Monday, May 23, 2011

green beginnings

Our backyard isn't much of a backyard these days.

I am grateful to have any space at all, and thrilled it includes some dirt, but we do miss the outdoors of the student housing (ironic though that may sound). I miss the enormous community gardens, the boys miss the fields and woods to explore, and the younger girls miss the huge enclosed playground packed with sandboxes, climbing structures, grass, and friends.

"You know what I hate about our backyard?" the five year-old says. "Our backyard."

At our new home this sometimes-hated-but-mainly-ignored backyard is about six feet by fifteen feet, most of which is cement -- generally not the favored play surface for kids.

But we're going to make the best of it this summer, by golly.

Two weeks ago we cleared the winter debris off the dirt, which is far more clay and rock than dirt, and built raised beds. Added to the garbage-can-sized buckets a neighbor gave us and the smaller ones I skimmed from the waste pile at a local nursery, we ended up with a respectable number of dirt holders.

Then we borrowed a friend's truck and brought in the dirt.

And I have this to say about dirt: It takes a surprisingly enormous amount of dirt -- as in a-yard-and-a-half enormous -- to fill three raised beds, three large buckets, and a handful of smaller buckets. We (although not so much me) made wheelbarrow run after wheelbarrow run filling everything. A little peat moss worked in afterward, and voila.

A place to plant.

I am always surprised at how much a section of ready dirt excites me. It's a blank canvas and a clean sheet of paper and a bowl of freshly ground wheat. The day I brought out the seeds and seedlings and set them all in place I felt like I'd just accomplished something magnificent.

And I guess in a way I had. There's something magnificent in giving space to life.

Admittedly our little garden is still more cement and dirt -- more grey and brown -- than green. But even with infant plants and barren looking stretches where seeds have yet to sprout, there is a new sense of life to the place. The girls have shifted their play to the back, hauling toy animals and piles of rocks out there every day since the plants went in -- the best compliment they could pay the new digs.

Now if we could just figure out a way to fit one of these out there as well, even the five year-old might be convinced the backyard isn't so bad after all.

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