Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Did You Garden As A Child?

Not me!  I don't recall really even using that word as a verb.  Come to think of it, we said "garden" only when we meant "vegetable garden," unless it was to refer to someplace altogether fancier, like Bellingrath or Bayou Bend.  No, what we did was yard work.  I am delighted to finally be old enough to say this: Back then, it was much harder!  Well, it was.  Those were the days when everyone double-dug flowerbeds.  That right there separates the wheat from the chaff.  And everyone mowed their own grass, except for my grandfather Chief.  He was the only person I knew that had a "yard man."  We had our own little crew.

The yard team, not including the poodle.

As the oldest of four kids, I was recruited early on and introduced to the mysteries of yard work.  And we all know, there's a right way and a wrong way to do everything.  The right way to gather the lawn clippings at my house involved emptying the grass catcher out onto the driveway and spreading it thinly.  Then, only after the grass was dried to a fine, threadlike form, was it safe to bag it up.  To sweep, it was imperative to employ a back-and-forth path across the driveway, like a typewriter (we used those, too).  Quite improper to sweep in long avenues down the driveway.  The Chief Engineer around here will tell you that mowing at his house had to be done with the grass catcher removed, and the grass spraying toward the center of the yard.  This required mowing in a continual counterclockwise circle.  To mow clockwise simply wasn't done.

Front yard.  Check out that sharp edging work!
And we didn't have all the fine technical tools we have now, either.  I very clearly remember crawling around the trees on my hands and knees, clipping the grass back with hand clippers.  String trimmers weren't invented until later.  And as for blowers, we might not have used them if they had been around.  I don't believe anyone in my extended family has one today, as a matter of fact.  I wonder why that is?

I still line beds with liriope.
As I got older, I was trained in the use of the edger, a fine old yellow McClane.  I was a big fan of that machine.  Years later, when I got my first house, I bought one of my own.  It took me a long time to realize that I had laid the foundation for gardening over the course of many hot Saturdays in the yard. 

You couldn't have convinced me of it back then, but my parents gave me a great gift by insisting we all do yard work.  I was directed as a very young child to notice things in the garden.  I observed first-hand the work that goes into transforming the land.  I learned that details matter, and to take pride in my little plot.  I still wouldn't call it gardening, but I imagine it was more elevated than yard work.


  1. No, no, no. In the Chief Engineer's household 1) there was no grass catcher, 2) the discharge was always to the outside of the spiral and 3) raking was required. The young Chief Engineer saw it differently (more in line with the description in the post) and was relieved of duty forthwith.

  2. 1. I didn't realize you were paying that much attention; didn't look like it at the time. Remember that Abby is watching you just as closely although she pretends not to.
    2. The best Cief garden story comes from his Victory Garden when Honey-pregnant with Judy-was on her hands and knees digging weeds. Chief says, "Honey, don't do that, use a hoe!"
    3. Are you going to spill the beans about the Saturday List and the saga of cdismembering and cooking a chicken?

  3. Dear Anonymous,
    I'm saving those topics for a later post! I remember EVERYTHING!