It was hot this past week.
As we stumble out of winter and into spring, bravely facing the elements in the garden to start the yearly ritual of planting so that we can sit back in the summer and watch the vegetables grow, we complain. It doesn’t matter what we complain about. We simply are in the habit of complaining.
It starts this way:
“Spring will never come. It’s so rainy! Aren’t we ever going to get some sunshine?” followed by:
“It’s too hot!” This last complaint comes after the first morning of sunshine in a week – but this time with a bit of force behind it. It’s not the weak thready sunshine of winter. No. This sunshine has some punch and it heats up up to a whopping sixteen degrees. “We’re not complaining though, ” we follow on, but really we are.
We start to wear layers and can be seen tossing off one of them or putting one back. The sleeveless padded down vest is replaced by a fleece one. We rake up the leaf mould and put it in the compost to rot some more with kitchen compost and the first grass clippings, mixing as we should the brown with the green. After a few moments of such labour, off comes the sweater. It’s too hot.
Stand in the shade – it’s too cold.
On Tuesday, the sun came out in full force. It was mightily pleasant and I wore my shorts in a devil-may-care attitude although I shouldn’t be seen in shorts in public any longer. No matter! I was in my own garden and sure to be overheated if I remained in my winter fleece.
In late afternoon, I took the car to pick up some bread and milk at the grocery store. The black interior had absorbed the day’s heat with a vengeance. The black leather was ready to barbecue my tender flesh, but I had changed back into decent leggings and sat for a few minutes to let the hot air out and to soak in the delicious heat.
When I got back, both front windows wide open letting in the eighteen degree weather, I reflected that it takes a bit of time to adjust to temperatures. Normally even in winter, I only keep the thermostat at nineteen degrees throughout the house, so why was it, on this day, that I was feeling cooked while indulging in temperature that was a degree less? It’s all relative. I would have to adjust to summer one more time. For summer was surely coming. Four more days of this heat were forecast.
So as I left the car, I opened the skylight a fraction of an inch to let hot air rise and leave and I left only one of the front windows open a wrist’s worth, not open enough for a car thief to get in, but open enough to let a breeze go through. I parked it in the shade of two grand cedar trees that surely began life in the early 19oo’s. They are easily one hundred feet tall.
Next morning, we had a mission, Frank and I. Yes, Frank has come back into my life a little bit, returned from the Far East where he wintered for a couple of months, and he phoned up to see if he could help me turn the decommissioned sauna into a storage space. That was last month.
I went on a trip of my own to Victoria to visit some friends a few weeks ago and he, knowing that I wanted some work done in the garden, asked if he could help me with that as well. He’s at loose ends and is looking for company.
It suits me. I know that he has a work ethic bar none, and that I can trust him to do a good job. That being said, if he doesn’t approve of what I want him to do, he pulls an adult tantrum and I often bend, if it doesn’t really matter to me. I might also end up with something that he wants rather than what I asked for, another familiar manipulation that a gal learns after twenty years of marriage and ten more of on-and-off relationship.
It was in this manner that my two garden beds shifted ten feet to the west and lost their unique U shape. He insisted that the sun I would get would be much better where he wanted them. I didn’t hold my ground (nor stick to my brand new, not yet fully paid for, garden design). It seemed like a little concession and I could fudge the design back into looking much like it was supposed to.
All the way up until the end, we talked about the U shape. When he laid the planks out in the garden to show me where it was and for my confirmation that the beds were parallel to the fence and acceptable for my design, the U was still there. But when he called me to see his final product, somehow the little end of garden had disappeared.
“What happened to the U?” I exclaimed is some disbelief. But with a sinking feeling, I knew what had happened. He didn’t approve of it. I wouldn’t be able to get the wheel barrow in t either end. I would have had to back in with it to roll it out forward. With both ends, I didn’t have that problem. He recognized that the design was prettier than it was practical and with out saying, just made a one-sided decision.
What was the point in protesting. If he didn’t want to do it, I would have to get someone else to do the work. It wasn’t worth the argument and the bins looked quite handsome the way they were. I let it go.
