Mom gave me over a hundred flower bulbs. It was time to replace her tulips, so of course she ordered enough bulbs to populate the Netherlands. My mother is a generous person. She felt I needed about a hundred of them.
So, there I was with a big crate of every kind of bulb I ever wanted to plant and no time to do it. My plan was to have them in the ground by mid-October. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men . . .
October came and went. As from my former post, you remember what happens when you wait too late in the state of Illinois to do an outdoor project. I still have frostbite on my ass from that one.
The problem was more than time. The summer had been hot and dry, and the ground had been baked to a brick-like consistency. So, I needed to wait for a little rain.
A little rain.
It was too cold the day I cleaned the flue on the roof. It was too cold and icy to do much at all. I needed to wait. Hey, the weather man said it would warm up. He also said it would rain almost non-stop.
Like without stopping.
But Mom had given me a crate of expensive bulbs. Before the bulbs could go in, I had to take out the tomato beds. The wood was rotting. The beds were full of fungus from the wet spring, the kind that infests tomato plants and makes them die. So no tomatoes could be planted there again. So they had to come out.
When I put them in a few years back, I put in a potent mix of well over 2000 lbs of organic materials to grow my lovely veggies. Each year before planting, I mixed in another 250-500 lbs. I figured, after some run-off and whatnot, there was probably still 2500 lbs of soil to move. Removing the rotting wood took little effort. One sharp whack with a hammer and the wood falls away.
Yesterday dawned drearily, but the rain had stopped. It wasn’t a heavy rain all week. It was a drippy, drizzly rain that soaked into the bones, but not the kind that fully saturates the ground. It does, however, soften it enough to actually drive a spade into it without killing oneself.
So, yesterday I started. I knocked down one box, carted the soil away—a wheelbarrow at a time—and worked the area, put in 28 bulbs in the cold wind and quit. It was too chilly, too windy to carry on.
Which meant my extra day off was going to be hell. I needed to cart off another 1500 lbs of dirt, break down the box, put in two more tulip beds and a bed of annis, various hyacinth, daffodils and whatever else was in the crate.
Then get Christmas lights down from the attic, string them up, put up the deer and other display lights. So much for reading that book I have sitting on the table. Sigh.
The wheelbarrow is rickety. It’s only 30 years old. The ground is wet. No, it’s a slog of mud. The grass is wetter. The mud is slick. The shovelfuls are heavy.
I was on my fourth load in the wheelbarrow. I was moving the soil to various low spots—anywhere where I could get rid of it. That’s a lot of dirt to dispose of, but I was determined.
My muscles screamed, still sore from the day before. My back was telling me no more. My boots were soaked through and heavy with thick globs of mud and wet leaves. It was like carrying around 10 lbs of cement on my feet, and my feet were freezing.
The fourth load was especially heavy. For some reason, I failed to remember how rickety the wheelbarrow was. So, I was moving the load, moving fast because it was heavy.
The handle snapped off at the base. It sheered away under a couple hundred pounds of muddy garden mix. The other handle was intact, so the barrel immediately listed sideways, causing me to over-correct, which caused the barrel to drop to the ground at a dead stop.
I failed to stop. I failed to stop when my pelvic bone came into contact with the lip of the barrel. I failed to stop when I went down into the mud in the bowl. Ah, I just love the flavor of organic, composted shit in the morning.
So, wiped the mud from my face, spit out a mouthful of sphagnum and manure laced with vermiculite, and crippled the barrel over to my next dump spot.
Time for a break.
I hate my neighbor. He said, “Hey, why didn’t you come get me? I would have used my in-loader to move all that for you.
Yeah, I hate him and his kind offer. I guess my deer-in-the-headlights look with black mud streaking my face and hair, not to mention the copious amounts coating my clothes and boots, must have been comical. He launched into a belly laugh that would make Merry Ol’ St. Nick envious.
“Too late?” he asked.
I was done moving dirt, so it was time to plant. Bulb diggers are fabulous tools. I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to plant bulbs. You plunge them into the soil, twist, pull, and you have a perfect hole.
I recommend you spend more than a two dollars like I did. On my second row of bulbs, the digger split down the middle, flew apart and sent me face first into the freshly turned mud.
This time, it went up my nose. Not to worry. I always carry tissues when digging in the mud on cold, rainy days.
Yes, it started raining again. Lovely. Four tissues later, I pieced the cheap POS back together and went back to planting. The dog was howling. She hates rain. She wanted in the house, her little body shivering while her cute button eyes looked at me with an expression pure hatred. On my feet again, over to the door, let the dog in.
I noticed every time I knelt and climbed back up; it was becoming more difficult. Each movement elicited old lady grunts from my throat; each reach, a groan.
I sneezed out another load of mud.
When the large tulip bed was finally finished, the neighbor yelled over to ask if I wanted him to send over his boys to help. These are great boys. They are everything true boys should be, but I couldn’t stand the thought of mud balls decorating my siding, so I declined.
On to the next flower bed. It was on the south side of the house, so I figured I would catch less of the breeze. I was soaked to the skin, my hair clinging to my muddy face and neck. It kept getting into my eyes, so I brushed it back with muddy gloves.
Oh, hell. Who cares at this point?
The drizzle stopped. For like a minute. Then it rained. It really rained. Like a downpour. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Nothing was going to stop me from planting all those daffodils, tulips, annis, crocuses and hyacinths. I shall be victorious!
The neighbor on the south side pulled in. Upon seeing the broken wheelbarrow lying on its side like a beached whale, he offered me his. His response was my turning my mud-covered face in his general direction and offering him a sneer.
I can still hear him laughing. He started laughing as he walked away. He laughed as he entered his garage and closed the door. He was still laughing so loudly when he entered his house that I could hear him in my yard. He’s still chuckling. I hear it now.
Finally, with all the daffodils, hyacinth and crocuses in, it was time to move to the big garden in the front yard. I’d dumped a lot of dirt there. So, off I trudged with my crate of bulbs, my mud-caked cell phone, and equally muddy mini-speaker, and headed that way. On the wet, muddy oak leaves scattered over the wet, muddy grass. I’m not sure I even managed to find all the bulbs that flew through the air with the greatest of ease when my feet took wing and escaped from gravity. The back of my head landed in the freshly turned mud, causing four bulbs to squeeze out of the ground like toothpaste from a tube.
Come to think of it, that might be why the neighbor is still laughing.
Anyway, I hauled my wet, muddy ass up, picked up the crate, hurled into the driveway with all my failing strength, threw the spade like a javelin, embedding it in the ground more than 40 feet away, kicked the crippled wheelbarrow, possibly broke a toe and set a new record in colorful curses that ranged in the realm of multilingual. My Cherokee grandmother would be so mortified.
With renewed hatred for the task I had taken on, like a woman possessed, I dug what I could find of the numerous bulbs from the wet grass and leaves, marched to the last of the flowerbeds, dug so hard mud was slung into the street and shoved those accursed bulbs into place. I was done.
I also managed to get one lighted decoration from the attic when I discovered I could no longer climb the ladder or pull any heavy boxes down. It was all I had to give. I was so far past done.
Now there’s a trail of mud—and a little blood—blazed through the house, and the water heater is out of hot water, I feel like I was trampled by a herd of moose. It’s not an ache, exactly. It’s more like a burning, blazing fire through every fiber of muscles in my body. My joints won’t bend properly, and there’s a distinct possibly I may have cracked my coccyx.
Those blessed flowers had better be worth it, and spring had better bring plenty of colors.