The Plants

Fortunately, i dug the hole for the loquat tree back before i got sick. The ground on my property was mostly limestone with a thin layer of clay on top of it. So, digging involved a large metal stick more than it did a shovel. The shovel was just present to lift the broken pieces of rock from the hole after the stick was used.

When the hole was deep enough to my satisfaction i lifted the loquat tree into it and began to bury it with the limestone rock powder i had made.

The poor loquat tree had been kept in the house until the freezing temperatures were gone and its leaves had wilted and turned crunchy. It needed to be outside. I put it in the ground but it was touch and go for a couple months afterwards. I was unsure whether it would survive. It dropped most of its leaves and then finally sprouted new ones at the tips of the branches. That’s when i knew it would live. It liked to be watered a lot less than the other trees and had a more difficult time recovering from overwatering than the others as well. I tried to remember that when examining the weather forecast. I watered the loquat sparsely every 3 days and if there was a chance of rain i skipped it all together.

I bought a little aloe vera plant at walmart. i intended to use it for medicinal purposes.

Barbecue rosemary (fenced so josie couldn’t make a snack of it)

To pinch off some leaves and rub them on one’s skin was to have a very effective and natural mosquito repellant.

The best rosemary for mosquito repellant purposes was native rosemary. Its leaves held more oil and were more fragrant than its softer more edible cousin cultivated for cooking purposes. However, the native rosemary was small and wilted so i bought the barbecue rosemary as a back-up in case the wilted rosemary didn’t perk up and survive.

I also bought a chocolate mint plant. When i was a child my mother planted one mint plant in our front garden and for nearly a decade after we could not beat back the invaders as they took over everything in sight and choked the other plants for resources. I planted the chocolate mint behind the house in the hope that this type of invasive pattern mint was known for would repeat. I wanted chocolate mint everywhere back there. I could use it in sweets and drinks or just chew the leaves, it would smell like chocolate at the back of the house, and if it choked out the other plants back there perhaps i wouldn’t have to mow that patch of weeds.

I saw a muscat grape vine at the tractor supply one day (before i swore that store off for good) and i suddenly remembered picking muscat grapes on the way back from the bus stop in the old apartment i used to live in back when i was in Austin. The vine had climbed some tree trunks and hung down from the trees in a wall of grape leaves. During the summer grapes would appear. The outside of each grape was leathery and the first bite burned a little bit on the tongue, but then the gel on the inside of the leathery casing would ooze out and be sweet as pie. They had seeds you kind of had to roll around in your teeth and spit out or swallow but the little bit of sweet gel in the middle was well worth the effort. I bought the muscat grape vine and buried the twig with leaves next to two old oak trees standing together. Then i fenced around it to keep the deer off. I hoped the vine would grow up the trees and hang down so i could pick the grapes in the summers.

One day my neighbor sent me a message that she had left some plants hanging on the fence for me. I hurried out to my gate but there was nothing there. Then i started thinking…there was a little white rock road on one side of my property that was the only way for some of the ranchers to get from their property to the main road. It ran between my property and the neighbor next to me. As far as i understood, when it fell into disrepair, it was the responsibility of all those whose land touched against it to pitch in to maintain it. I was okay with this when i bought the property because upon examining it, it was hard packed and level and white rock instead of mud or pavement. It would hold up pretty good without much fuss. Now i walked along the fence against this white rock road until i found it. There was a plastic grocery bag hooked on the barbed wire of my fence next to the road. In it were some decorative plants that i planted and the deer promptly ate. However, beneath those were four little aloe vera plants. They were very dry and wilted. All the plants were. There was no telling how long they’d been on the fence. I cut the bag down and set to digging holes immediately. I had to get the thirsty plants in the ground and water them. The little aloe vera were all together with their roots tangled in one big mess. I set to separating them as carefully as i could. They would have more room to grow if i could get them separated and they’d do better. Initially the aloe vera went into shock. It took them a couple weeks to get their green color back and perk up, but they did. When it became apparent that all four of them were going to live i breathed a sigh of relief. Aloe vera was antibacterial, good for wounds, burns, sunburns, infections, and stomach ailments. The gift my neighbor had left me on the fence was priceless! If i could nurse them into big plants i could have 4 big aloe vera on top of the one i had bought at the store. The spiky aloe vera plants did better than the finicky smooth one i had bought at the store. They were less picky about water and sun. They took whatever conditions came. They would more likely survive than the plant i’d bought at walmart, though it didn’t stop me trying to nurse it along.

