Wednesday, June 29, 2016

# 566 - The Grass is Greener on the Other Side

More than ever before, dirt is a part of our life. We purchased our acreage approximately 17 years ago. Our girls were young - Stefie was in Elementary school and Heather was in Junior High. We all worked hard and played hard on our land. They both had fun pitching tents, swimming in the lake, playing in the creek, playing flashlight tag, building camp-fires, and running from bats swooping toward their heads. There are too many wonderful memories of them growing up being wild ones through the forest.

Then again, there are these memories...picking up sticks. A forest has a lot of sticks. Unending sticks. But, to build a camp-fire to sit around and roast marshmallows and make s'mores, you need sticks. The girls learned the value of hard work as they spent time each day gathering sticks, limbs and building their fire to burn that night.

Stefie yanking vines.

Heather determined to also remove the vines and huge roots
left from clearing this area of trees.
We took this rural acreage and cleared a couple of acres. The clearing began with grueling work that Sgt. David perversely enjoyed because he had a lot of energy to expend thru chopping, burning and purging.

About 15 years ago.

By the end of the work for this area of dense wood being cleared, we were left with dirt, dirt and more dirt. The berry vines with large thorns also fought to quickly resurge their growth through the soil.

It took a couple of years of hard work, but we finally laid a pallet of St. Augustine grass in this cleared area and it took root to spread over the coming years to make a beautiful yard. Sgt. David and I had come camping on our land, in a tent, and we ordered the pallet of grass to be delivered. My husband was working so hard and we retreated to the tent for a nap as the pallet sat nearby and I couldn't nap, so I went outside and laid the entire pallet before he woke up. I don't think I have the same strength or energy these days! The photo directly above and then the one directly below are of a time-lapse of a minimum of 15 years.

A bonus of hardy, thick St. Augustine grass is that it prevents growth of the berry vines from coming through, but you have to keep the grass mowed for it to do its job properly. The weeds can't be allowed to thrive and grow amidst the sod. We tried EVERYTHING to keep these horrible thorned vines from growing and spreading, but St. Augustine grass surprised me and finally worked with us to do the trick.

However, there was a gap of time when we didn't visit our acreage at all. There was a full year when we didn't come to the land and that's when my mother discovered she had breast cancer. Her battle was short, only about two years, and in her last year of life, I had zero desire to leave our main home in the city, six houses down from her house.

At times unkempt, the sodded area would have waist high weeds.
However, we eventually managed to fight our way back to enjoying the acreage. In fact, the week my mother passed away, I felt an instinctual strong need to come back to the acreage, so Sgt. David brought me with a loaded down flatbed trailer of yard tools, and I sat on the Cub Cadet mowing for six hours...zoning out...making peace with the inevitable. The acreage gave me space and it allowed me to be with nature so I could accept both life and death.

I didn't want to talk with anyone during this time about her coming death. She was only 57 and wanted so badly to live. Sometimes the fighters die fighting.

I was still working a minimum of 50 hours a week, but for two years I'd been spending significant time taking my mother to M.D. Anderson. I had taken her to her last appointment about two weeks before this day of mowing, and I knew there would now be no more trips to M.D. Anderson. Everything that could be done had been done and the cancer had spread everywhere...spine, brain, lungs, femur...everywhere. I knew, at any time, there would be no more mother. She was leaving involuntarily and I would experience a deep feeling of loss in a new way. She died within three days after my silent day of mowing. 

So, the grass out here has a weird connection to life and death out here for me. I guess people who love to garden and farm can relate.

But, to see the land go from dirt to a place of beauty because of diligence was rewarding, indeed. I might not have been able to control my mother's cancer growth, but I damn sure could chop down the weeds.

The good thing through this process of many years is that I learned that St. Augustine grass definitely is worth the value as it self-spreads while coping with periods of drought, once it is well established. And it is safe for farm animals and is beautiful

The pictures shared so far are of the sodded yard on the side of the acreage where we kept our RV and camped through the years. It's the area we lived in an RV for approximately three long years as we were building our house, but the pretty grass acreage side is not where we would later build our house.

This makes me remember the difference between our years of living in a city suburb to the country experience. In the suburbs, the houses come with sodded yards. The newly constructed houses brag of their "sodded and landscaped" yards for good reason.

The picture above and the picture below are of the same area...freshly cleared and a wreck, then you can see the yard as of this year with my grand-daughter Coraline enjoying it.

Through the years, we have made sure to have a lot of fun.

A family/friend day on our lake for the Three-Acre-Easter Egg Hunt.

Stefie and Heather - my girls who
love the outdoors.

I'm usually the one taking pictures, but every
so often I am at the other end.

Our lake is big...just big enough, but not too big.
No motorized engines, except for a trolling motor.

