My family loves Cape Cod, especially during the summer months when it’s prime time for going to the beach, boating, and eating at my all-time favorite restaurant, Chapins Bayside. The area my summer house is in is on Ridgevale Beach in Dennis, MA, but over the summer I visited different parts of the cape and saw a lot of really interesting and pretty areas.
I visited my friend at his cape house over the summer in Hyannis and his neighbor’s had an insane garden with a path lined with flowers that led to a private beach, as picture and below. Every type of flower imaginable covered almost all the space in their backyard and the grass was extremely well kept.
I was amazed to see how well they used their land to create such a scenic area right in their own backyard and it was obvious a lot of work had gone into making such a pretty space. My favorite part was the path to the beach surrounded on all sides by the trees because it was a hidden part of the backyard; the various flowers draw in more attention right off the bat.
For as long as I can remember, it seems that every year, once a summer, I have found out the hard way that that I have lost a battle to poison ivy. My most recent experience came while I was on a camping trip with my buddies. Let the record show, we were hands down, without a doubt the worst campers at the camp site. We did not know what we were getting ourselves into.
A little background on how bad of farmers we were is well first off, nobody brought any fire wood, the main resource that is crucial for camping, we had none of it. Since every store within a 15 mile radius was closed we decided that we would use branches, wood around us. This lead to me, walking through high brush, in search of wood to burn. As you can see from the picture, none of us thought about the proper footwear to have on, we all felt flip flops were a great idea. With me being on “fire wood” duty, it meant frequent trips through the high brush, about one trip every 10-15 minutes. With it being pitch black, and the only form of light is coming from my cellphone flashlight, I wasn’t sure what I was stepping on at all times. There is where we run into my good ole friend poison ivy. In its defense, I don’t think I would have known what it looked like if the sun was out, and would have still walked through it. So here i am, day the morning of day two out of four, and I am covered with poison ivy. I must have itched it throughout then night because it spread from my feet throughout my whole body. Looking back on it, there is no reason to feel sorry for myself, I was walking through tall brush with flip flops and no socks on. I was basically asking to get poison ivy.
From that experience, I decided that will be my last time getting poison ivy, once a year is way to frequent. I am now an expert in everything that has to do with poison ivy. I know exactly what it looks like, areas it likes to grow in, and all the different forms of it. I have really hoping that this is the summer that I am free from poison ivy and don’t have to worry about the itchy scabs spreading throughout my body. So if there was one good thing that came out of this trip was that I made a few big realizations. First off, becoming a master in all things poison ivy. Secondly realizing that camping is a lot more than just pitching a tent and telling ghost stories around the fire. So from now on I will try to become a heck of a lot better camper than I was for that trip.
Let me just start by saying , NEVER RUIN A PREGNANT WOMENS GARDEN!
It all started in mid June on a Saturday afternoon in the blazing hot sun. My neighborhood consists of modern houses that are formed into a private section of the town, with kids running from pool to pool while their parents sit back and have cocktails on the modern outdoor furniture that sits in the shade. Families are always out and about walking dogs, going for bike rides, and even taking runs with each other while they gossip about how good their kids are. The one thing the brings couples to my neighborhood to raise families is the way everyone makes you feel at home. No matter if you are walking or driving by in your car everyone waves, I mean everyone!
My neighbor Brandin, a 29 year old retired professional soccer player that acted like he was still in high school, had moved in about two years ago. His wife, Megan, an athletic built blonde who was his high school sweetheart was about 7 months pregnant with their second child. Brandin and I hit it off from the day we met. His athleticism and dedication to never loose (which made everything so competitive) was what made us so similar.
Brandin and I would always meet up in our yards when we were free and play this golf game that we named “bingo bungo”. The game was played with your sand wedge, a gold ball, and a soccer ball. Every round we would kick the ball in a random place, weather it was from my front yard to his, or from one side of his house to the other (Sometimes we had to hit it over the houses and by the cars which now that I think about wasn’t the smartest idea). After the soccer ball was placed at a location, we would try to hit our golf ball at the soccer ball. The one who hit it there in the least amount of tries won that round. We would play this games for hours a day.
