This week I planted the garlic and pulled out the remainders of the cabbage and peppers, cut down the asparagus ferns, and piled six inches of straw over everything. I left the kale, which is still producing, and I let the cherry tomatoes remain standing to act as a sort of retaining wall until the straw is damp enough that it won't blow too easily into the pool.
I love spreading straw. That dusty smell isn't quite the same scent as hay, but it's close enough to send me straight back to childhood and Grandpa's farm and my horse Shadow. That hollow sound horses make when they chew oats. The damp-wood smell of Grandma and Grandpa's back porch. The particular squeak and slam of the back door. The crunchy sound of boots on gravel. The fascinating view of gravel speeding by underfoot as I peered through the hole in the floor of Grandpa's pick-up. Good memories.
I wonder sometimes if my farmer grandfather is watching me from beyond as I dig potatoes and dry mint and play mini-farm in my backyard. I feel him nearby as I harvest my own wheat and oats, hoe carrots, and pick zucchini. I picture him grinning as I dig up my four sugar beets. (They were an experiment, okay? I just wanted to see if I could grow them.) I am grateful every day for my heritage and that my parents passed on to me the love of land.
I took my grandkids to the park the other day, and as we walked we took notice of the birds, ducks, squirrels, chipmunks, and even a garter snake wriggling like a bootlace on the path. My granddaughter sighed and said, "I love nature. I would never hurt it."