Year 1…

Note to Readers:
As I uploaded/re-typed these columns from Year One, I took the liberty of tweeking some text here and there as well as adding some photos that did not make the newspaper edition and pointing out some editing notes, all of which I think makes the online version much improved and hopefully, more enjoyable the second (or third) time around…. – S.

Wed., May 23, 2012
Year One. Column One.

Hope Springs Eternal

Two weeks ago, I plowed and planted this year’s summer garden, or what my sister Paula and I refer to as “The Deer Buffet.” Open 24 hours.

I have two gardens.

The first is neat and orderly and supervised by my father, who at 92 years young, is a Master Gardener. I am his apprentice (and manual labor). This garden resides in town at Dad’s home on Greensburg Street. Not too many deer come around. We do get the occasional raccoon, though. Lots of rabbits, too.

In this garden, Dad and I grow red leaf lettuce, strawberries, green beans, corn, yellow squash, white squash, lima beans, asparagus, green onion, red potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers — the usual suspects in a garden.

My second garden, well, that’s my “let’s go crazy” garden where I can plant anything I want, in any format I want, when I want.

Located on Paula’s farm, known locally as Gypsy Acres, this garden rests at the bottom of Groundhog Hill alongside the main fork of Nolynn Creek. Groundhogs, rabbits, turkeys, deer eagerly await the renewal of this garden hoping for sweet corn to rip from the stalk, ripe cantelope to ruin with one uninterested bite and juicy tomatoes to taste and realize that like me, they don’t care for tomatoes.

The Original Selfie.

The Original Selfie.

This year, I planted rows and rows of yellow sunflower, red zinnia, giant orange marigold, small yellow marigold, cinnamon basil, butternut squash, zucchini, watermelon — and just to keep it legit — green beans.

Such dreams one has when planting: “People will see these flowers and ask to get married here surrounded by such beauty.” “Landscape architects will photograph it from the air!” “This garden will win a Blue Ribbon at the County Fair in a newly created category for Outstanding Gardens.”

A newly planted garden is a wondrous place full of anticipation that causes a lot of back pain for the planter.

Once finished planting at Groundhog Hill, I left…for two weeks. This is the time to go as there’s not much to do but wait for stuff to emerge from the soil. Meanwhile, there was lots of rain in the forecast.

Upon my return, I trucked over one morning eager to see row upon row of zinnia and sunflower only to discover I was the proud owner of a Johnson grass factory. What happened to my beautiful garden?

Cancel all weddings, photo shoots. I’ve got some major weeding to do, and I think I’m going to be a while. My back hurts already.

More later from Groundhog Hill. Prayers and aspirin appreciated.

Blue Ribbon-winning Herb Arrangement at the 2011 La Rue County Fair.

Blue Ribbon-winning Herb Arrangement at the 2011 La Rue County Fair.

May 30, 2012
Year One. Column Two.
Man vs Weeds

A new summer reality show premiered this week, but not on television. It’s at Groundhog Hill. I call it, “Man vs. Weeds.”

The premise is simple yet complex: One man, clad in bib overalls and armed with a garden hoe, competes against a ferocious team of weeds for planting supremacy and personal glory. The weed team consists of four players: John Grass (team captain), Cape Honeysuckle, Climbing Milkweed, and something I like to call, Pain-in-the-Ass* Ivy (see photo).**

Pain-in-the-Ass Ivy was identified with the help of Dwayne Duncan at Southern States in Hodgenville.

The actions plays out much like a bad horror film, wherein, the hero (Man) repeatedly stabs and kills the villain (Weeds) leaving him for dead and thinking there is no way he’ll ever see him alive again only to return the next day to find the villain very much alive and ready to fight again.

Meanwhile, the villain has somehow managed to clone himself so that the hero must lay multiple versions leaving the hero feeling tired and dejected.

Admittedly, Man vs. Weeds suffers from a lack of celebrity dancing partners or sing-offs, and it will not last beyond the summer, but there is a lot of colorful language during these fight scenes which consist mostly of declarations such as “Die Johnson Grass, die!” and “I should be in LA surfing!”

This week, the garden at Groundhog Hill appears to be in its “ugly baby” stage, meaning I am the only person who could possibly think its half-barren, half-cropped rows to be beautiful. Stuff in coming up, but it’s not yet pretty or organized due to the numerous corpses of Johnson Grass littering the field. (“Clean-up on aisles two through eight, please!”)

A few rabbits have stopped by and sampled the sunflowers as evidenced by the leaf-less stems left behind. Otherwise, most vegetation and flora remains untouched, yet the weeds remain strong and determined. I shall continue the good fight, though.

