Arma-Dilly-Die-Day June 9, 2020

I went out to check on the garden and found a whole army of roly-polys boiling out from under the black landscaper’s cloth.

I ran back in to google roly-polys, in case they would hurt my garden.

Thankfully, the answer is no. Roly-polys, more properly called pill bugs and most scientifically called “Armadillidiidae,” are harmless and even beneficial in small groups, most of the time. They were just eating the compost I’d recently spread on the garden and taking shelter from the sun under the landscaping cloth. Hot sunlight dries them out, which suffocates them, so they hid. In exchange for my giving them a hiding place, they were digesting and expelling my compost and making it even richer.

Armadillidiidae are welcome guests, as long as they leave the strawberries alone. Even their name sounds like an Irish drinking song. Arma-arma-arma-dilly-dilly-die-day. I let them be.

Slugs are something else entirely. Slugs have been all but destroying my kale and making lace out of the broccoli and bush beans. I learned how to make beer traps online, but beer is something we don’t keep in the house because of my gluten intolerance, so I had to improvise. I learned that the beer ingredient which entices the slugs is actually just the yeast, so I’ve mixed up a mason jar of warm water, dry yeast and maple syrup, waited til it was bubbling like a volcano, and poured that mixture into bowls and cups buried up to the rim near the brassicas. It works perfectly. The slugs follow the siren call of the yeast into the trap, can’t get out again, and drown. The broccoli, kale and bush beans are rallying nicely.

I found only one slug when I was weeding the garden. I was so angry to see it that I picked it up with my fingers and tossed it into the nearest trap.

Pole beans are planted around the perimeter of the garden now. I stuck four poles in the ground and linked chicken wire all around them to make a fence for the pole beans to grow on. I actually had five poles, but Rosie took one of them to use as a primitive fishing spear when she was pretending to be a sole survivor of an alien invasion marooned on an inhospitable planet. I sunk the end of a rake I never use in the earth, instead of the fifth pole. And next to it, I put an accordion-style laundry rack on its side, so that beans could climb up every single one of the side bars of the rack instead of just the four legs.

Last week at Wal Mart I found a black zucchini plant, after months of every garden store I went to being short on squash. This is not a year to be fussy about everything being organic, not with the run on the garden stores. I’ve been carefully nourishing that zucchini because it’s my last hope. It looked droopy, so I carefully watered it, and the next time I looked at it, it was healthy again.

I threw another bag of soil over my potato pot. You have to keep burying the stems of potato plants so that the potatoes will turn into roots. I’ve got the potatoes growing in a 28-gallon Rubbermaid tote, with holes nailed in the bottom for drainage. I’ve never done this before. But they tell me that by the end of the growing season, the tote will be full of spuds.

I watered the pumpkin seeds. I will regret letting Rosie talk me into buying pumpkin seeds, but she begged for them. I planted just one mound, in the middle of the onion patch which I’ll have to pull up in a few weeks anyway, and then they’ll have room to stretch out. I planted them late so the other plants have time to grow up strong before the pumpkin vines come crawling all over the garden like the giant squid in 20000 Leagues Under The Sea. Pumpkin vines never stay in the patch you meant for them. Pumpkins take over the world. But with any luck, they’ll run between the other plants, shade the ground and save me some weeding. And they’ve already begun: I saw the very first tiny green stem beginning to poke out of the ground.

Do you know that children’s song where the farmer “stamps his foot and claps his hand and turns around to view the land?” that’s about what I did, humming arma-dilly-die-day. I surveyed my yard with so much satisfaction. Two kinds of pole bean, three kinds of bush bean, sugar snap peas, kale, broccoli, parsley, basil, rosemary, oregano, strawberries, onions, pumpkins, rainbow carrots, potatoes, yellow squash, crookneck squash, zucchini, spinach, cucumbers, strawberries. Enough for us and also to share with neighbors. I started this project as a panic project, at the beginning of the COVID pandemic in America back in mid-March. I head there were going to be supply chain interruptions and possibly food shortages all year, and this was the only thing I could do to have a sense of control. But it has nothing to do with panic now. It’s fun. It makes me feel powerful and needed. I am at peace every moment that I garden.

That’s how the project got so big. It wasn’t that I was hoarding plants out of fear. I couldn’t stop adding to it because I love it.

I’m sorry. I know there are a lot of terrible things to think about right now. But I just wanted to take a moment to write about something I like.

I like to garden.

I like it even though I have to take “buffer days” to rest in between gardening adventures, because the exercise is a bit much for my fibromyalgia. It’s worth it. It’s worth the extra muscle pain and the increased rest I need.

I was raised to think that the things we’re passionate about are distractions that need to be subordinated to the love for God– and by “subordinated,” I thought they meant “avoided, for fear you’ll waste time on them instead of loving God.” I was raised to believe that God always forces you to do the thing you like least and smites you with the worst suffering you can imagine, to purify you. What pleases God the most is when you screw up your face, turn your back on the things that you like, and live a life of misery for His sake.

But as I grew up and broke away from my toxic upbringing, I’ve come to the conclusion that the opposite is true. God created us the way we are for a reason. None of us is perfect, but we’re not born monsters either. The things that fascinate us aren’t pitfalls God planted in us to trick us. They’re rungs on the ladder to Heaven. They are the way we are supposed to serve one another. They are glimpses of Heaven that keep us going until we get there.

Everything that isn’t a sin is a blessing and a revelation of the Divine.

The love of gardening led me to greater awe of God, greater peace in the trust in His providence, and a way to help my neighbors eat.

I am sure the beautiful things you’re passionate about are equally sacred.

I am sure, if you look, you’ll find a way to use them to bless your community.

I went into the house to make supper and read with Rosie, humming “Arma-dilly-die-day.”

For just a moment, everything was all right.

Image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross

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