Yesterday was a good day to wade into the annual gardening foray. Once again, it was me against the weeds, if that is what one calls the grasses, wildflowers and other plants that have moved in to garden plots left empty too long. About twenty years ago, Greg built a rock wall alongside the lodge, on the driveway that leads down to our landing. Over the years, I would plant different things there: flowers, herbs, vegetables. I still haven't found any one thing that does best in that spot. In recent times, we built a raised bed garden, and I have tended to that more loyally than the older terraces. But this year, I decided, is a good one to revive those old beds and see what might pop out of the ground this time.
Neglect is a sad thing. The weeds were tall and well-rooted. The early spring probably assisted in that. One of the most prolific plants was actually an intentional one--my chive bush. My dad had given me a starter plant when I first moved up to Gunflint Lake, and I had put it into the ground. What a hardy perennial. It grows abundantly, and it always gives me plenty of onion flavor in whatever salad I toss it into. Life at the lodge obviously suits it, too, as it had spread so much, I had probably a dozen locations where chives were growing. It was time to cut back on it, so I pulled and pulled and reduced the chives to two small plots. The scent of onion was in the air while I worked. I had noticed it before when weed-whacking. While it seemed cruel to be so aggressive, I knew that we didn't want a garden exclusively devoted to this, as pretty as the purple flowers might be.
When it comes to gardening, I am of the mind that the plants must survive with as little or as much intervention as I can afford to give them. Watering generally happens, but not as frequently as it should. Weeding might take place when I walk by and notice it needs doing. I don't have a spectacular green thumb, but I can usually harvest a few homegrown products, and that is really all I want. The satisfaction of the produce, as well as recognizing the connection to ancestors that gardened as a way of life, is enough to keep me planting each year. As far as the chives are concerned, I realized that they are my ideal garden vegetable--they manage to not only make without me, but to flourish in amazing quantity. Now, if we could only survive on onion grass.
Truth be told, though, one other plant in the side garden holds my heart the most. It is a tall white pine, growing at the northeast corner of the lodge. When Greg was first laying out the terraces and wall, he planned the locations with regard to that tree. At the time, it was maybe five feet tall, and rounded like a bush. In the years since, it has grown to be a wonderful example of its species. The branches are full and lush, and the pinecones in late summer are rich. It shelters birds in both summer and winter. It stands as a reminder to us of how, given time, a tree can grow tall, and a stand of them can turn into a forest. So it will be in years to come, where the Ham Lake Fire left its mark.