However, one day when we were playing, the soccer ball was placed just passed Megan’s large garden that sat behind their large brick house. The garden wasn’t the most outrageous one I’ve seen but they loved having their fresh fruits and vegetables. After Brandin started this round off by placing his ball just short of his garden it was my turn to go. The decision going through my head was between two things. Do I land my ball short of the garden like Brandin and try to match him this whole round? Or do I go for the advantage and try to place the ball just past the garden and next to the soccer ball? Well being the stupid, cocky, competitive person I was around Brandin, I decided to go for it! As I took my shot and the ball came flying off my club, I knew it wasn’t going to make it over the garden. I glanced over at Brandin and back at my ball as it plunked into the soil that all their food was being grown in.
The thing about this game was you couldn’t move the ball after hitting it, not even a nudge unless you wanted to be disqualified and loose that round. Being the competitive little high school acting brat that Brandin was, he looked over at me and said, “Lets see what your made of, hit it out of the garden.” Already being down 5-3 against him, I didn’t want to lose this whole because I had to move my ball. I smiled right back at him and said, “watch and learn”. Well their was my cockiness again because I was obviously not using my brain. I think we sometimes forgot that it was just game for fun and that we weren’t the pros on TV. As I attempted to hit the ball out of he garden, I came down with my club taking not only the ball out but also half of Megan’s tomato plants with it. That’s when me and Brandin’s eyes shot up at each other. Not only was I scared because of what I did, Brandin knew his wife was going to yell at him too for being such a child.
Of course when Megan found out we ruined half her tomato plants playing a stupid golf game in her yard she wasn’t too happy. Being 7 months pregnant didn’t quite help the situation either. After yelling at us and lecturing about how hard she worked on that garden she stormed upstairs t her bedroom, telling Brandin to stay on the couch for the night. So me and Brandin stormed back outside to clean up the mess we made. For about the next month, Megan made Brandin and I go outside, no matter if it was in the hot sun or pouring rain everyday to work on her garden. Well lets just say we had some very nice tans for the rest of the summer!
Not all plants are created equal at all. Some, may be easy to grow and require a minimal amount of upkeep to maintain its growth, while others need a lot of help in order to grow fruitfully. This is important to know when considering which plants to grow in your own personal garden. The tomato and the onion are a classic example of this.
One of the easiest plants to grow under the sun is the tomato, a plant that needs a very little attention to survive. It only needs about two inches of rain a week to survive, and that is a very slim amount. They also grow very well in some hardy conditions, they are accustomed to almost any area that receives rain. They need around 7 hours of sunlight a day as well in order for them to thrive and bear the best possible outcome. This differs greatly from the onion. The onion is rather challenging to grow for a new farmer.
Onions must be placed in a little over an inch of dirt, and they need around 5 inches of space compared to the few inches tomatoes need. It survives in zone 3-9, while a tomato can survive zone 5-9. It needs a long time to grow, and only needs an inch of rain to grow. They are so difficult because they do not have the best defenses against pesticides and insects.
Before my family planted our first garden the yard was covered in holes from our first dog Tucker. Tucker had a favorite blue chew toy that he would bring with him everywear for comfort. When Tucker was getting older and sicker, it finally came to the day to put him down, his blue chew toy was nowhere to be found, which was strange because it was always right by his side. After hours of searching for it, we had no choice but to bring tucker to the vet without it. We tried to search for the chew toy but we were never able to find it. After years past and our new garden has blossomed into something somewhat nice, we decided to get a new puppy, Nike. Nike would run through the garden and stomp on everything in his path. Just like Tucker, Nike started to dig up everything, but we would always find him before he did too much damage to our garden. During the summer of 2010 my parents threw a big party to celebrate my brothers birthday, and with everyone distracted with singing happy birthday, Nike finally got his shot to dig up the garden as much as he could. When my mom finally notice she ran down the stairs yelling at Nike to stop and all the kids laughing in the background. My mom went to pull Nike away but he would not budge. He had his nose fully in the hole and was trying to pull on something. My mom was confused so just let him go. After a few second Nike emerges his nose from the deep hole with his face covered in dirt, and with a shock to all of us he was holding Tucker’s blue chew toy. My parents were almost in tears because the memories that blue chew toy held was ones they haven’t thought about in years. That summer my parents got a stone that said “Tucker, 1989-2005” to put in our garden with the blue chew toy buried underneath it.
