Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mary Beth Danielson: Do you have dirt under your fingernails? Read on…

Some of us have it and some of you don’t. There’s not much one can do to cure it, as far as I can see. If you were born with it, or if some seemingly trustworthy older person enticed you into it when you were little, then it’s a hard, hard thing to give up now.

(Photo-right: Carolyn Chaplin and Kathryn Rouse with some items for the plant sale on Sunday, July 11th.)

Or maybe you fell into it a few years into your marriage, when the luster wore off your shiny relationship, and you were ready for some other place to be besides glued to the side of your beloved. 

Most of us who have it don’t talk about it too much, though we recognize each other in secret ways. (The dirt under our fingernails, the bits of foliage in our hair.) Sooner or later you will find us in some hushed corner, quietly and urgently speaking about our gardens. 

I was suckered into this at the tender age of four when my dad roto-tilled a huge vegetable garden for our family, and a 4’ by 4’ patch of dirt for me. Then he bought me radish seeds. Then he ate the radishes I grew in an enthusiastic way. 

I was captivated by the mysterious pleasure it is to work like a mule to make a space to let a garden grow.
Several years ago I spent a summer afternoon at a Racine’s Sandcastles Festival. Many Racinians still deeply miss Lorna Hennig, who did much of the organizing of that event. Lorna always invited MayaWorks to host a sale. My friend Kathryn Rouse and I, as volunteers, would help run these Fair Trade sales. 

So we were together a long time, which became dangerous. I talked too much, I shared a secret that perhaps I should have kept to myself. 

I said that I would pay One Hundred Dollars to anyone who could help me figure out how to turn my jungle of a yard into a reasonable place. She replied something like, “Well, if you would do it for a hundred dollars, would you do it for free?” 

(Photo-left: Hand-crafted bird baths for sale at the Plant Sale.)

I must have said yes because the past four summers have been nuts. While the rest of you were swimming, or going for strolls in breezes, or wearing your tennis whites to lovely events – my husband and I have been digging bushes, digging rocks, weeding, weeding, weeding. I learned where the spiders lay their eggs in my yard. I terrified bunnies, watched hawks, crows, and hummingbirds zip and dive, and on one memorable occasion almost kneeled on a bat. I have sweated so hard my glasses slipped off my nose into holes I was digging. I have learned the difference, but just barely, between lungwort and toad lilies. 

And I have, amazingly, with the help, direction, kindness, humor, and plants adopted out of Kathryn’s yard, I now have an pretty yard. I was talking to my neighbor the other day, turned a minute, saw my garden from her perspective, and was floored. That’s MY garden? Wow… To think it started with radish seeds planted by a 4-year old.

Kathryn Rouse, thank you. Here is your chance to meet the dangerous and talented Kathryn. A Plant Sale and Garden Tour hosted by AAUW and Racine Garden Club will happen this coming Sunday, July 11. Kathryn, Carolyn and Jim Chaplin and others have been working for months. They have hundreds of local yard-grown plants for sale (some from my yard), as well as beautiful handmade birdbaths, planters and mosaic flower pots. All the money raised becomes college scholarships for local young women via AAUW. 

Contact info: 

Sunday, July 11th, 2010 
Plant sale hours: 9 am to 5 pm. 
Free admission to plant sale and garden at 2805 Green Haze Avenue. 
Tickets available for Racine Garden Club Tour of 8 other gardens available for $10.