Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When I Grow Up

What do I want to be when I grow up? Hmmm. I thought for a long time that that question had been answered, but now I am asking it again. It was tricky at 20; it's trickier still at 53.

So I'm in school again. I keep thinking I am sure as to why, then I'm not, then I am again. Meanwhile to pay most of the bills I am working outside in a niche gardening business I discovered back in the 80's and have rediscovered again now, thanks in no small part to my friend Bill Kunze.

For the most part what I do is help homeowners uncover and restore the beauty of their southern gardens or natural landscapes overrun by vines and volunteer trees of various kinds - mostly invasives. In addition to the general hard work of getting rid of smothering Wisteria, Smilax, Honeysuckle, Ivy and other vines, and digging out Ligustrum and Cherry Laurel and other bothersome volunteers, I also do a lot of careful pruning of treasured shrubs, as well as replanting when needed. These tasks thankfully take some skill - which makes me smile when I think of following Nanny around in her yard and learning to prune, graft, root and so forth. Who would have thought it would come in so handy? A focus on Botany in college didn't hurt either.

Sometimes I do basic labor intensive tasks like old fashioned weeding, spreading mulch, turning ground, and planting annuals. I also do follow up maintenance - bed maintenance - since stuff just keeps growing, and trying to come back...

I use only manual tools. In addition to getting paid a great benefit of the work is the peace and quiet. And I like fresh air. I mowed enough lawns and beathed enough exhaust to last me a lifetime in my younger days, though I don't mind using a manual reel mower. And since I take down lots of small trees you'd think I need a chain saw, but I have gotten really fast with my hand saw, and it's nice not having to deal with a finicky small engine, and who wants to start and restart a chain saw a hundred times over the course of a day. Not me.

When I started doing this work again last May I about croaked from the hard labor and heat. I am in much better shape now. I hadn't realized how important this was to my overall decompression and healing. It's funny how the body takes such a beating in a sedentary busy stressful suburban life. So, manual tools are good.

I don't use chemicals either, except for the occasional concentrated Round Up on a stump. I prefer digging stumps out though. With a shovel, an ax and a mattock - and a little sweat - I can take out most stumps pretty quickly. And they don't grow back.

Most damaged camellias and azaleas take a few seasons to get back into shape, but it is amazing just the good that sun and air will do them. Camellias particularly seem to weather the burden of being covered up for a long time.

Well, anyway, if I am going to do this for a while while I am in school again, I need a proper web site and such. I have been trying to decide on a business name and URL. The front runner idea involves discovering or rediscovering Eden, the idea being that there is much beauty buried under all the mess in your own backyard, and I can help you find it!

A friend sent me a tagline that I like, from Horace..."You can drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps coming back." There are double/triple meanings in that tagline that I could play with.

So, as I continue to figure out what I want to be when I grown up, this business seems like a good thing to do. And whoever you may be reading this, if you have any ideas about the name/URL, let me know, OK?

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