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  • Writer's pictureMJ Rodriguez

Do I have to plant things?

My mom always raised a garden, and when I became an adult, I thought I had to plant a garden and preserve vegetables for the winter months. I guess it's an inbred need or something, but I’ve had it.

Living in the country has its benefits. It’s quiet and peaceful, and landowners are free to build and develop their property as they see fit. I enjoy living in the middle of nature, watching the redbuds and dogwoods sprinkle the woods with spots of pink and white in the spring, and bursts of brilliant colors displayed by the trees in the fall. In the evenings, I sit in my recliner. and watch a herd of deer graze in the backyard, a fox or two passing through, a raccoon and opossum enjoying a piece of bread thrown out by my husband the animal feeder, a gorgeous pair of wood ducks that stop by on their way to a nearby pond, even a large flock of wild turkeys that fly into the yard and walk, single file, up the hill.

But there are drawbacks as well. In one afternoon, those cute, furry little beasts can destroy the garden I work so hard to have. Just because a person plants something in an organized plot in rows, hoed and plowed, doesn’t make it off-limits to a hungry little creature. In fact, they must think I made it for them.

Every year in the past, I worked my little plot, plowing, fertilizing, and planting. I harvested the vegetables I planted there: beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn—and I loved watching the goldfinch work in my beautiful sunflowers. I showed off my two rows of tame blackberries, posting pictures of the loaded vines and blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream baked in my iron skillet, like the Pioneer Woman. From my tomatoes and peppers, I made and gave away jars of salsa, pleasure blushing when folks offered to buy jars of the spicy goodness. I planted hostas around a tree in the front yard, along with lilies, blue-eyed grass, hyacinths, and other flowers.

Then the animals found out what I was doing. The corn I had groomed to grow into big, sweet ears was ready to be harvested. The fat yellow ears would be picked and put into the freezer the next day. But it was not to be. That night, raccoons found the sweet goodness hanging there, waiting to be eaten. They obliged. The next year, a herd of deer ate the corn I planted before it had a chance to grow more than two feet tall. Rabbits ate my rows of beans leaving one-inch-tall stalks. I stopped planting corn and beans and focused on tomatoes and other goodies. Then, one year the squirrels found my tomatoes that had begun to ripen. They ate the red ones, then decided they couldn’t wait for more to ripen. The green ones were as good. Thinking the garden was planted for them, they discovered the blackberries. No more cobbler in my iron skillet. Oh! Look! Sunflowers are great! They climbed the stalks, chewed off the heads, and carried them into the woods for a midafternoon snack.

Last year, groundhogs joined the fun, coming into my yard from the nearby creek to clean out the flowers around the yard. They ate the hostas and every other plant around my tree, leaving the ground bare. Then, seeing the squirrels in the garden, they joined them. They ate the leaves off the sunflowers, leaving only spikes where fat leaves had been. Then they pulled off the yellow petals, leaving only the brown seed pod. I know you think I’m exaggerating, but I promise. That’s what they did! I guess they left that part for the birds. Some humans could learn from them.

Now the neighbor’s goats are coming over for their share. They trim up the rosebushes, eat the comfrey plant that grows behind the house, and clean up anything else the squirrels and groundhogs leave. They keep my succulent hens and chickens uprooted in my outdoor planters. They don’t want to eat them; they pull them up and throw them on the ground to die. I don’t know what they have against those poor little plants.

The other day I purchased and planted two clematis vines, hoping they would grow up a metal do-hickey in the backyard and cover it with beautiful pink and purple blooms. The next morning, something had dug them up and left them lying on the ground. I planted them again; they were dug up again. The third evening, I planted them and covered them with some boards. The boards were shoved aside, and the clematis roots were left to dry out on the ground. I suspect an armadillo is the culprit.

This summer, I plan to focus on the little hummingbirds that whiz around, lapping up the sweet juice I offer in the feeders I hang around. I have purchased solar fountains to give them a place to bathe their nectar sticky little bodies. My helpful husband bought a metal sunflower ornament and set it up outside. He is encouraging me to add more of the same. They require no care, and the goats won’t eat them, he says. I’m not so sure about that, but it might be worth a try.

Lord, please remove the inbred urge to plant things.

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