When I woke up in the morning and saw that it was pouring rain, I had hoped that it would slow down throughout the day. If anything, it only rained harder. The trip to the Lake Street garden wasn’t going to be postponed and we would have to get the plants rain or shine. Unfortunately, there was no shine. Despite the weather, we had to make the best of it and get the job done.
My classmates and I met at the Merrimack College campus police station and piled into the vans. When we arrived at the garden, we were each assigned a task. My group had to find the blueberries to plant in our garden at Merrimack. We found a great abundance of plants and placed them into our cart. We even found a plant that none of us ever heard of before, pink popcorn. After completing the task, we explored what the garden had to offer.
The garden had many different plants to offer, from food to flowers. To keep dry, we explored the greenhouse. All of the different assortment of colorful flowers made the room vibrant and alive with instant happiness when you walked in. On a gray, gloomy day being surrounded by all of the bright flowers made it much better. The experience of finding plants for our own garden was great. I can’t wait to start our own garden at Merrimack College.
Having been a part of a family that moves around like a pack of nomads through the years, I have had multiple different encounters and grown relationships with neighboring families. There have been little kids I was able to befriend and even some elders that I could always count on for some homemade cookies or hard candies whenever a visit was scheduled. Almost every single one of these relationships has flourished into friendly connections. All but one.
There was a lonely old man that lived on the very end of my poorly paved cul de sac growing up, his name was Stanley, I vaguely remember my parents referring to him as “Old Man Stan” from time to time. He was a very secluded man that lived in a quaint little brown house, not much to look at…until you entered the backyard. He was a master in disguise when it came to gardening. Stanleys’ backyard seemed to proliferate every single day, a new bloom of vibrant colors and scents always adding character to his artwork of a garden. With no kids or a wife this seemed to be his one passion, a sort of prized possession his garden was.
One scorching summer day I decided to take my energetic puppy Tucker for a walk down the street, the air conditioned rooms in my house not really cutting it, so I thought that some fresh air and a nice breeze would do us some good. Tucker was big for his age, growing rapidly each day as a black Labrador usually does. My stature as an eleven year old was not exactly sturdy enough to tame the wild beast. Walking past Stanleys’ house I noticed a bunny peeking from the beautiful backyard of Stanleys’ house. Immediately I panicked knowing Tucker well enough to know that if he sees this Bunny he will most definitely try and pounce.
Before I could even take a breath my hand was abandoned by Tuckers black leash, looking up I saw it flapping through the air, his panther like body sprinting towards the poor bunny. No matter how fast I ran I knew the outcome of this chase would end terribly. By the time I caught up with tucker he had made his way around the whole garden, his massive paws leaving indents in the once perfectly laid out soil. The hydrangeas that were once standing up towards the sun now smushed to a pulp in the dirt. Tucker sat knowing what he had done, with his face down buried in his paws. Before Stanley could make it outside I grabbed Tucker and we made it back home thinking that we were in the clear. That is until my mom got a call about a ruined flower plot and the paw prints that were left behind as evidence.
