My husband and I both grew up in the city, so our move to our own hundred acre paradise was a lot like the old TV series, Green Acres. Dreamer that I am, I had a vision of a bountiful garden, horses, chickens, maybe a cow or two.
My husband did not share this vision.
The kids bought into the animals, but not the garden part. But, by using the art of friendly persuasion, bribes, I got them all to pitch in and with the help of neighbors with a tractor and plow, we put in a half acre garden that first spring living in the wilds.
It turned out that all those delightful forest animals the children enjoyed finding and watching, are not a gardener’s friends. We began to learn the fine art of warring with nature. Reading magazines on being earth friendly, I fought the potato slugs with jar lids filled with beer. Humans are not the only creatures led to their downfall by alcohol. Evil though it may seem, since the beer actually dissolves the slugs, I convinced myself that they died happy.
Unfortunately, since we had an early drought and our garden was not near a water source, the only vegetables to survive were the potatoes. Go figure, my maiden name was O’Leary. We had mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, baked potatoes, boiled potatoes, hash-brown potatoes, and eventually smelly rotten potatoes. So the next spring we put in a garden about half that size , closer to a water source.
We did not plant potatoes.
This time we lost most of the lettuce and carrots to rabbits, but when the drought came, my visiting apartment bred brother got into the back to nature spirit and hauled buckets of water to save the tomatoes. The deer greatly appreciated his efforts.
The third year, I planted a tiny garden right outside our master bedroom’s sliding glass doors next to a hose bib. I added shiny tin pie plates and wind chimes to discourage nature’s predators lurking in the surrounding woods. I figured that I could stand in my bedroom door in my robe holding a hose to water the cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots. Still reading my nature friendly magazines, I used their recipe for a free safe fertilizer called manure tea, which I made by steeping fresh horse manure in buckets of water.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think about our house having huge attic fans and walls of sliding glass doors instead of air conditioning. Fermented manure tea spread all around outside our bedroom quickly made rotting potatoes seem like perfume.
Though our tiny garden produced gigantic cucumbers and tomatoes and enough of everything for us, our neighbors, city friends, and all the deer and rabbits within miles, a week of sleeping in midsummer heat with all the windows and doors closed, also fermented a rebellion among my family. My husband and five children took a vote. Their unaminous decision was that it wasn’t going to be our hundred acre farm. It was going to be our hundred acre weed and rock sanctuary.
I gave in graciously, since I had finally figured out that when all our farmer neighbors got tired of canning and freezing, they were exceptionally generous with their surplus.
A long time ago, a city girl princess moved to her own Winnie the Pooh hundred acre wood. This was accessible only by dirt roads that ran through a creek. She, her husband, and five children were the first new family to move into this particular “hollow” since before the civil war. And yes, it did turn out to be more like Green Acres than Winnie the Pooh.
There are many stories of their adventures in the Tennessee wilds. Most are funny or happy, but some are scary, and a few are sad. And then there are some that are all of these. This is one of the those.
In one six month time span several years after moving to the country; the family’s finances became severely reduced, there was a serious crisis affecting the future of one of their teen-age children, and the queen mother, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, came to live with them. The princess was seriously considering buying one of those tacky bumper stickers that said, “Shit happens.”
One morning in the middle of this collage of challenges, the Princess was driving out their country road, harassing God, “God, I’m up to my neck in manure here. Where are You in all this?”
At that moment, she happened to glance toward the side of the road. There sat an incredibly humongous fresh cow patty covered with dozens of glorious monarch butterflies.
It was such a typical God answer, that the princess had to stop beside the road, because she was both laughing and crying with joy. What a ridiculous, but perfect symbol. Where there’s manure in our lives, there’s grace. In fact, often the manure is the grace. It’s what God uses to help us become the people we were created to be.
And a few days later, the princess just happened to come across a bumper sticker that read, “Grace Happens.” She bought that one instead.
Another memory resurrected.