Thursday, April 22, 2010

A patch of green -- country yards & gardens

What I'm looking forward to in May

My mother-in-love once said, "I just need a little patch of green to keep me sane out here on the prairie."  As the years and the droughts go by, I can so relate to her wise words.  I, too, value the little patch of green surrounding our home.  It's not fancy for sure, but it's green -- even if some of the green is crab grass and dandelions --  it has a few rustic wildflower borders and a 50-yard line.  When we first were setting about making our yard, I was thinking along the lines of a circular rose garden smack in the center of our front yard, but when you live with sports-lovers, five boys (one of them my husband) and one tom boy who loves sports as much as the guys, then rose gardens and flower beds had to take the sidelines.   Now I'm grateful that we didn't put in that center rose garden because I learned these 28 years that roses don't do well out here and we'd have missed  out on playing croquet on the front lawn on the Fourth of July.  We'd have missed mowing the lawn into a baseball diamond and playing whiffleball on summer nights.  And then there's night Frisbee with a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee.  Landing in a rose patch while leaping for a catch would not be nice, though memorable.  As time has elapsed the sports have changed a little and now golf is the best loved sport and my front yard is a good place for chipping and a little game called Poison.  The side area, over the bank where I mow but don't consider "the lawn," is now a tee box for driving the ball out in the pasture to the south.  Can you say Willie Nelson Golf Course?  All this I can see and enjoy from my kitchen window or my front porch swing. 

At present, my country yard is just starting to come alive. It takes us a while up north before we see "green" and I'm just loving the process.  Every new shoot, every nubbin of rhubarb, every blade of the daffodil, I see and take excitement in.  I have some tulips growing around the trees in the front yard that are just poking up and the grass comes up right along with them. I don't mow that grass around the trees until the tulips are all finished and even then, I kind of like the grass growing tall beneath the trees.  I know in town it is seen as unsightly or ill-manicured, but lucky for me, I can let the grass grow or not.

We play hard in our yard, we always have, and so I do keep it well-mowed so we can whack the croquet ball with ease or run to first base without tripping over a tuft of crabgrass.  Generally, I like the grass to be longer than most yards I've seen.   It looks greener that way and feels softer underfoot. Surrounding our home and yard we have pasture and I like it that it grows up tall all around us. I remember when  the kids were little and would play hide & seek out there.  They even liked hiding-out from Mom when she called.  It really was fun to be able to sit in the grass and have it completely hide you and swallow you up.  We would even have little tea party picnics out there sometimes.  When son, S.,  was a little boy of six or so, he especially loved hiding and playing in the tall alfalfa next to the house. He told me then, "Mama, when I have my house, it's going to have a pasture of alfalfa surrounding it.  It's tall and pretty and the flowers smell so good and it makes hay."  I sure hope his boyhood dream comes true one day.

A country yard and garden on the northern prairies has to be hearty -- drought tolerant and winter hardy.  My lawn grass is mostly fescue and it holds up well and doesn't need as much water as other grasses.  Many folks out here just mow pasture grass around their homes, but that's not my idea of "a little patch of green."  Pasture grass is okay in the spring, but by summer it's dry and stubbly and nasty and doesn't provide the balm for the soul that I want when the summer goes hot and dry and the dust blows.  There were summers when I had very little water to sprinkle the lawn or the flowerbeds and so I had just the edges of my lawn close to the house that remained green.  It was enough.  And for the volunteer flowers that came up, I used my dirty dishwater to soak them.  Instead of draining my dishwater down the drain, I used a plastic wash tub in the sink for dish washing.  That way I had a little something to offer to wet down the parched flowers that persisted through summer.


We really only have 4 months of growing weather between frosts and so the things I plant must have a short maturity and I like to grow things that are typical to my surroundings.  My yard tends to be very pretty in the spring when it's wet and warming but not overly hot, then towards the middle of July, it becomes less vibrant and dry, but that's how it is out on the prairie too. When mid summer comes, so do the sunflowers and black-eyed Susans, the coneflowers and hollyhocks, while the tulips and bleeding heart and iris are long faded away.  It's not a fancy yard with fancy flowers, but I love every blossom.  They give and give, though humble in rank among the flower kingdom.