I’ve been feeling a little uninspired about my next blog post recently due to my lack of having a green thumb. However, when I was home for Easter break, my parents were having a discussion about their landscaping plans for this spring now that the weather is finally warming up. My Mom’s favorite plants in the yard are her hydrangea bushes. We’ve given her hydrangea plants the past three years for Mother’s Day. This year my Mom wants to add a fourth plant. So I seized the opportunity engage in their conversation about the planting plans! I asked my mom why she likes hydrangeas so much. She told me about all of the times that her and my Dad vacationed on the Cape when they first got married. They would stay at my grandparents cottage (which is now owned by my Aunt and Uncle) that was surrounded by hydrangea bushes. My grandfather always took great care to bring out the deep blue/violet color in the blossoms of the plants that decorated the landscape of the cottage. I find myself hanging out with my cousins every summer at that same cottage, and my Aunt and Uncle have kept up the tradition of caring for these plants.
My Dad has explained to me that it is easy to get that deep color on the Cape because of the abundance of pine trees and sandy soil which make it an acidic, well-draining environment where they like to live. At my house in Franklin we have the fortune of owning a property surrounded by pine trees and the same type of sandy soil! My parents are also thrilled to be able to get beautiful results with very little effort because they too lack green thumbs. I understand a little better now that it is important to know the type of conditions plants like to live in to be able to thrive.
Not many people know what exists in the flat landscape that is South Dakota. To me, it is filled with rich culture, populated with the honest Lakota people looking for any means to survive. One of these people is named Patricia. Patricia has one large greenhouse that she uses to grow different kinds of plants and vegetables throughout the year to help support the poverty stricken Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Last year’s harvest from Patricia’s greenhouse and farm right outside harvested tens of thousands of pounds of potatoes, carrots, as well as many different kinds of flowers. The day that we were there, we helped plant tons of small plots that would end up being prepared finally by the group the next day. We planted heirloom balloon flowers, zinnias, Indian summer rudbeckias, and bright light cosmos, just to name a few. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of the flowers that previous groups helped plant and grow as we were the second volunteer group at Re-Member for the season.
Any means of gardening/farming/agriculture, large or small makes the biggest difference for the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation. On the Rez, there are very scarce resources, such as fresh produce. If you were to go to one of the gas stations/convenience stores called Sharp’s Corner, and you walked in you would see isles lined with the biggest brands of snack foods like Doritos, Pop-Tarts, Lays, Snickers, Reese’s. But what you wouldn’t see are any fresh fruits or vegetables until you went into the back left corner of the store to a small refrigerator unit that wasn’t filled with Kid Cuisine and Stouffer’s. In this refrigerator was the produce section of the store where a bag of grapes that cost $2-$3 dollars back home at Market Basket. In South Dakota, that bag of grapes costs upwards of more than $10 dollars to put things into prospective of what resources are available on the Rez.
Not quite a year ago I put up a six foot privacy fence around most of my yard. I say most of it, because on the east side of my driveway there is a strip about thirty feet wide, and a hundred or so feet long that we decided to leave unfenced. We did this for a couple reasons, mainly though because any kind of fence on that side makes it difficult to see oncoming traffic when pulling out of the driveway….which is kind of important. This space, which is occupied only by two Bradford Pears and hemmed in at one end with some Arborvitaes, is really a wasted area that needs a purpose.
I have a vision for it though, and it takes the form of a meadow garden. For those who don’t know what a meadow garden is, it is a planting area that basically has been allowed to revert back to a “natural” meadow-like state. When filled with hardy, native plants and wildflowers, these areas serve a very important role. First, they reduce the amount of a non-native and extremely invasive plant that is found in most lawns – grass. Second, they provide food and habitat for smaller animals like rabbits and chipmunks. This can be critical to their survival, especially in the colder months. Another essential service that meadow gardens provide, (and arguably the most important) is a source of food for our pollinators. The role pollinators play in agriculture cannot be understated and they must be protected.
In my situation, having a meadow garden will be mutually beneficial for both myself, and the pollinators as well. Just on the other side of the fence that borders this area, is my vegetable garden. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a steady decline in bees, and I believe this has contributed to some lackluster harvests. I’m hoping that by providing a smorgasbord of wildflowers just a few feet away, bees and other pollinators will be enticed to stick around. If that fails, at the very minimum I’ll at least have something that’s aesthetically pleasing.