More later from Groundhog Hill. Pray for rain! We need some.

(*)Ass was edited and changed to “Butt” for the newspaper edition.
(**) Can’t find the photo of Pain-in-the-Ass Ivy but will continue to search my e-files!

Setting out Tomato Plants for the rabbits to nibble.

Setting out Tomato Plants for the rabbits to nibble.

June 6, 2012
Year One. Column Three.
In the Garden of Envy

On my way to Groundhog Hill each morning, I pass beautiful fields of green corn, recently set tobacco and purple cornflowers growing wild alongside the road.


By the time I reach my experimental garden, I feel happy and eager to see what’s changed in a day’s time. All that’s missing is a bluebird on my shoulder. Not a bad way to start one’s day.

Zippety Doo Dah!

Zippety Doo Dah!

My upbeat mood changes when I reach my destination, though. The sunshine of my mind is eclipsed by dark clouds and even darker thoughts because that’s when I see it: The Other Garden at Groundhog Hill.

I must pass this other garden to reach my “go crazy” garden, and each day, I bear witness to its cruel beauty, its precise rows, its utter lack of Johnson Grass. This garden belongs to a friend of my sister Paula, whom I shall call “Harold.”


For reasons unbeknownst to me, Harold is given the best spot each year. I am Paula’s brother, possibly her favorite after John, Alex, Will, Philip, and Ben, but do I receive the most coveted spot for my garden? No.

My garden gets to be closest to the creek so the deer, rabbits and groundhogs have easier access.

Harold started planting sometime in March so now, his rows and rows of expertly maintained green onion, potato, tomato, green beans, cabbage, and squash look great.

Harold’s garden mocks my garden.

I suspect he employs a team of highly skilled Wood Elves to weed, till and plant it because I rarely, if ever, see Harold there.

For the few seconds it takes to pass this garden, I actually hear a cool and calculating voice in my head not unlike a combo of Lord Voldemort and the Emperor from Star Wars, and it sounds chilling as it notes with menace, “What. A. Beautiful. Garden. A pity if something bad were to happen to it. A plague, perhaps.” {chilling laugther piercing one’s soul inserted here}

The Sith Emperor Palpatine from STAR WARS

The Sith Emperor Palpatine from STAR WARS

By now, I’ve reached my garden. The mental coulds (and voices) disperse and I am returned to myself and former bluebird-filled mood.

This week, Groundhog Hill is muddy with gratitude from the recent rainfall. Watermelon, zucchini, sunflower, zinnia: All hold the promise that says, “Just give us a month.”

More later from Groundhog Hill. Pray for Harold and his garden.

June 13, 2012.
Year One. Column Four.
Oh Deer!*

Caution: Deer Eating….

The following dialogue might have been overheard around 2 AM on or around Hwy 31E just past Ovesen Heights:

Leader: “All right, listen up! Single file, everyone….hooves together. Remember, we hide our numbers and don’t forget to hop every few steps to confuse any trackers. Bob, you’re lagging. Don’t make me come back there.”

Bob: “Sorry, I’m just worried about Lou. We just left him by the creek. Did you see the look in his eyes? Like he was literally caught in that Chevy’s headlights.”

Leader: “Forget Lou. I’ve seen it a hundred times. Probably a goner. We never learn! Time to eat. Everyone, to the sunflowers! I call dibbs on the zinnias. Bob, try the marigolds. They’re delicious.”

Lou (out of breath, just catching up): “Sorry guys. That was close.”

Bob: “You OK, buddy?”

Lou (still breathing hard): “Sure. Yeah. Just stunned.”

Leader: “How’s the Chevy?”

Lou: “Not happy. Hey, somebody planted basil in with the sunflower….yuk!”

That’s right, deer. Basil has been planted everywhere in the garden at Groundhog Hill. In every row. Alongside all those delicious zinnias. Thanks to our recent rainfall, the basil is healthy and coming up strong.

Like my 92-year-young father, deer don’t particularly care for basil (either sweet Italian or cinnamon). I don’t think there’s a connection between the two, but anything’s possible.

Apprentice and Master.

Apprentice and Master.

Happy to report that, so far, all is well at Groundhog Hill. With the exception of seeing some deer tracks in the mud, most flora have remained unsampled. Sunflowers are growing like gangbusters. Zucchini and Butternut Squash look very promising. Watermelon vines are taking over territory previously claimed by nefarious Johnson Grass.

