Making Mountains out of Mole [Gopher] Hills

Today I am again going to try and make a beautiful garden plan come to life. The image is a portion of a garden a parent volunteer at the elementary school drew for an expanded garden area. It was her first attempt at putting a plan to paper and I was mightily impressed. The fruit trees in the plan were intended to be atop raised portions and surrounded by berms and swales down to the path level.

Well, I started this week with feeling I was single-handedly going to save this plan because I secured as much free fill dirt as we could want right outside the school gate. I don't call this soil because I don't think of it as vital, alive medium. But, in truth it really is soil. Let me back up. I left off a month ago writing about how exhausted I was. I also wrote about how I was so stressed with the lack of parent volunteer involvement. Just three weeks ago I showed up for a work day I'd planned through the PTA and only 3 others showed. Two had to leave within the first 2 hours. The third was a wonderful volunteer who wanted to take over this garden plan and rent the equipment, haul the dirt and make it happen. I introduced the plan creator and this enthusiastic working mom. I asked them to take the lead as I was getting out of town company. Didn't happen. This mom was called in the last several weeks to her job over the weekend. Without equipment or fill dirt to create the rolling hills - nothing could be done.

Then school was off for spring break and the streets all around my trailer park were torn apart with heavy equipment beeping all day every day. It seems that the sidewalks planned for years to address safety issues for kids walking to school were finally being created. One day I approached the earth moving supervisor and asked if they might simply haul the fill dirt up to the garden area where we want this new expanded garden. It took a day and my writing out a receipt, but we got a personable young man all to ourselves (Chief Treehugger and I, the only constants in the school garden program) to dump dirt. I had raced around with CT marking coordinate points, based on the above plan. We marked these points with stakes, connected them with caution tape planted tall colored stakes where the trees would be planted at the apex of each mound and watched the dirt pile up. A note on scale. The turquoise fence is 6' at the height of the curve. Yes, these are mountains.

This was a week ago and each day I opened the gate and then spent most of the day waiting for the young man in the Bobcat TM because I refused to push the dirt around with a shovel. CT and the garden plan creator both worked really hard for several days shoveling dirt. I watched and did minor tasks.  I was bound and determined not to exhaust myself past the point again. It just wouldn't make sense for me to injure myself or again become bone weary.  Besides, that little fossil fuel fired machine works miracles!

Oh, and CT and I raced around and placed wet cardboard over the grass and straw down along a strip beside another building. This zone will be for our sunflower planting project. This modified sheet mulching experiement was my quick decision to utilize more of the free dirt. I admit it - I got dirt greed.  This is why we now have too much dirt and not enough shaped beds.

Let me put another perspective on this big, dramatic garden building. In just 6 days the school will be visited by 1,000's of visitors for the annual garden tour. Hells, bells. It is essentially CT and I to do all the prep work. The plan's creator will be involved and work hard. But, she has little kids and a husband.

My observation these last nine months is that women are way, way over-extended and over-scheduled. I know this old woman ends up doing too much of the physical work. Where is the muscle? (I'll admit that CT breaks the mold as a man giving unstintingly. He is a very rare bird.) Yesterday I watched more than a dozen men devote themselves to drilling little boys in how to win at baseball. I ached to approach these guys and beg them to each donate a half hour, one wheel barrel load, whatever . . . I wanted to confront them with this example they set for these little boys. Games rule. All free time is for entertainment.

Not one of the 15 or more men stopped and even asked what these women were doing with these mountains. I take that back. One dad ranted at seeing the dirt being dropped at the garden. He was outraged that the gopher holes dot the field and that is where the dirt should be hauled - because they spend (big dollar amount) to use the field. He was pissed. Another dad simply tossed orange peels on the pile. I did approach him. I pointed out the compost bin and asked the sons if they remember me from collecting their lunch scraps. The man looked at me like I was dog shit.
Oh, and the relocated pile of compost we'd asked the man on the Bobcat to move hit a sprinkler head and tore up the lawn. The compost pile blew apart like a volcano. Yikes. This will bring out the ire of the school district's facility staff. Whoops. Oh, and the capital project, the monster sidewalk, street, parking lot construction will not be done in time for school reopening. Whoops.

So, school starts tomorrow and it is also going to rain tomorrow. Kids will doubtless return filled with vacation freedom and need extra supervisory energy to get back into the routines. Heavy equipment will be blocking the hundreds of cars in long lines sitting, idling motors to drop each pupil at the front door. Kids will feel the tension, the anger of the parents and teachers. And here are these deliciously huge piles of dirt to charge. Ugh. I will hang out today at the farmers market and do some shoveling, but I am weary before I even start.

Next Saturday the tour will happen, I will speak at the formal presentation and I will lead groups around the campus. The reality will be that I'll be leading envisioning exercises, apirational descriptions and optimistic concepts for future development. It will be what it will be. I've decided my goal is 17 years from this tiring weekend. The school's centennial is in 2027. Maybe the school as a garden will be a reality by then.

P.S. Just read something that gave me a great fantasy . .. Wouldn't it be great today if a flash mob showed up and hundreds started dancing, singing, shoveling, stomping and shaping the great garden bed? That image might make me smile every now and then today. I'll have to come up with what tune might best suit. (Pink Floyd's "We don't need no education" - from "The Wall"?)


shawn said...

All I can think to say is "WOW".Just so cool you are giving so much of yourself to the garden project at the school. You Ms. lady are a much better person than I am. My energy level is little to none and honestly I really just do not have the drive or desire to take on such a monumental task.

katecontinued said...

You flatter me, Shawn. I believe we each get fired up to do what we can when we can. The drive comes for each of us in different ways. Mine was the need to have purpose. I was wired that way. Sometimes I have so many ideas I feel I could explode. I had to channel this to survive. I also need to channel my massive anger and frustration with the corporate owners of this nation and their government lackeys.

This kind of stuff can poison a person's spirit and being. I must grab hold of good things, of ethics and of honorable effort to make a difference.

Anonymous said...

kate, wow! i'm both amazed and a bit overwhelmed by all that dirt! and a bobcat too! my thoughts also echo shawn's completely. and i both understand and stumble personally with your words in your response to shawn, that need for purpose and a channel for anger and frustration. i'm stumbling forward in search of my own personal channel but i know already i'm not up to a project the size of yours! so, you go, lady! (even on your "tired" days!)

also, reading derrick jensen's How Shall I Live My Life? On Liberating the Earth from Civilization. have you ever read it? a compilation of conversations between derrick and several other environmental activists. it comes to mind because many of their words sound very much like yours and they too are in it for the long haul, like your 17 year time frame.

katecontinued said...

*blub* Your words touched my heart this early morning, becky. I woke exhausted again. The preparation for the garden festival goes on . . . today is a huge one and tomorrow will be a late one, because 2 volunteers can only help on Friday night. My face is wet. Most days I am home and shut down by 4:30, so I already am willing myself to do what I must (like nap) to make that work.