The Yard

Mariner is one of those obsessive gardeners who keeps adding to his projects and workload in the gardens until the whole process threatens to break down – neighbors insinuate that it already has. Primarily, this is because the mariner is very old but his visions are as expansive as ever. He tells his neighbors that at his age it takes eight hours to do four hours of work. It also takes two years to do a three month project – and a neighbor’s help in lifting a 100-lb bag of anything.

One traditional process that has not changed over many years is how the mariner makes compost. Needless to say, his lawn-fascist town considers the area behind the garage not to be an attractive site. Simply, over the year, mariner throws anything (garbage to grass clippings, finished annuals, etc that will decompose into a big pile). Anything – any dirt, sand, last season’s old pot dirt, garage sweepings, etc. Occasionally he will salt the mound with triple ten fertilizer. The newer stuff is piled on top of older stuff. If the mound becomes dry, mariner waters it as if it were another garden.

In the spring, when fresh soil is needed, he digs into the pile until he strikes decomposed soil. He granulates the retrieved soil (removes larger clumps that aren’t decomposed), adjusts the ph and adds horse manure.

To the mariner, all this mound building is nothing more than chores. What mariner enjoys is exploring the mound each year to see what vegetation grows on the mound. He has retrieved feral tomatoes, watermelon, acorn squash, bell peppers and this year a full crop of cantaloupe – all surviving a year or two as seeds in the compost biome. Further, he discovered miniature cattails which will be kept for the proposed water feature. A couple of years ago two attractive but different trees emerged; he has kept them for the patio project.

By the end of summer, the mound is a wilderness of huge weeds and endless groundcovers; redistributed zinnias flourish in unexpected places. Trees are sprouting all the time – especially Oak and Maple; they must be pulled or they become a difficult nuisance. Frogs, toads, crickets, sow bugs, ants, stink bugs, centipedes, spiders, rabbits and dogs stop by this wilderness McDonalds all year.

All in all, this has been an empty tale but it can be a tiny slice-of-life story.

Ancient Mariner