But this little detail of my story comes after my saga of the prisoner, so now I regress.
On the morning where we were going to pick up the lumber for my raised beds, we headed out to the car and nothing looked unusual. It was when I opened up the driver’s side door that I was confronted with a robin-sized bird flapping with panic. It had somehow thought that my car was a likely candidate for a summer’s nest. That wrist-sized opening had just been enough to get into the car but the configuration of things had not been sufficient for him to get back out.
I looked him up in my bird book later. It was a fairly rare Rufous-sided Towhee.
He must have cried for help because both rear-view mirrors were decorated with a thick layer which I imagine was deposited by two family members, one on each side, keeping the prisoner company.
Frank opened the two doors on the passenger side and I opened the back driver’s side door and the panicking bird flew off without so much as a thank-you for its liberation.
Talk about decoration! We spent half an hour getting the car cleaned before we could drive away in it. The steering wheel had made a perfect perch for the night but it wasn’t the only place to be cleaned, by any means. All the frustrated wanderings of the poor bird to discover some means of escape had been marked of the passage.
As nests go, it was spacious and luxurious – leather padded lining, plenty of wing-room, some practice-flying space but it lacked in accessibility – or should I say exitability.
In the afternoon, I spent an hour and a half re-cleaning the interior of the car and then the outside. It was a good thing. I rarely do cleaning, not to say that anyone else does it for me, so it had become dusty and full of Sierra’s dog hair – my sister’s pet whom I had dog-sat for the month of May.
I just want to add this little bit of adventure, which relates to our search for lumber.
On the bird’s liberation day, we went to a big-box hardware store to find the wood we needed for my raised garden beds. Good grief! It was very expensive. With my green thumb which tends more to a dainty pink colour, I would never grow three hundred dollars worth of vegetables. This really was a hobby farmer’s luxury! Each two by ten by twelve was worth almost twenty dollars.
On an off chance, the day that we picked up the wood, I insisted on going to the local lumber yard /hardware store to see if we could get a better price – or even just support local business. Wouldn’t you know, there was someone very knowledgeable who directed us to something called garden-grade lumber. It was really all that we needed. There were some faults to it, but nothing major. Instead of twenty dollars a plank, we paid seven. That’s a mighty savings.
Frank insisted that a six foot plank would fit into the car if we simply put the front seat down as far as it would go. He would travel back and forth in the back seat behind the driver (me).
Now if my car was a clunker, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so worried. But my car is a Lexus with black leather upholstery and I would never have had this car on my own doing if Frank hadn’t insisted that it was a bargain that couldn’t be passed up. I would never have thought of buying a luxury car.
Last year when the prices came down on cars because of the market crash, I looked for another car, a newer one with less intrinsic faults than this one. It is, after all, seventeen years old now. But anything I drove was so heavy to drive, so clunkerish, so tinny, even though it was new. The clincher for keeping this vehicle of mine is that the car dealers will only give me three thousand dollars for it! Some luxury! I’ll just keep the thing and run it into the ground!
But by that I didn’t mean losing the ceiling cover to some rough piece of cedar, nor scratching up the fancy leathers. I cringed at the thought.
Once again, I bent to his insistence. I did not gain my way to have the lumber delivered for fifty dollars. We made three trips in the pouring rain (and the temperature fallen to ten degrees once more) back and forth with eight pre-cut six foot long planks piled on the passenger seat. I admit that I prayed for the leather and was prepared to curse if anything befell it.
Frank’s smiley face at the end of the third round tells the tale. “See, I told you so” he says. “Trust me!”
So those were the adventures that surrounded my new garden beds.
I must say though, I can’t help thinking of that poor Rufous thing locked up in the clink all night, weeping and gnashing its “hens-teeth”, abetted in its frustration by two watchful friends on the rear view mirrors. Poor Towhee!
I bet his lady isn’t buying the “Trust me!” quip.
In fact, I might even have heard her saying, “I told you so!”