I live in a land of opportunity. That I am free to pick and choose the activities on which I volunteer my time, is a wonderful privilege. That people and organisations give me the opportunity to volunteer (despite health crises, dangers of litigation, industrial laws, occupational health and safety provisions) makes for a lucky life.
Recently, in this blog, I introduced the Clarence City Council’s volunteer program and explained how I had registered my willingness to garden on the properties of people who could no longer keep at it. Last week I visited my client for the obligatory meet and greet and during the walk around the garden, saw some but not many weeds. This was the garden of someone who had taken enormous pleasure in creating something beautiful and was hopeful that someone would help out to keep it at its best.
Then, on a second day, I spent almost 5.5 hours working on that garden, sometimes under spring showers, sometimes under full sun, sometimes with a cold wind blowing the cold air of central Tasmania across. But at all times with enormous pleasure.
On arrival I aimed to complete the weeding of a number of plots but, as any gardener knows, weeds are insidious. They hide. They present as small and insignificant. That day they lured me on to believe that in a couple of hours, a number of plots would be weedless. You guessed it – I completed the weeding of one plot only.
The heavily mulched rose bed that curved around the fence line, was dotted with worn out nasturtiums, simple grass weeds, the occasional dandelion, some ‘bushes’ of yellow flowering and white flowering oxalis and the runners of invasive twitch grass – and most of this was hidden in the layers of the mulch.
The mulch was wonderfully deep and I was super impressed about the healthy friable soil beneath, and the healthy roaming worms. I mentioned this to my client and learned that for 35 years he had been feeding the soil.
You can see, in the following photo, what I started work on.
Pulling out the nasturtiums and those grasses that were virtually loose in the mulch was the easy part of the job that I set myself. Digging out the rest was the labour intensive work. Plant by plant. Runner by runner.
And then those pesky oxalis plants – if you have ever dealt with them you know that when mature they leave brown seeds in the ground usually the colour of the earth. If you yank them out without care, a wonderful crop of more oxalis is guaranteed. The immature plants have a long root with the still white ‘seeds’ spaced along somewhat like a fishing line with a number of hooks placed regularly. Gardeners know that however carefully you dig and lift out an oxalis plant, at least one seed will always get away, and probably more. This is why ridding a garden of this noxious weed is almost impossible. So I worked at this patiently, slowly and watching closely. Those oxalis weeds that had grown in and around the rose roots proved the most challenging and I know that I failed to clear all the roots and seeds of some.
Late morning my client brought me a welcome cup of tea and wondered whether I had done enough for the day. ‘Nah’, I said. Again when I sat eating my lunch, the same thought was re-expressed. ‘I haven’t met my goal for the day yet’, I responded then added the question. ‘But would you rather I go?’ I suddenly realised that maybe my client might, in fact, be sick of me and want me to leave. ‘No. Stay as long as you like.’ And stay I did. Stayed until the rose garden strip was free of weeds. Stayed until I had almost filled one large wheelie bin with green waste; heavily so.
The length of time I spent in that garden was entirely up to me. My client would have been delighted even if I had left after 2 hours. I love the flexibility that I can set my own goals, and depending on my energy levels I can do as much or as little as I choose – and that any effort will be welcomed.
Yes – I could have been working in my own garden, or in those of my friends who say ‘come and work in my garden if you are at a loose end’, but to be able to help out people who can’t continue to maintain their garden, activates my endorphins. I came away tired but immensely happy. A beautiful day!