Just one thing a gardener is sure to grow - tired
There is an old song about a guy who fought the law and the law won. If I were singing it, the lyric would be, "I fought the rock and the rock won."
The losing war was waged in the island bed that floats in the center of our lawn. Although I once took a geology course, I don't know if the extremely large object lying precisely where I wanted to transplant a shrub is called a rock or a stone.
(Frankly, at the height of my struggle with the object, I was tempted to call it several other names. However, I restrained myself. I didn't want the plants to think that I was talking about them.)
I've been practicing the "gentle, relaxing" pastime of gardening for about 25 years and I am still waiting for the "relaxing" part of it to kick in.
Non-gardeners think we have it easy. Just toss a few plants in the ground, water them now and then, pick up an occasional weed, and then sit back to watch the flowers bloom and vegetable plants pour forth a bounty of produce.
I was once among this group of non-gardeners, and I blame the old PBS show, "Victory Garden," as the start of my gardening addiction/affliction.
Each week, the program's host would be given a tour of a beautiful garden by the person responsible for creating and maintaining it.
It probably would have been fairer to show film of the gardener(s) working like a mule for the previous six months to get the garden in perfect shape for the show.
Of course, television rarely shows the hard part of anything. We get the finished product without realizing how much work it involves. As a result, we wind up getting involved in something far more challenging than we could have ever imagined.
What did I know about gardening? My parents were not big on gardens. Of course, with three boys running around in the backyard, a few isolated tufts of grass constituted our "lawn."
One or two summers, my mother got the urge to plant a couple of tomatoes. But thanks to the tackle football games the neighborhood guys played in our yard, most of those tomatoes wound up as instant tomato sauce when we landed on them.
As a result, almost all the vegetables I saw in those years came from a can. The flowers that adorned our home were plastic or silk.
However, lured by the spectacular gardens of TV, I jumped into gardening.
My plunge into landscaping was like me jumping into the English Channel wearing a kid's inflatable duck and attempting to swim 21 miles from England to France.
It didn't take me long to discover I was in over my head. My folks had purchased the other half of the double home, so I got the brilliant idea of converting the two backyards into one garden.
Grass had covered the area once left desolate in my growing-up years, much like a torn-up battlefield that is eventually re-carpeted by plants.
I began by tearing up about three-quarters of the grass, a section at a time. In the process, I discovered a long-buried sidewalk that extended the length of the former neighbor's yard.
I also made the simultaneous discovery that Bengay comes in industrial-size containers made especially for new gardeners.
Armed with a pitchfork, shovel and the ignorance of what I was getting myself into, I slowly created a variety of beds embellished by a crushed stone walkway, ornamental pavers and concrete benches.
As I look back, I was lulled into a false sense of confidence. There was a layer of about four to six inches of good soil before clay began, so tilling and planting were relatively easy.
In our present garden, the only good soil is contained in a one-inch-thick layer of top soil we paid to have trucked in and spread.
Beneath is a layer of a couple feet of countless rocks cemented into thick clay.
Planting a shrub or two requires some heavy equipment and several sticks of strategically placed dynamite.
Unfortunately, all I have is me, a shovel and a couple of iron bars for levering stones from the hole. (I don't even have my old pitchfork, which is buried somewhere in our old backyard.)
The main problem with gardening is illustrated by my losing battle with a boulder in the shrubbery bed.
After I gave up and planted the shrub elsewhere, I should have been able to go in, get cleaned up, pour myself an iced tea, go to the sun room, sit down and admire our garden.
Unfortunately, there is never a happy ending to that scenario. The moment you sit down and survey your garden, you don't see the lush lawn and colorful plants. You see all the other projects that you have to do.
There is only one solution to this. Go to your family, pop in a DVD of the old "Victory Garden" and say a prayer of thanksgiving that you don't have to maintain those huge gardens.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes Walt's Way for each Sunday edition.)