|Mattie , Mel & I : a day in the Gardens|
I have an idealistic, idyllic picture in my head of what “life in the country” should be. Could be. And periodically, I get adventurous.
In my idealistic country home, the scent of honeysuckle, magnolia, dogwood, and lilacs fill the air.
This is a ludicrous idea in that I grew up, in Boston, where nothing grows before moving to the wilds of Virginia, where everything grows. I’m not sure there is enough Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra to compensate for the nightmare all the above blooms would cause to my immune system. This country life has animals. Horses, goats, peacocks, guineas, chickens. And I have had all of them with varying degrees of success, failure, and even heartbreak. However, I think I can live forever without the 20-foot snake found in South Carolina.
Chickens are some of the bravest, most ferocious animals I have ever encountered. I’m not sure how cowardliness came to be associated with them. I wonder if the snake would have frightened chickens—just pictures of it scared the hell out of me.
We currently don’t have any chickens. This is a situation that needs to be rectified soon. In my ideal country home there are no bugs; no tics or mosquitoes. But it’s only May, and I have pulled two tics off my ankles. Chickens eat bugs—they pay their way. I need some chickens. I would rather run from a beast I can see than be attacked by something I cannot until after the damage is done. This seems logical, Spock (or Data) would be proud of me.
I went to a local farm yesterday and looked at some chickens. Ian and Ryan were with me.
Really? Ian asked, Chickens?
We tramped around in the mud for a bit. Mud, or perhaps chicken shit, it was a farm, after all. We were outside the chicken coops. I made myself believe it was mud; it’s been raining for days, weeks, forever! So, it was mud.
Don’t you remember Quinn? Ryan added.
Quinn? What about the Killer Chickens? Ian protested, one could hear the capitalization in his tone. I won’t get in the car with chickens, that’s gross. Why do we need chickens?
So we don’t have tics. I replied. If chickens then no tics. Simple logic.
I’m not getting in the car with chickens. Ian said with complete conviction. I don’t know exactly what he would have done had I bought chickens, we were some ten miles from home. I couldn’t imagine him walking it in the rain. Why did we even come here?
For peppers. I replied. The farm’s proprietor had posted on Facebook (because that’s exactly where someone would go looking for farming information…really it is) that she had hot pepper plants. And I wanted some.
Because the idealistic-idyllic country home has a garden. Although, garden and idyllic seem to create an oxymoronic sort of sentence.
I’m not very good with plants. At one point in my life I was good with houseplants, but not anymore. I tend to forget that they cannot water themselves and they die. But peppers would have to be planted outside. And God/the Universe will take care of the watering right?
Ian was dubious. He arched an eyebrow and followed behind me, sulking as he went.
I bought peppers, and sweet potatoes, and cilantro, and, um, something else. And I have a friend with tomatoes and squash for me. I am going to plant them down where my horse, Saiga is buried. It’s fertile ground. Open sun. That’s what plants need, right? Hopefully that’s right, like I said, I’m not very good with plants. But I’m going to try. Gardening is adventurous for an urbanite. Less adventurous than chickens, I’ll concede that, but still a daring start for this urbanite-turned-idealistic-country-woman.
Ian and Ryan carried my plants back to the car for me, mumbling about being carnivores. I took this for what it was; they don’t want my adventure in gardening to become their adventure in weeding.
But my summer teaching schedule is lighter than it has been throughout the fall and then spring. I’ll have time. The idyllic country life is what I dreamed of as a little girl. You know that place with no tics, or chicken shit—or roosters attacking, or weeds.
It’ll be fine, right?
ABOUT Mel : Mel Jones had her own column in a local newspaper at 15 and was determined that she would be the next Shakespeare or Tolkien. But probably Erma Bombeck. And then life intervened. She grew up, raised a family, and wrote everyday. Mel did her undergraduate work at The College of William and Mary, and graduate work at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Antioch University, Los Angeles. She holds degrees in History, English, Rhetoric, Literature, and Creative Writing (Nonfiction). Yes, she is disgustingly overeducated, but continues to play with the idea pf a PhD. She has done extensive genealogical research, edited a now defunct literary journal, and has taught children from kindergarten through college. She recently had an epiphany, if she sent her work out more, she would be published more. She’s working on that. Mel lives and writes on a small leisure farm west of Richmond, Virginia with her partner, parrots, and progeny.