when the beautiful flowers bloom!

  2. After all your hard work you deserve a day musing over what will be in your garden. I so wish I had your energy. I think I would have tried to save the mole!!! ... I am useless at letting nature take its course....maybe I might have turned a blind eye though to your pests. I love to watch cats react to cat nip.
    Thanks for the brthday wishes ...I had a great day. xx

  3. I can sympathise with the aching - my leg muscles have been giving me jip lately. No gardening here today - it's blowing a gale - an icy one at that! I love the way the boys help you with the gardening, even getting themselves covered in leaves like Mrs Tiggywinkle did (one of her ilk anyway!) I hope that the missing plants reappear with the sun.

  4. You deserved a day of rest - makes me tired just to read all that you did.

  5. Just reading what you're up to tires me out MM. It's nice to be out in the fresh air though. It's been snowing again here. Not much and dry powdery stuff that twists and swirls on the road. Very cold though.


  6. It is lovely to be beginning a new season of growing things, despite the cold and the aching joints. Even better with cats to keep you company.

    It is not quite time to plant seeds here. Not long now, I hope......

  7. Your cats are gorgeous, and you sure are being productive in your garden work. I'm gettin' older and have less energy for the huge tasks, but still have fun in our garden.