The other day I was digging in the garden, turning over the cover crop in the raised beds and burying it under a layer of soil. It’s slow work – pulling up a strip of cover crop, digging up the soil underneath it, laying the cover crop green side down in the trench and then covering it up again with soil. It’s also physical work – lots of stomping on the shovel, bending over, and pushing against root masses to loosen off the top layer of growth.
I realized that I’ve lost a lot of physical condition over the past year. Part of that has been the pandemic and my unwillingness to go to overly public spaces to walk and recreate. And part of it has been my illness, which has kept me depressed for over a year now and makes it hard to get out and do things, let alone just get up and have breakfast.
As I dig over the beds I’m thinking, frustrated by my lack of physical condition. Frustrated by my inability to find happiness in even the smallest of things. Overwhelmed by the number of beds that still need to be turned over.
But I’m also thinking of the garden that I’ll plant, once the hard work is done. I think about my garden two summers ago, which was a riot of healthy vegetables: lettuce, snap peas, beans, tomatoes, carrots, beets, and more, that produced the entire summer long. That year I’d planted a winter cover crop as well, which may be the secret to good growth. Last year I didn’t plant a cover crop, and the garden was a bit of a bust. Then again, correlation does not imply causation – it could have been a simple matter of differences in seeds, in watering amounts, in weather – who knows.
This spring has been chilly – there was ice in the wheelbarrow this morning and the ground was coated in frost. Daytime temperatures barely reach double digits, and there’s often a cool breeze waiting to catch you off guard. Just yesterday we had a windstorm that knocked out power and brought a temporary blizzard that made it look like winter.
But the birds are back, and the daffodils are sprouting. The pulsatilla is raising its furry burgundy flowers with their brilliant yellow centres. The bees are buzzing around the pink and white heather in the perennial garden, and it’s pleasant to sit on the back porch in the sun. Spring is here, it’s just taking its time.
Soon the cherry tree will bloom, and the dogwoods. Hopefully my physical condition will improve, but I may still be frustrated: at my mood, at the number of chores that seem to multiply as the growing season goes on. But I will also be grateful to my garden for its riotous growth, and for its edible bounty. I’ll be glad I spent that time turning over the cover crop, as insurmountable as the chore seems today.