May 14th was Annie’s birthday, and for the umpteenth year in a row, I did not spend a penny on her. Had I chosen, I could have trekked to CostCo and purchased her, I don’t know, say a new set of gardening shears, the ones with bucket seats and four-on-the-floor.
Or maybe she would have appreciated a new boom box for her sewing arena, one with 808 Speakers so that when she is listening to her favorite sound tracks, so is the entire neighborhood. Or maybe not. It might be hard to hear the finches over the sound of Mumford and Sons.
|Finches on the feeder on the front deck|
The reality of farm living is that money constantly battles time for our attention. Oh, it’s the same for you? Who’d have thunk?
There is no wriggle room when it comes to Triple-A or U.S. Cellular, or buying organic layer crumble for the girls, but when it comes to matters of the heart, the back will win out over the buck, every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
I’m not criticizing folks for buying birthday gifts, for Buddha’s sake, only clarifying that when a guy is retired, and can budget his time as he sees fit, it’s a no-brainer. Just being able to say that, after an adult lifetime of having to be somewhere that was determined by someone else, is a gift.
I spend as much time trying to do work designed for those half my age, as is physically possible. That’s why schedules and time constraints simply do not work. I do what I can and those around are pleased as punch not to have to do that which has already been done.
No one goes on to complain that it would have been nice if I had also been able to prep the south-forty, as well as the north. It’s one of the perks of being a gray-beard. Because there are so many, they tend to blend together. Perks, I mean.
Therefore, in trying to prepare properly for Annie’s big day, I inevitably spend time looking for something in her world that I can do, that will either make her life easier, or make it more aesthetically pleasing. Or both.
|This used to be a slightly sloping lawn.|
One year ago, while in the throes of coping with the jettisoning of our little apartment in Willits, I spent the bulk of April and May, converting an area that had been a lawn for the previous twenty-five years, into a set of flower boxes.
When I began the project, I just knew that I would have to do a bodacious amount of digging, but that if I did, the shape and form of what I was trying to create, would assert itself.
Sure enough, after scouring my twenty acres for every available piece of split-rail fencing that was used on the property, I began assembling. The right side of the brain may remain on hold for long periods of time, but when it busts loose in my world, the results can be quite rewarding.
There are four levels of boxes for Annie to make use of, currently housing chives, sweet-peas, black-eyed Susan vines, several rose bushes, lavender, mint and other garden favorites. Ironically, the original lawn itself was a birthday effort all those years ago.
In typical Mark-fashion, I trundled approximately one hundred and twenty-five wheelbarrows filled with topsoil from under the manzanitas, a football field away, to the present site. The idea was to build up one side of the sloping area, so as to not only provide a more level surface, but to enhance the clayish soil with a better mix.
|Mama Annie's herbs|
So one year ago, I was simply rearranging all of that soil that I had imported in the original effort.
What about this year? I tackled the front deck and did the annual spring cleaning of oak leaves, sweeping, gathering and disposing of the leaves that have swirled and danced since they dropped last November. If that were all I did, it would constitute nothing more than normal maintenance, so there has to be more.
I gathered up an assortment of little deck accoutrements, scrubbed the winter glaze off of them and centrally located them in a discarded cassette tape shelving unit. I had to tighten it up a bit but a few screws and the impact drill were all I needed.
I then affixed it to the north exterior wall of the kitchen. This is the part of the deck where the table and chairs are situated for outdoor, summer dining. Casey and Amber will stroll down the driveway to join us for dinner, as we hash over the events of the day.
Yesterday, I made sure the emitters were in place in each of the flower pots and functioning properly, even as the mizzle gently enveloped me in a May mist. I ensured that the knick-knacks, many of which came to Annie when her mom Beverly passed more than ten years ago, were properly arranged.
This spot on the front deck is one of three or four that Annie has set up, where she can take a cup of coffee or a glass of water, and sit for a few minutes to just breathe in the beauty that surrounds us.
Make no mistake; there is an abundance of beauty.
And that’s what it boils down to: I can’t find anything as beautiful or more meaningful at CostCo, than I can right here outside my front door. And it invariably involves a strong back and a weak brain.
I qualify for both though the back is not far behind the brain. I’m just lucky that I have a country girl who prefers flowers over diamonds.
Those are the best kind.