Exasperation is word used often when it comes to doing something for Mama, or with her, for that matter. I'd thought I was going to stay home today and work in my own yard. Mama had a different thought. She called at 7:30 this morning:
Mama: Are you still in bed?
Mama: What's on your agenda today?
Mayree: Well, I thought I'd get the old lantana stalks cut off and briars pulled out of the beds and fresh mulch down.
Mama: I thought you were coming out here.
That's Mama's passive-aggressive way of telling me, "It doesn't matter that you'll bog the mower to China and can't possibly get through the mud to the blueberries: come cut the grass."
I replied with a simple "Yes'm, getting my shoes on right now."
She'd been feeling a little poorly the last couple of days, another of the chronic kidney infections setting in, not to mention two days on the road bothering her rheumatoid bones. I'd cleaned her house yesterday, but when she feels badly she likes company.
Go figure. The three miles to Pine Level were navigated toot suite only to find Mama with her quilting bag in hand - ready to join friends for the morning. I can't slight her wanting to be with friends and I'm glad she's feeling like getting out.
Mayree: Uhmmmmm, Mama, don't you think it's a little wet still to cut the grass?
Mama: I didn't ask you to cut the grass, we'll get that tomorrow. I thought we'll maybe get the azaleas cut back.
Mayree thinking: uh oh.
Mama: And we need to move the amaryllis out of there; they didn't bloom at all this year.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to add one and one together to figure out Mama's plural "we'll" almost always means "you'll."
Mayree: Where would you like the amaryllis put?
Mama: Over in the flower bed on the other side. In there with the daylilies.
Those are amaryllis that used to bloom, until the azaleas became overgrown.Mayree thinking: uh oh.
Mama: The fern needs to be hanging on the porch.
And thus it starts.
Mama leaves for the morning to quilt with friends, talking to me all the way to the end of the lane with the window down. I can't hear a word she's saying; it'll be my excuse when she gets back and something's not done.
What needs to happen first? The flowerbed needs to be cleaned out where the amaryllis are going. What do I need for that? The wheelbarrow, shovel, sharp shooter, long-toothed garden rake, rake, loppers for later, and hoe.
The wheelbarrow is full of water, last week's empty plant pots from Lowe's, and a handful of touch-me-nots that are designated for some back flower bed, unnamed as yet. *sigh* I dump everything out but the flowers that were put in a hastily dug trench at the back door. Pots were smashed and relegated to the recycling bag. One thing is ready, on to the tools in the shed.
I couldn't find my favorite hoe and had to use the wide-bladed one. There are two long-toothed garden rakes, too. I like the one with the metal handle that Daddy fixed well before I was born.
The rest of the implement of flowerbed cleaning are gathered. Time to do or die.
One foot into the area to be cleaned, I knew there was nothing for it but to go find the other hoe. This big one is working up a sweat. I don't mind a sweat but it's slow going.
It won't chop through the soil effectively to get at the bahia grass roots that look a LOT like a snake. If all those roots aren't worked out of the soil, it'll come back twice as thick. Now where is that hoe? Ohhhh... I remember. Mama had it in the barnyard the afternoon we (meaning I) were digging the trench for the water to drain. Surely enough, it was leaning against one of the crib poles. YAY!
The one on the right is my favorite. Its little blade makes short
work of hoeing.
It really is very slow work, cleaning a good swath of this flower bed out. It's not been worked in a good many years, there's lots of bahia, annnnnd there are bunches of daylilies that have come up from seed. If I accidentaly whack a single one down, Mama will notice. Mama doesn't fool around when it comes to plants in her flowerbeds, even though she might not remember they're there until they bloom.
Yikes. I only was able to clean the middle section of this.
There are a couple of oak seedling to be dug up. It was then that I discovered the new sharp shooter had been picked up. The blade of it is too long for short legs; the old one was needed.
The sun has warmed the coolish morning air to as close to perfection as it gets, humidity this day hanging around 30 per cent...a great day to be working outside. Rounding the corner of the kindergarten the atmosphere is scented with GranGranny. GranGranny?? Kate Jasmine. Cape Jessamine. Gardenias. GranGranny always wore White Shoulders perfume. Always. The scent of them causes a celebration of pause in the busy-ness of the morning. They must be smelled with an entirely still mind and totally still body; eyes closed so nothing more exists on the face of the earth but their aroma. I didn't want to move. And then a bee buzzed my head; the nandena growing up through the middle of the plant is blooming and bees llllllove those tiny blossoms.
I found the sharp shooter. Sharp shooters are great for getting right next to an unwanted sapling and digging straight down most of the length of the tap root: a dug-up tap root won't grow back.
It's degrassed and weeded all the way to the other side. I amused myself by repeatedly singing the chorus from The Doors song "Break on Through (to the Other Side)."
Sing with me: Break on through, break on through,Much to my surprise, Mama arrives home. It's almost one o'clock. One o'clock. I've been cleaning a middle third of a flower bed for four hours.
break on through to the other side...
break on through to the other side...
Mama: Aren't you hot? Do you need a break? I think you need to cool down.
I think it's odd, coming from the woman with an informal agreement with the Devil to help keep Hades warm that she's concerned if I'm hot or not (both of them are too tricky to enter into a formal agreement). I stopped long enough for a quick cucumber salad and bottle of water. It's time to move the amaryllis growing under the azaleas or so I had initially thought.
Of course,the azaleas were so overgrown, they had to be lopped before moving the amaryllis. I hollered through the front screen door at Mama to come tell me how far she wanted the flowering Southern favorite cut back. She said about a foot -- which means I'll cut them back TWO feet. After all, she didn't come supervise their cutting and she knows I love to lop stuff back into submission. It didn't take that long to accomplish.
It didn't take too long to get the amaryllis moved to their new home across the road either. It's three o'clock. Mama's viewed the work done. She's pleased (I'm Favorite Child du jour). I'm tired, thinking the congested warped proboscus hadn't been that much of a problem to work with today, the day being as pleasant as it was.
Mayree: Okay. Anything else you want done?
Mama: Well. We'll fix an area in the garden, later, I guess, for the strawberries.
This is another perfect example of Mama's passive aggressiveness. What she'd really like to say is: I'd like a strawberry bed fixed over close to the garlic in that rich soil that I showed you two weeks ago. I don't want any of the landscaping timbers around it and I don't really care for the way you've been using the poplar that smells so nasty burning in the wood heater as a flower bed border, regardless of whether it'll be there for a good while or not. And also, later means now.
Reading her just as perfectly, I asked if she cared if I used the old heart pine fence posts to make the strawberry bed. There are plenty of them in the barnyard not getting used for anything. She thinks that will be a good idea.
Emptying the wheelbarrow full of grass and oak saplings in the barnyard for the chickens, I took a moment to enjoy the sun, blue sky, and haunting scent of gardenia playing on the breeze. Seed heads from some grass that grows in the hayfield play leap frog in the yard, yet to be uncut. They stir and jump, like something alive, slowly pivoting end over end from one corner of the uncut lawn to another. Rooster's clucking is joined by the first cicadas of the season, loudly buzzing in the pecan tree overhead.
Another two hours or so later, the strawberry bed is complete. The reduced-for-quick-sale strawberry plants from Lowe's are quickly planted in the dark rich soil that gives its own sweet smell to the evening.
I'm tired. Mama says "We'll cut the grass and weedeat tomorrow after we get back from Hattiesburg."
Yes'm. I will...