There’s a gardening term known as ‘heeling in.’ It refers to temporary planting of a plant to protect it from the elements until it can be more permanently rooted.
Natalya recently brought back bunch of transplants of Variegated Vincas from her parent’s greenhouse, for use as an eye-pleasing ground cover for the front of her suburban property. As she’s not able to get them into their permanent home ground right away, she used a temporary vessel (aka, kids’ sandbox creature) as a heeling in home for the Vincas, covering their bare roots with rich compost and mounding them in in tight rows.
In a similar fashion, during this year of WWOOFing, I’ll be constantly heeling myself in, being fostered by many communities and families as I learn and experience their techniques and unique practices and lifestyles. Until I’m settled in ground of my own, I’m just temporarily giving my bare roots some nutrients to strengthen them for their more permanent future home.
But in some ways, little bits of my roots will cling to the soil I’m fostered under. Little bits of legacy will touch the dirt in various places and remain there. In Lawrence, I’m an Elberta Peach tree planted in the up and coming orchard just East of the garden beds. Natalya took me to Pine’s Garden Center early Friday morning before we began work to let me pick out a perennial fruit of my choice to leave behind as a tribute. As I’ve always been rather partial to peaches – and being from the South – the hardy Elberta I found at the back of the stand of fruit trees outside seemed to reach its buds out to me. It’s tight green buds of promised fruit were numerous on the branches, and though normally one wouldn’t choose an obviously fruiting tree as a first-year transplant, in hopes of solidifying my return to Lawrence sometime this year we chose that particular tree. Perhaps in late July to early August, Pinwheel will be rewarded with succulent, yellow-fleshed, sweet fruits to eat in my honor.
The volunteers that showed up Sunday morning to give me a final going-away/ planting ceremony all pitched in with the carting, digging, planting and mulching of my tree (which also included a tomato plant and pea plant harboring soil in the same pot; apparently I’m a package deal.)
The weather was glorious, shining rays on us as we worked ground in the orchard, then sending a smattering of rain drops only minutes after we had the tree secured in the ground and under a layer of mulch. But the rain cloud was quick to pass and the sky remained glorious for my departure after many hugs and farewell letter exchanges. As an added bonus, the rose bush that normally doesn’t flower until late May, decided to gift me a going-away present with its first bloom of the year!
(To back-track at bit, the public hearing on the CUP for Pinwheel Farm went great! Lots of support was garnered; many people showed up in league with the farm and we as a farm crew constructed small origami pinwheels for supporters to wear to the meeting. Points were made on both sides of the fence regarding camping allowances and ‘beautification’ of the front of the property next to the street. After 3 ½ hours of public comment and presentations, the topic was deferred to next month’s meeting with the suggestion of giving more solid verbiage and wording to some of the camping guidelines, and also as a grace period to clean up the front of the farm visible to drivers-by.)
Pulling out of Lawrence headed West, you pass through the Flint Hills of Kansas – small mounds of greenery and pasture-land, reminiscent of the taller glories of my NC home. Lots of flint and limestone make the surrounding soils slightly alkaline and quite fertile.
Once you pull farther out past Topeka the plains become flat, spacious and wide open. Windmills and tiny stubbles of trees dot some of the landscape but it’s mostly the clouds that imprint themselves on your vision during this drive. The layers and shapes and clusters and varieties of clouds.
I wish I could say the trip proved uneventful, and for the most part it was. But upon passing the border into CO, about 3 miles past the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado!” sign, I drove straight into a thunder and lightening storm, where my car decided it didn’t want to continue on E any longer (normally I can get away with that for a good while.) And I had to sputter over to the side of I-70 and call AAA to get some fuel brought to me. But 30 minutes later I was back on my way, passing through the magical landscape of CO. Dips and curves of highway, majestic views of miles and miles of rangeland, rolling clouds and rippling landscape conjured up visions of angels descending, centaurs emerging, and unicorns and white buffalo stampeding across the land at any moment. Just the poignant and righteous panorama laid out before me caused my chest to rise and fall a bit heavier and longer than normal; having to take it all in required not only my eyes, but nose, lungs, ears and imagination.
And I wasn’t left lingering long in this quasi-ethereal state before the distant mountain ranges started whispering their outlines into my line of vision. First so faint, almost transparent blue beneath the rumbles of muscular clouds above. But low and behold, they were indeed mountains waiting to greet me as I passed through Denver and through the outskirts into Golden. Here I am enveloped by rocky, bare and sparse rises in the land. Sheltered here in the valley is Historic Downtown Golden and Harmony Village – the place I will be staying for the next 7 days while working a few hours a day in the neighborhood’s new Community Garden venture.
Trenching for irrigation and hardening-off of trays of plants along with weeding thistles out of the raspberries, harvesting massive amounts of lemon sorrel and some rhubarb are all candidates for first day tasks. Double-digging and incorporating compost into the raised beds, transplanting broccoli, direct seeding carrots, radishes, onions and basil are also on the agenda. Until then (and in-between!) lots of hiking trails, coffee shops, the library and biking paths will keep me occupied; the rooftop hot tub of the common house where I’m bedding down will help fill in some of my down time as well!
The community meal we all shared in the common house this evening was great for meeting members of the community – many of which were the pioneers of the project back in the mid-90’s. They’ve had WWOOFers here for 2 years now and a most of the neighbors are more than happy to introduce themselves and are supportive of the program – but once again, fear of outsiders has a few of the neighbors upset and demanding background checks on all workers passing through and offers a general uneasiness about the nature of people who travel around just to work on gardens or farms. Do we see a pattern forming here? Let’s hope not, and hope that the vast majority of communities and townships will be welcoming and inviting to someone who wants to come take care of their land and crops by working long hours of physical labor.
And as a final farewell and thank you to all my friends in Lawrence, KS: You’ve made my time there amazing, welcoming and something to miss. Picnics by the lake, Reiki sessions, parties and good food, potlucks, dancing, sharing your home and kitchen, an incredible music list (Songs to Shepherd to!) and your smiling faces I will miss. But it won’t be the last time we cross paths.