Field grass had grown up through the thick ice plant groundcover in the front flower bed. Dad had sprayed with a product that avowed “kills grass, not flowers,” which did not kill the grass and did kill the flowers, just not the plants. He had spent hours poking at the grass with a long weeding tool, from a seated position. But he finally gave up. “Rog, I have made a decision. I want to dig all the ice plants out.” I began to dig in the dense matt. “Make sure to shake out the soil,” Dad instructed. I did so (and would have done so), tossing the dirtless plant clumps in his direction. I did not look as I tossed them, and was confident I was not hitting him with the clumps, but did toss them in the vicinity of his feet, where the remnant soil filled his shoes. “Roger’s revenge,” I quipped playfully. “Did you know you dig with your left foot?” Mom asked randomly. No, I did not know. I am fairly confident my long life of garden digging has been ambidextrous (or as the local newspaper recently headlined, “amphibious”), but for some reason my left boot liked this job. Dad had stumbled out with all his hand tools, but sat in his chair talking to me as I strained at the earthy tangles. Several times he enthused, “I’m enjoying just visiting and watching you work.” As long as he is happy, I am happy. Using a leaf rake, he pulled the clumps together and lifted them into the garbage can, which I had positioned near his chair. The filled bags were very heavy, and the wheeled can, with four filled ice-plant bags, felt full of rocks. After two hours, we had an 8×9 open space, penned in by old bushes, with soft sandy soil, an empty pretty, space. “I like it just like that,” Mom insisted. “I don’t want any more bushes that you have to take care of.” But Dad and I really wanted to decorate the space with new flowering plants. We took ten-year-old Amy to the nursery, and carefully selected the plants based on tolerance of full sun and low water, plant height, and especially color and beauty of flower. The empty space is now decorated with beautiful flowering plants, seen by every car that passes—a thousand a day, easily—and every person that walks by. They all know: That’s Nelson’s yard; look how nice he has made it. “You did a big job today, Rogie. I didn’t think we would even start this job, let alone finish.” Truth be told, neither did I. Both my back and my attitude held out. We finished at dusk, and I felt too tired to cook, so out came the leftover whole-wheat lasagna Sarah sent over days before, with canned corn and peas, warmed in the microwave. Remembering the ravenous mule deer roving the neighborhood, I ventured into the dark and chill to grate Irish Spring bar soap on and around the plants. Though we like seeing the deer, having our plants eaten overnight would have made us very sad. But the next morning, the plants were intact and happily boasting their blossoms.
(Pictured above: Dad’s ice plants, before the non-killing spray killed them.)
(Pictured below: our new flower garden, before and after.)
(The string is not to keep out the deer, which would easily step over it, but rather the neighborhood children congregating at the corner bus stop who always traipse through.)