It's raining again today. This is a good thing, as North Carolina has been flirting with drought status for several seasons now and we need the infusion of water. Plus, my little three-quarter acre has some grass growing on it in nearly every spot, which is nothing short of a miracle!
Growing things here in the south is not the same easy endeavor as up north. Our neighbors, also Maryland transplants, would attest to that fact. Our soil is not the rich, healthy, black soil of Maryland in which anything will grow. Plants and grass do not thrive here, they merely survive, struggling to stretch their roots into nutrient-deprived hard-packed, clumpy, red clay. I cannot simply pick up a beautiful flower from Lowes, bring it home, and pop it into the ground. I must dig, and till, and amend, and supplement. And if I'm lucky, in three or four years, the flower will flourish. Ah, so frustrating for wannabe gardeners like us. When I visit my sister north of Baltimore and listen to her complain about how invasive my grandmother's roses are, and I stare longingly at the massive lilac just planted last season and which is now covered in impossibly fragrant late spring blooms ... well, I just want to smack her.
We have been in our house for nearly nine years now. When I think about it, our yard and garden is largely reflective of our time here in North Carolina, which is going on 13 years altogether. When we bought the house, the yard was nothing more than a tangle of trees and overgrown vines and weeds. It begged for someone to transform it, clean it up, make it work. Similarly, when we moved here from the beach, our lives were just starting out, our future uncertain. We faced difficult times that made us want to turn back, return to what we knew. We had no money, we had no friends. We had difficult issues from back home that pulled at us, complicating our choices.
But we had a vision. We wanted to look out from our windows and see a lawn stretch out before us, with paths and little spots to sit and reflect on the day - something successful from what was once a tangled mess.
Like our relocation south, it was so soon apparent that we'd bitten off way more than we could chew. We cut and dug and tilled and raked and threw way too much money into the dirt. We fussed about the hickory nuts, the oak saplings that sprung up everywhere, the spiky balls from those useless gum trees, the gross, slimy masses of mushrooms that cropped up everywhere, the mosquitos! We seeded, fertilized, limed, and then called in professionals.
This spring, nine years into it, we feel pretty good about what we see. As I said, the grass and weeds are green and growing. Some of the things we've planted over the years are actually thriving. The mature hardwoods have been thinned to a manageable level. There is even a bench. Our lives, too, have paralleled. We have managed to weather the hard times here, set down a few roots, grow a few kids successfully. In our path back to the beach, we are, dare I say, happily wandering along.
I am realistic. I know that in a month or so, when the hot southern heat sets in, and the rain showers become fewer and further in between, the grass will fade, and I will once again fuss about the five gallon buckets I must lug around the yard to keep things alive. I know we will eventually need to don our regular protective coating of Deep Woods Off just to be able to sit on the bench at all. I know I will sigh in frustration at the failure of a plant or two. I know, too, we will face bumps in our own path. That is life. But I feel a sure sense of accomplishment at what I see when I look around, and I have learned to enjoy the heck out of the times when it flourishes, and weather the times when it does not.