There was one last blackberry bush at the walmart store parking lot when i went there for groceries that day. I snatched it up and set it in the basket. It was scrawny and dry and i had to pull off the broken branches but i saw potential. It had a few unripe berries on it and the leaves that were present were green. It was salvageable. I bought it, planted it, and enjoyed the berries when they ripened.

Now, right before i got sick i had gone to the plant nursery and bought a pear tree, a mulberry tree, an orange tree, an avocado tree, and a pecan tree. I bought them during the two days before they closed the city, determined to carry as many food trees home in the suv before they declared only essential businesses could remain open and shut down our economy. What i didn’t realize was that i was going to spend 7 weeks struggling to overcome symptoms and i was going to be in no shape to plant the trees. By May i had overcome all of my symptoms except the tachycardia and i was at a point where the trees needed to go in the ground if i planned on keeping them. I donned my apron full of useful pockets to hold keys and tools, put on my 1 dollar denim walmart clearance hat, and laced up my steel-toed boots. It was time to see if i could still do this, if i could still lift the heavy metal stick and dig a hole as i always had.

The answer was yes. I could still dig a hole.

It took twice as long as it should have because i had to keep stopping to rest to allow my heart rate to settle and i had grown weaker than i was when i was used to a daily diet of manual labor. My muscles lacked their former strength and reserves. I very well could have managed 3 holes in one day if it’d been the same time last year but i managed two this time around and that was good enough. I had feared that i wouldn’t be able to dig a hole at all so when i dug two i was plenty satisfied with that. It did however take every last drop of energy i had and by the end of the day my arms were jelly and my legs threatened to buckle beneath me.

The mulberry tree went in first. I cut some fencing off the roll, dragged it across the property, used the wire cutters to bend the edges of the fencing around each other, and hammered rebar into the ground at an angle around the bottom of the fencing to keep the wind from lifting it up.

The day was getting hotter and i was feeling it. The prickly pear were starting to open their flowers towards the sun. The bees were loving it.

The beautiful flower of a true survivor of drought, the cactus.

The second hole was twice as hard to dig, both because i was tired already and i picked a spot that was solid limestone instead of broken limestone pieces laying on top of one another. I really had to work for that hole because there were no air pockets for the rock to crack into. When i brought the stick down it wasn’t a big dramatic shatter. It cracked in small isolated pieces and the going was slow, but i got it done.

The pear tree was in. All i could think about was getting these trees that were such a resource and a valuable treasure if kept alive, into the ground before they died. I didn’t want the money spent to be in vain. I didn’t want these young cuttings to be wasted. They had such potential if only i could get them all in the ground and fenced with rebar.

By now the cactus flowers were completely open. The sun was high and the grasshoppers were clicking and buzzing through the grass. It was hot.

At this moment my orange tree, avocado tree, and pecan tree still aren’t planted. It is imperative that i get them into the ground before cold weather this year. It looks like they may go in during autumn. I’ve missed my spring window to get them planted. I tell myself im going to do it on my day off each week, and then something always comes up that takes precedence. The dog needed a rabies shot. All the appliances broke at once. We had a microburst that knocked out the power for 6 hours and downed trees and signs all over town. The chiggers became a huge problem and i had to get the grass mowed (an all day event with the 5 blade reel mower). I am behind and the trees are not settled. At some point i will have to remedy this. I just cant do it right now.

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  1. As a 6 year old boy, I would use the grape seeds as “bullets” for a straw “gun”. 🙂

    Sometimes I think back to those times and smile. And when I smile about that, I wonder if I really have grown up.

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