I step up, and my right foot lands on the right stirrup of my shovel. Wunch! The shovel sinks into the soil six inches or so, then stops. Very nice. Stepping down, I observe the fruits of my labor. A six by eight foot patch of manually tilled (our gas tiller hasn't worked since the most recent Bush administration) soil. An inch of black clay, with brown sand until the bedrock. The sand has small gravel and roots in it. Another step, up-crunch-down. Not so satisfying this time, I bend and pick up a small rounded rock. Metamorphic river rock. Probably older than humanity.
"Fuckin' gravel" I hurl the little bastard into the trees. This Texas soil, not quite river bottom, not quite sand, is nearly impossible to till by hand. I had borrowed a hoe from our neighbor, Mrs Carlisle, in exchange for moving two sandbags into her front yard. She is about ninety, and very kind. She asks me what I am growing.
"Carrots." These and other root vegetables. Squirrels make growing anything tasty above ground an impossibility. She says thanks and I hack away at weeds for about ten minutes, and return the hoe to her, thanking her. I reflect that my Grandfather knows more about this than I ever will. The generation before my parents', they knew how to do this stuff. Next time I see my grandparents I must ask for a pointer or two. I hose down my little suburban plot, thinking:The home owners association types would pitch a fit if they saw this. Gasp! he isn't landscaping, he's GARDENING! The very idea! This place is supposed to be perfectly manicured and utterly (in my opinion) useless. Finally, a rake. Lacking the proper tools, I smooth my little patch out with the backside of a garden (as opposed to yard) rake.
Now for a phone call. My mother, bless her, agrees to buy some good stuff on her way home. Fertilizer, soil, seeds. I can't wait to taste the fruits of my labor. Everybody gets a share.