Journey makes gardener a bit squirrelly

After 16 years of creative impulses, I have created a maintenance monster. And now this place makes me feel like I’m going a bit squirrelly.

Wow – the seasons sure come and go fast, don’t they?   It seems like it was just the other day when I was putting out the garden ornaments and the stinkbugs were moving out of the house. All of a sudden it’s time to put them away again, and the stinkbugs are moving back in.

And now, just after being away for only a couple of weeks getting our daughter to school on the Island, I come back to a disaster around here. It seems the minute I turn my back on this place, all heck breaks loose and I’ve got a colossal clean-up job on my hands, which drives me nuts.

I guess you could say that I have your regular garden variety of beds consisting of berries, veggies, flowers and assorted plants and shrubs. Except I have two-plus acres of them, including a woodland garden and ‘meadow’ – and they all cry out for constant attention.

It’s no one’s fault but my own, because after 16 years of creative impulses, I have created a maintenance monster. And now this place makes me feel like I’m going a bit squirrelly.

I often feel like one of those cute little critters when they’ve stuffed their bulging cheeks with food, but still try to find room for more and the episode of I Love Lucy often comes to mind when she’s trying to keep up with wrapping the chocolates as they whiz by on the conveyor belt.

I have this re-occurring nightmare that I’m this momma bird trying to feed a giant nest full of hungry, open-mouthed chicks and I often lie awake at night wondering how I’m going to keep up with all the work.

From early spring until the snows, I hit the ground running because there’s a job that needs doing yesterday, or there’s the inevitable ‘stop-what-you’re-doing’ disaster, such as a rock wall fail when I’m going to lose the works down the bank if I don’t get to it that day.

Repeater jobs like weeding and watering, picking the ever-bearing berries and mowing grass that keeps growing, all steal my time away from the fun jobs, like building yet another rock wall.

Often one job begets another, then another and another, creating a domino effect that can go on for weeks.  Surprises sometimes surface, like being asked to be on a garden tour this year, requiring hours and hours of tidy-up time or the unexpected things, like the death of our dear dog Sunny, who needed to have a beautiful grave site made behind the house. His loss has now gained us a deer problem, and they now regularly wander in from the woods, making gardening seem so futile.

Juggling the gardening balls can be tricky business at the best of times when there’s the usual ones always rotating away, such as family and company stuff, working on the lake property, appointments, beach time and domestic duties.

It gets even tougher when I have to factor in the other ‘full-stop stuff’, such as a solid week of firewood or attending to my hubby’s honey-do list, such as teetering on a ladder for two weeks sanding and staining the deck while he’s away at work.

I’m a sucker when it comes to accepting unwanted plants, so I have an over-loaded over-load bed until I can re-home them and I can’t say no to someone who needs a little help in their own garden. Three writing deadlines a month don’t help matters either, so it all teases away at the time pie, making me feel a bit bug-eyed sometimes.

I know I walk my talk when it comes to gardening organically, but at the same time I’m wracked with guilt writing these columns, because I have a dirty little secret going on around here.

To the unsuspecting onlooker, the yard may look pretty and well tended. But underneath the mulch lurks a bounty of weed roots and dry earth, and the rock walls that seem so solid are slowly falling down from poor construction or they’re being pushed out by the ever-growing trees around them and the slow hillside creep.

I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to getting things done around here in the summer too, because I don’t go to bed early enough to be up before the sun cranks up the heat, making it too hot to hoe, and be darned if I’m going to rush my morning coffee when that’s the only time I’m not flying around like a chicken with my head cut off. Yep, I’m a fake and a fraud because it’s all a façade.

So my cup has indeed runneth over, my plate is full, I’m perpetually behind the eight ball and I’m just like the little Dutch boy trying to hold back all the leaks in the dam.   And to what end?  We’re no longer spring chickens, so it’ll be for sale at some point in the future when I’m too old and crotchety to keep this yard up and to boot, Highways may eventually need to expropriate most of it – including our house – if they four lane the road from Kamloops to Calgary as promised.  So it’s really all for naught when it comes right down to it. So I regularly revel at my pity-party.

The giving up of our gardens at some point in our lives is the same for all of us I suppose.

Maybe you can hand the reins over to your offspring so you can still enjoy mucking around in it for a bit longer but, for most of us, it’s a matter of keeping our fingers crossed that the future new owners will cherish your hard work and love it the way you did.

I know I’ll never be able to keep my head above water around here and it’s not mine forever, but I nevertheless still soldier on in the sun and soil trying to stay in the moment.

After all, as the saying goes, “it’s the journey, not the destination” that matters the most.

For past columns and more information, see


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