The good part about having gone through a phase with lotsa dirt is that I am full of hope that the ugly area around the new house will eventually be just as pretty as the side of our acreage with the RV. I keep reminding myself that the sodded area that is now so lush with grass took a long time to grow more widespread and it is great that it continues to creep further outward. What was once rather ugly and chaotic looking is now beautiful.

I'm hoping the same process will happen for the area we cleared for our home-site. However, I tried to sow seed as well.

Several times I walked this entire area while broadcasting seed...expensive seed. I did this four separate times via a broadcaster and then I spread seed by hand, walking and sowing. Not only was this a lot of physical work, it was expensive. We purchased about $200. in grass that was supposed to be GREAT for this area and that is also self-seeding, but it just wouldn't work.

A few times we had unexpected massive rains too soon after sowing the seeds and the ground is so hard that the seeds just washed away. The high clay content made sowing seed nearly impossible. But, I tried.

We knew that we'd have to get pallets of St. Augustine grass to sod the area.

We spent several hundreds of dollars on sod and Sgt. Dave strategically laid rolls down in the areas most critical for immediate needs. We wanted to have a bit of green space in the backyard for the grandkids, and we also wanted the main stairways that lead to entrances to the house be sodded so less dirt would be tracked inside.

Mainly, the sod is crucial in preventing erosion. The rains cause the topsoil to simply wash away. We've had layers disappear as my seed sowing efforts failed. Sgt. Dave laid those two lines of sod seen in the photo below and that has helped retain a measure of soil along those areas. We now have taken notice of areas that desperately need sodding. I hope that we can soon add another pallet of St. Augustine grass to the backyard and that I can make more plugs from a few rolls for areas that are apt to be left forgotten. A few plugs of grass can make a huge difference over time.

We also put sod around the detached garage (not shown) and put many rolls of grass around each sprinkler head in the distance. Later, I would go and separate these rolls to create many plugs of St. Augustine grass for planting around and those have worked beautifully. It will take a couple of years for these areas to see the grass spread out, but they will.

As Sgt. Dave got started with the sod placement, initially forgetting they needed to be staggered, so I followed along behind him to stagger the rolls so that the seams weren't long and deep. We worked to reduce the brown and to increase the green. Even though so much more needs to be sodded, we are thrilled to have a bit of green get started. The ample rain we've had this year is helping the newly laid sod to root and spread.

For now, I walk outside and hold a hand up to block the expanse of dirt still needing sod, and I laugh. It took YEARS for the other side of our acreage to become lush and green, but I can envision the day that the yard surrounding our house is beautiful and even includes ornamental and vegetable gardens.

One day we will have a yard worthy of pictures with grandbabies sitting upon the ground...for now, I use creative imagination.

My thoughts beyond my ordinary catch-up blog post...

The mundane in life is what gives life meaning. Every day we handle the most ordinary and necessary of tasks, but these moments are actually what give life security, depth and enjoyment, even if that seems ironic. Lately, I've been sharing deep sadness with untold numbers of others regarding the terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida. To those who lost their lives and to those who are directly impacted by their tragic loss, I am mindful of your suffering. I understand that you wish to simply do ordinary things in life and that you wish boring enjoyment could be the distraction it had once been. The rest of us should take this time to appreciate the simple distractions of life for the beautiful, carefree moments they offer. A heavy heart can no longer move through a day with ease. One who is mourning cannot do anything anymore with the same mindless movements. Many of us know what it means to experience tragedy and loss of some sort, life usually grabs hold of us in this way, sooner or later. However, the horrific scale of the Orlando tragedy is a stacked type of upon the other. For those who endured the attack and survived, I hope you can eventually and miraculously find peace with your circumstances and make your life a representation for all who didn't make it out alive...your purpose is heavy and great. For those who lost a part of their heart, it is true that we do not forget, and we do not recover from such loss, we simply learn to live with it. That's the new task of one who has experienced great loss; the mundane, daily task they must now confront is to live with their hurting heart and aching soul. My prayer is that joyful remembrance will again one day touch the suffering.


Karen said...

All the work over the years, amazing to look back on it. The grass is wonderful, I'm glad you've had some rain this year to get it established, though I've heard Texas has been inundated this year, maybe too much rain? I'm the same way, mowing lawn and our Back Eight always eases my mind, just as working land used to do. I can only imagine how much you miss your mother, she was so young. Your reminder to appreciate each day is so true!

LindaG said...

That is what hubby and I like about mowing. It can be mindless, or you can converse with God.

I am going to look into getting St. Augustine. We have areas that need sod, and we certainly have wild blackberry vines EVERYWHERE!

But how do you deal with the fire ants?

So nice to see Coraline again. She is such a cutie!

Blessings to you all. I think of you often with the Texas flooding.