When we moved to our farm years ago on that cold January day, my husband and I had dreams and plans for the coming of spring. As soon as the soil could be worked, we imagined ourselves planting large vegetable, fruit and flower gardens. The whole east side of our front yard was already worked up into what looked like a nice garden plot with an additional area of planted strawberries, making the garden L-shaped.
While viewing the farm before purchase, we noticed the many trenches – especially on the west side of the yard – presumably dug by the previous owner. Little did we imagine their purpose. In spring, once the snow melted in the bush, we splashed our way around rusty tin cans, bicycle parts, car tires, broken bed frames, rock piles and other corroded, useless pieces of junk which the scrap dealer said was of no value to him. To our chagrin, we discovered our very own swamp, so we sloshed our way into summer, still unable to do our planting.
As my husband cleared brush, replaced fences and cleaned out sheds, our rubbish heap grew, making many trips to the landfill necessary. I busied myself making a perennial flower bed around the elm tree in the southwest corner of the front yard, hoping to salvage the steel-rimmed wooden wagon wheels I’d discovered among the trees. To my dismay, they fell apart.
It rained less the next year making it possible for us to hire a neighbour with the largest backhoe I’d ever seen. It certainly was the machine for the job. The neighbour dug a ditch along the west side of our property. The next spring, we were impressed as the snowmelt drained nicely, helping the yard to dry up sooner. So adept was our neighbour that we hired him again the following year to make a ditch around the north and east sides of the yard to provide the drainage we needed around the house and garden areas. While digging, he unearthed a few colourful, uniquely shaped rocks that I thought would be suitable for the rock garden that I was still planning.
Early the next summer, a van drove onto our yard and stopped where my husband and I were pruning trees along the driveway. The driver, a middle-aged gentleman who lived here as a boy, was looking for the old wagon wheels that he remembered from his childhood. Seeing the ditches, our visitor remarked that this yard had always been rather swampy. He was quite impressed with the drainage and landscaping accomplishments.
Our next project was to landscape the front yard. I was planning for a small vegetable garden to the east of the house and a special rock garden in the southeast corner – a garden where the grandchildren could walk, climb the rocks and perhaps pick a few flowers.
With that a few hard decisions were made – like hauling away the existing cracked cement pad from the middle of the front yard. The eyesore that it was, it had still enabled us as a family to enjoy many bonfires and wiener roasts. We hired a skid-steer that fall, to help haul dirt and slope the front yard to provide some runoff. The dirt from the ditching contained many roots and rocks so we had our work cut out for us. After a summer of rooting and rocking, we finally had the yard ready to seed grass.
Oh, as for my dream rock garden? I’m still dreaming.
– Marilyn Goertzen writes from Grunthal, Manitoba