By CARLA OFFENBURGER
COOPER, Iowa, July 30, 2020 — Throughout my adult life, gardening has been a real joy for me. Ever since I’ve had my own yard, I’ve been digging in the dirt, planting seeds and watching things grow.
And I’ve been fairly successful at perennials, annuals and vegetables. I’m just getting started with fruits with my new little red raspberry patch.
Sometime over the last year, I read about the concept “earthing.”
It defined me. An “earther” is someone who likes to be in touch (literally) with the earth, physically touching, playing in and focusing on the earth with all its dirty feels and smells. I love it!
Carla Offenburger enjoying the phlox in her roadside garden.
As I reflect over the past 30-plus years, it is in gardening that I have found calm, quiet, peace and beauty. It makes me happy all the time. I am confident that gardening has cured heartaches, calmed my soul, saved my sanity and help feed my family the best tomatoes ever.
All this is why the past two years have been slowly breaking my heart. I have to acknowledge that my health doesn’t allow me to spend full days in my gardens. Weeding, planting, replanting, creating and harvesting is hard work. Hard work doesn’t quite fit in my cancer journey.
There used to be days or weekends when I would spend 6-8 hours at a time out “earthing.” Now, I’m happy if I can work in an hour every day (broken up with a nap or two).
I am sure I have been trying to ignore the signs and refused to acknowledge this new reality, but earlier this spring, it was made very real to me. Chuck and I had a new garage built, and with that came a new garden space – fresh black soil and a space between garage and sidewalk that was begging to be made into a garden.
I had it all planned. But it wasn’t to be. Chuck gently said to me one day, “Carla, you can’t have any new garden spaces. You can’t physically do it.” I knew he was right, but it felt so personal. Such a terrible realization. I quickly turned away and went to seek solace in the blooming lilacs and had myself a good little cry.
And now it is late July. I have found new joy in taking care of the gardens I have – eight flower beds and one vegetable garden. And the gardens look great. With a lot of watering and 20 minute “weeding sessions,” I have successfully kept things growing and blooming. Oh, and I’ve had a lot of help from Chuck, too.
The latest of many bouquets from Carla’s gardens — this one featuring purple lupine and brown-eyed Susans.
The initial help came from my gardening friends (angels I called them). I invited them via Facebook to a “garden party” at our place in early May. I said the activity at the party would be tackling my spring spruce-up list, garden by garden, and I would supervise.
Those angels, by the way, ranged in age from 18 to 73. My friend Mary Riche, who would be at the upper age range, worked hard for three hours, then smartly stated, “Carla, you need to find some younger friends.”
Actually, the garden party extended beyond that one Saturday in May. It started even earlier for some friends, and has gone well into the summer for others. But wow! I am filled with joy at the end result.
When I reflect on all that was done and the time spent doing it, here’s what I’m so grateful for:
- Eight flower beds, cleaned, weeded and mulched.
- One vegetable garden roto-tilled, planted with tomatoes, green peppers and calla lily bulbs.
- New mulch beds around the oak and maple trees in the front yard.
- Scrub trees out back trimmed up and cleaned.
- The gate entry to the main garden re-done.
- Large, overgrown barberry bushes and evergreen bushes removed from two garden areas.
- Lilacs trimmed back and ready for new growth.
- New mailbox area spruced up.
- Front container garden – featuring potted plants — extended and mulched.
- And a very small “new” ornamental grass and rose bush garden next to the garage (thank you, Chuck)
All in all, about 25 friends and family members put in well over 125 hours to make all this happen.
And I have since spent my summer days taking care of what my garden angels gave me – a gift that brings me more joy than any other. What a garden summer it’s been!
You can write the columnist by email at carla@Offenburger.com, or comment directly about this column by using the handy form below here. More photos from the “garden party” in early May are below here.
The “angels” in the May 9 “garden party” group. Front, left to right, are Emily Ressler, Chris Woods, Aaron Ressler (just behind), Mary Riche, Priscilla Ruhe and Tammie Amsbaugh, and in back Carla and Chuck Offenburger.
The morning after they completed planting their corn crop, farm neighbors Karen and Doug Lawton spent several hours working in our gardens.
Randy Kienast, who works as a hired hand for Lawton Farms, put on an amazing exhibition of using a log chain and the tractor to twist, pull, and load in the scoop overgrown barberry and evergreen bushes — then hauled them to the burn pile out back.
Emily Ressler, Carla’s former assistant when both worked at Greene County Medical Center’s community relations department, came from the Kansas City area with her husband Aaron Ressler, and she did the critical job of cleaning up and pampering the rhubarb patch. Aaron built mulch beds around our younger trees.
Our longtime friend Mary Riche, from Des Moines, attacking an out-of-control forsythia out front.
Mary Riche, a serious (yet fashionable) gardener.
And on hand, as always, it seems, were the Burt sisters — with Tammie Amsbaugh (left) and Chris Woods coming from Des Moines to help Carla with the gardens.