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Glad About Glads

gladiolus

The gladiolus I planted in June are just starting to blossom. So far I have a blue and a yellow one, and another bud-stalk has formed, seemingly overnight.

I bought mixed bulbs at the local grocery, 20 for $4. That’s 20¢ apiece, for late summer flowers – to me, a huge bargain. But I’ve never grown them before, so of course I was anxious about how they’d come out.

I planted them in very rocky soil, and then waited to see whether they’d survive. Weeks went by without even a shoot. Did I plant them upside down?

And then one day, there they were. So I planted another box of them after Peter left; they say you should stagger your plantings, because once they bloom they won’t be around for long.

By the time these fade, the others should be coming along. My goodness, what an improvement over the mess I had last year.

Live and learn; experience is the best teacher.

The other day I finally solved my cultivating problem; I bought a $6 hoe, not a $106 digging machine that would sit in my garage gathering dust 364 days a year. I’m okay with doing everything by hand while I’m still young enough. People buy too many gardening machines they seldom use.

I have seven evergreen bushes, mature ones, in front and on the east side; by the end of summer they start to get pretty straggly. Come September it’s time to trim them back; I have old-fashioned clippers like my grandparents did, not a hedge-trimmer. With a machine I might get the job done in less than an hour, instead of the two days it takes me to trim them by hand—but what do I do with the trimmer once I’m done? It just doesn’t seem cost-effective to me to buy one. Prices at Lowe’s range from $30-$110, but the cheap model isn’t even UL certified; if you want that, you’re up to $50 for a Black and Decker. If I amortize the $50 model for the 10 years I plan to be alive, it’s five bucks a year for a product I use one day a year. I suppose it’s worth it, but there’s one other consideration; the joy of going to bed that night exhausted because I worked my body. I’m all for labor-saving devices, but physical exertion is good for us. Not only do I feel alive in ways I don’t routinely feel, I get the satisfaction, even the pride, of a job well done. I go to sleep with a smile on my face, knowing what I accomplished because I can feel it in my body.

Would you buy a $50 breadmaker, but only use it once a year? How about a $300 stand mixer that gathers dust and takes up space on the kitchen counter? I just don’t like the idea of buying a machine you only use once a year.

Mind you I don’t have a leaf-blower either, and I’ve got huge trees; I put out 40 giant bags of fallen leaves every October. Do I like raking? Hell no, but I love sleeping.

My Unca Deed, who’s about 85 now, still farms 1000 acres of corn and soybeans. Been doing it all his life, will never stop until the day they find him keeled over in the dirt. He loves his life. He’s done well for himself, although the money was never his biggest concern; for for 50 years, five full decades, the price of corn never rose, while the price of everything else did. If he was in it for the money he’d have quit long ago. But he didn’t, and why? Because he wants to be outdoors, growing things.

Once his nieces and nephews tried getting Unca Deed to consider farming more comfortably, instead of having the sun beat down on him all day. “Tractors have got air-conditioned cabs now, Unca Deed. You don’t have to be hot and dirty all the time. Since the cab’s enclosed, you can get a radio in there and listen to the Cubs games.” Well, being an open-minded kind of guy and a lifelong Cubs fan, not to mention respectful when the “kids” (we’re all 50) come together as a group to say, “We’re worried about you,” Deed decided he’d try it; why not? Maybe the kids were right. They drove him to the implement store so he could try out the big, shiny new tractor; the salesman showed him all the features, a GPS that gets satellite signals to tell you right where you are, the internet keeps you right in touch with the latest info about soil types and seed suppliers and up-to-the-minute data from the USDA, plus the commodity markets! “Didja ever think of that, huh? A farmer needs to know the latest prices, the yield forecasts, even the micro-weather.” Deed listened raptly to the man.

And didn’t last an hour in the air-conditioning. He tried to break it to the kids, “It just don’t feel right, farmin’ without bein’ in the sun.”

He felt like he was indoors in that fancy souped-up cab with the AC and the micro-weather. He didn’t want to be indoors, he wanted to be outdoors. He wanted to farm like God intended, where a man earns his bread by the sweat of his brow and is proud of himself.

The kids were sorely disappointed, but they learned not to mess with what works. The man’s 85, he has a right to die in the dirt if he wants to.

Unca Deed’s been hospitalized twice in the past year, but each time it didn’t amount to much, and he was back the next day. I pray for him constantly, that he gets to live and die doing what he’s good at.

Why buy a fancy new tractor if the old one still works, and you’d only use the AC once a year? Who needs a GPS when you already know exactly where you are?

—-

The tomatoes are now coming on strong. I planted mine a little bit late, but there’s no sign of the dreaded blight that’s killed tomato plants up and down the East and Midwest, and today I picked a couple of big ones, sandwich sized. It will be time to start freezing and canning soon; I’ve got ten on the counter, a slicer in the fridge and a big bowl of pasta salad I’m working through.

For God so loved the world he gave us August in Indiana.++

tomatoes

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