When I go to town and see my parents' yard, I am often very envious of it. It's always lush, always blooming, and well manicured, and I sometimes wish I could have something so lovely, but I don't have underground sprinklers and endless water and I have to spend some of my time on the tractor in summer too, so my country yard is what it is.  When the stock pond is full, there are coils of watering hoses, sprinkler heads and hand sprayers around, and I'm grateful for being able to water what I have.  The harshness of our climate makes it impossible to have a Better Homes and Gardens yard, but just a little patch of green does wonders for the soul in the hot, dry summers and after a long, cold winter.  And what could be better than going to bed and hearing the killdeer calls, the  frogs croaking and the crickets serenading you to sleep,  or waking in the morning to meadowlark trills and robin chirrups?  I'm thanking God for my little patch of green out here in the middle of nowhere.   He put me here after all. Tell me about your patch of green. 

For mine is just a little old-fashioned garden where the flowers come together to praise the Lord and teach all who look upon them to do likewise.
~Celia Thaxter

10 comments:

  1. "A little patch of green"...I can relate to that living in this country where it's dry, we put grass in front of the house last summer and it has been so nice.
    I have all those memories too of a country yard and playing hide and seek at night and hiding from mama but I was usually up a tree! Happy Earth Day! Come say hi :D

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  2. Such a beautiful description Jody! I feel like I've spent some time in your yard. My little patch is fairly well manicured and increasingly shady as the trees grow bigger. And guess what graces a teeny-tiny patch on the south side of my house? My hollyhocks! They've survived the bunnies so far this spring and the leaves are bigger than they were all year last year. I'm so excited! I'm wondering if they'll flower this year - every week brings a surprise!

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  3. Loved visiting with you in your garden today. My son is off at college playing baseball and I so enjoyed the vision of the lawn cut like a diamond for whiffle ball, he would've loved that. Have a glorious day!

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  4. We have almost two acres of grass. I love a summer evening after my husband has mowed. As I look out the back door, I can see the grass bordered on one side with a row of pine trees; beyond that is a small potato field belonging to the neighbor, and then the woods. Even though we're rural, we are on a state highway; and it's noisy. But looking out over our backyard, the fields, and the trees, I can almost imagine I'm smack dab in farm country.....

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  5. Jody, I find your patch of green (the May photo) abundant and inviting.
    I grew up across the street from a golf course (hole #9) with two side yards. One was for baseball and one was for weedy lunchtime picnics. Now there are houses on both, but my dad and brothers spent a lot of time on the mower! My mother told me, "Do NOT learn to operate the lawn mower." Now, with Bill traveling during the summer, I DO mow. My home county is a farming community and the beauty around the barns, the plowed fields, the flowers - well, it's so much prettier than any perfect city landscape I've seen. Beautiful post, Jody. Thank you.

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  6. It is lovely how you have bloomed where planted, and cultivated the best grasses and blooms for your spot on earth. The flowers and grass under the tree are beautiful. Amazing how quickly Spring pops out when it does!

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  7. Well you my not have lush green lawns (we have moss filled lawns) but look at all you do have !!! Clarice

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  8. Our street has a variety of lawns--some very lush and plush, others a little more raggedy. I like the ones that have a patch of flowers, no matter how the rest of it looks.

    frances

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  9. Lovely post and lovely quote! I remember your wonderful garden from last year, with the wildflowers and all!
    I am just getting out and beginning the yard work....have a long way to go!
    Bloom where you are planted, indeed!
    Have a great weekend!
    Joanne

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  10. I can so relate with you. Our conditions are so very harsh that I treasure my little yard. It took years to get it to where it is today, very little water to spare and really bad soil. My DH hauled in all the good dirt he could find, and eventually we had good water piped in. It made all the difference. I love the easy grow hardy things. I have lots of hollyhocks and have found that the different flowering sages to wonderful.

    For miles we have nothing but desert brush land, driving up to my yard is like a little oases in the midst of all the dry.

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