Tuesday, 21 July 2020

View from the Crow’s Nest: The garden teaches me

A few weeks ago, we camped on the mainland, close to our children (in their driveway for three days! and along the Fraser River for four days.) It was a lovely break, but then we came home again to the garden.

Lesson Number One: Nature does what it is created to do whether you are around or not. That’s the good news.

A lot of plants thrived without our tending. First, the berries: oh my! We have more than 20 pounds of blueberries and 5 pounds of raspberries in our freezer so far, with more to come.

We dug up a volunteer potato plant, one that had popped up in the middle of the onions from a potato we left behind last fall. It didn’t need our help at all to produce almost 3 pounds of new potatoes.

The perennials looked great. Ditto for the fig, peach and apple trees and the grape vine.

They do what they need to do without our help. I like that! It’s like bonus days at the local shops where they do periodic giveaways to loyal customers. We get freebies just for maintaining a space where things can grow.

Lesson Number Two: Nature does what it is created to do whether you are around or not. That’s the not-so-good news.

Gardens and children have something in common: they need regular tending to control the weeds that could choke out the life of your plants, or the bad habits that could take over the lives of your children. If you let down your guard and take a break from vigilant parenting or gardening, you will have twice as much work to do when you pick up the slack again.

And so it is with the garden. Where there was only nice dark soil when we left, now weeds and grasses were sprouting and even running rampant. Vines that should have been climbing, weren’t. Flowers that had finished blooming drooped.  So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. It wasn’t hard work, but it’s work that needs doing. And it sure is nice to have a grandson in town to help with it (for a price, of course!)

Lesson Number Three: Nature does what it is created to do. Sometimes in doing battle with nature, you lose. Get used to it.

Many of our plants did well. But some did not. We planted beans three times. The first time we had bad seeds. None of them sprouted. The second time they sprouted, began growing, and then slowly disappeared. I’m thinking slugs are the culprit, but it could also be earwigs, bunnies, or some other wild critters.

 Still, as the saying goes, “hope springs eternal” so before we left for holidays, we planted one more package of bean seeds, some in a nice row, and some here, there, and everywhere, just to see if we could fool the critters. Nice try, but no cigar. If we are lucky, we will have about three bean plants that are going to give us a meal. Sad.

Lesson Number 4: Nature does what it is created to do. Prepared to be surprised.

For 12 years, we have had a pond in the back yard, stocked with a dozen goldfish. Sometimes a few fish don’t survive the winter, so we add a few more, but these fish have lived a charmed life. The herons and raccoons who live in the area have not discovered them.

But we didn’t reckon with the mink. Yes, you read that right: a mink living in a suburban neighbourhood. One afternoon, after the garden work was done, we were sitting on the patio enjoying the results when we noticed unusual  turbulence in the pond. Within seconds, a little brown head popped up, then down again, and then, to our shocked amazement, a mink climbed out of the pond and scooted up the waterfall with our biggest fish in its mouth. After stashing it under a bush, it was brazen enough to slither back down the falls and into the water, looking for more. This was enough to bring out the “Farmer MacGregor” instinct in the resident sweetie; armed with a rake he began stirring the water.

Suddenly the water was quiet. No mink ... until I spotted it running alongside the fence into the neighbour’s yard. It had used some overhanging plants as a hidden escape route. A few minutes later, the neighbour on our other side let out a screech – the mink had circled behind our fence, entered her yard, and popped under the fence back into our yard. Long story short: the mink outfoxed us. It retrieved the fish and was gone. It came back one more time, and this time, Al managed to poke it so it knew it was not welcome. We have three fish left.

We returned to the patio licking our wounds, when, to add insult to injury, the neighbourhood feral rabbit hopped leisurely through our yard, reminding us that no matter what we do, Nature will do what it was created to do.


  1. Oh for a garden of one's own. Your garden reads like a patch of paradise itself. Your summation of Nature the rare true wisdom of experience. And a real live mink! I'm going to have to Wikipedia minks; I don't know what they look like or how they fit in Nature's scheme of things.

  2. Like paradise, however, the weeds invade, so like Adam and Eve, we have to work! The mink is totally new to us, we had no idea there was one in the neighbourhood. Coincidently our neighbours just reported that they saw a mink run across the road with a squirrel in its teeth -- dead, presumably. They are sleek and beautiful, but killing machines, apparently.