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Gardening: Ensuring local wildlife is well fed

June 17, 2012
By KELLY VAN DE WALLE , Times-Republican

Of the things adult humans do after buying a house, putting in a garden is apparently one of them. I must admit it's a hassle to watch my wife go to the store time and again to purchase tomatoes and such before peeling them or whatever and putting them in a stew thing she makes when it would be much easier for her to simply dig some holes in our yard, plant some seedlings, water, care and try and keep them alive for four months before one glorious day going out to pick a home-grown vegetable only to discover everything was eaten by nature.

Since neither one of us had any idea how to start a garden I turned to my father for advice. I generally do whatever he recommends because he's old and has already made a bunch of mistakes and can still possibly ground me if I end up doing something wrong. Unfortunately he knows this and, I suspect, uses it to his advantage by telling me to do ridiculous things. He needs stuff to do. He's retired. So I call him up.

Me: "So I'm thinking about starting a garden. What do I do?"

Dad: "First you're going to need to go buy some seedlings."

Me: "This already sounds too complicated. I can't do it."

Dad: "Sure you can. Then you buy a bag of manure."

Me: "Uhhokay"

Mom (muffled): "What did you tell him?

Dad (muffled, to my mom): "I told him to go buy manure."

Mom: "That's rich! He's not actually going to DO that, is he?"

Dad: "I think he is!"

Mom: "What should we have him do next?"

Dad: "Let's tell him to climb up on his roof and clean out the gutters like that's something people do!"

Then they laugh together, clinking goblets of mead while the houseboy presents a platter of assorted toothpicked meats.

I don't know what they do all day.

Entering the nursery/garden center is like driving into the Congo. A toucan dive-bombs my car. I turn to kiss my family. Some of them probably wouldn't be coming back alive.

Thankfully I'm wearing my khaki safari shorts with the assortment of pockets that smart outdoorsmen would've packed with a flint and water purifying tablets. I have pockets full of snacks in various stages of melting (if needed, I could keep myself alive for weeks just by sucking on the insides of my pockets). They belong to my daughter, but she disappeared almost the moment she got out of the car, presumably swallowed whole by some quicksand over by the perennials, which I believe are a thing. I just checked the Internet and discover perennials are a thing. A plant, even. Good for me.

I grab a "cart" which is a generous description of a crate and 1920s roller skate wheels attached together with seagull phlegm. I place a small basil seedling into the cart. The cart tips over in exhaustion. I find an employee so I can get out of here.

"Plants," I say. "Give me them."

"Sure thing, buckaroo!," he said, far too cheerfully. Who calls someone "buckaroo" anyway? Probably all hopped up on coriander. "What kind?"

"I don't know. All of them."

It occurs to me that I should've probably thought of this before.

"Actually, I have no idea," I replied. "Delicious ones?"

"How about some peppers?" he suggests. I contemplate this.

"I don't think so. Do you have one that grows pizza?"

After leaving with plants that will grow ingredients for pizza (disappointing. It'll take my wife forever to make one now) we now were forced to do installation.

Our critter-accessible plot location forced us to build a crude wall around the vulnerable plants with bricks stolen from a couple of neighbors. My suggestion that we install motion-sensor lasers or land mines was brushed off as "the delusional ramblings of a crazy person."

"Would you rather have a few holes in the yard and exploded rabbitsor no red peppers?" I asked my wife. "You can't have both."

As always, she opted for the path that DIDN'T lead to explosions and lawsuits (lame).

After a couple of weeks, the plants look like they've had enough and are slowly trying to either A) extract themselves and leave for better care and less manure or B) kill themselves.

"Can you believe he covered us in manure?" they seem to be gasping, sadly, while giving up and resigning themselves to a slow death.

I can see their point. Whenever I'm tasked to work outside I shrivel up and feel like giving up too. Maybe I just need someone to pour water on me.

But preferably not manure.


Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative writer for Briscoe14 Communications ( He can be reached at or via chipmunk that lives in our gutter that better not eat my dying tomatoes or he's totally fired.



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