And, as Luck would have it, I saw an actual Bluebird in the garden the other morning. Think it’s going to be a good summer.

More later from Groundhog Hill.

(*)Not the original title. Don’t remember/can’t locate the master copy tho!

June 20, 2012.
Year One. Column Five.
Exciting Times!

There is a quiet joy you get while gardening — especially in the early morning when it’s just you, the birds chirping and the crickets singing.

Cattle in the field next door eye you suspiciously, but they only add to beautiful scenery.

It’s just you, the stuff you planted and the happiness you feel that everything’s coming up and looking so good. Very zen-like.

Presumably, the local deer are asleep in a nearby field, stomachs full from a night of foraging. Ditto, rabbits.

Exciting times these days at Groundhog Hill as I have harvested the first produce of the summer: Jalapeno Peppers.

I’m just as surprised as you. I would have guessed Green Beans, but they’ve been kind of slow-moving.

The zinnias and marigolds are starting to bloom with abandon dotting the garden with reds, purples, pinks, yellows and oranges.

The first Zinnias start to bloom....

The first Zinnias start to bloom….

Zucchini have appeared out of nowhere — and possibly most exciting of all — I spotted the very first watermelon this week.

Most popular on the buffet lately have been the Lima Beans, which I believe the rabbits are enjoying.

Sunflowers are still being sampled, though, much to my disappointment.

Lots of weeds to pull every day, of course. A shiftless cousin of mine, whom I shall call “Cleve McStubbins” says the ivy-ish weed I stab each day is actually called Ivy Leaf Morning Glory. Another reader refers to it as “Bull Weed.” I hack away at it, nonetheless.

My back’s okay, though.

More later from Groundhog Hill.

June 27, 2012.
Year One. Column Six.
Pumpkin Planting

Lotsa Pumpkin planting going on at Groundhog Hill: Calabaza Jack-O-Lantern, First Prize Hybrid, and of course, Big Max.

Now, I know many of you think it’s too early to plant pumpkins. You wait until the 4th of July or the full moon on the 3rd of July, but I am a pumpkin planter on the 1st day of Summer, the longest day of the year.

My thinking is thus: If I plant on June 20th, these pumpkins should theoretically be ready to pick by October 1st, which gives them 100+ days to grow.

I don’t want to wait two weeks and have something happen this summer like bad weather or drought which might cause them not to be ready by Halloween. And of course, because these pumpkins are planted at Groundhog Hill, I have surrounded the entire perimeter of the patch with Giant Marigold to keep the pests (and the deer) either at bay, or at the very least, preoccupied.

Tableaux at Halloween

Tableaux at Halloween

You see, I have a big deadline: The La Rue Family Pumpkin Carving Contest.

We La Rues will compete over literally ANYTHING. Some of us will insist upon carving up to four pumpkins in hopes of increasing their chances of winning the first prize of Eternal Glory.

Also, many of our family are freakishly talented pumpkin carvers. Paula has a lot of competition from my nephew Aaron.

Carver Extraordinaire.

Carver Extraordinaire.

This past week, I spotted (and was spotted by) a Groundhog and a Rabbit, both of whom seemed intent on sending me a message: We are here and we are enjoying this year’s buffet irregardless of the Basil.

More later from Groundhog Hill. Pray for rain!

July 4, 2012.
Year One. Column Seven.
The Hunger Games: GH Edition!

“Greetings, Vegetation of Groundhog Hill! Or should I say, “Tributes!”

Welcome to the 1st Annual Hunger Games for Gardens where you shall be pitted against your fellow Flora for moisture in the ultimate challenge for survival.

Yes, Zinnia versus Zinnia! Butternut Squash versus Zucchini!

Only the most hardy of you shall live in this specially designed arena which simulates the planet Mercury, or at the very least, the city of Phoenix.

To your right, you’ll notice a Water Source: A fork of Nolynn Creek.

Unfortunately, the creek is nearly dry, so enjoy what little evaporation still left to you.

The Gardener of Groundhog Hill had intended to install an elaborate irrigation system for your protection against such circumstances as Drought, however, his elaborate winch-pulley-donkey-pulled rain barrel sprinkler device did not make it out of remedial design inspection.

Your suffering, dear Vegetation, shall serve as his punishment.


Fortunately for you Zinnia, you had your day in the sun last weekend when the first cutting went on display at the Crossroads Country Inn for the Lincoln Museum fundraiser.

As for you, Green Beans, thank you for your service…and Goodbye. Condolences, Pumpkin Patch!

Sunflowers, the game is Yours To Lose.

May the odds of an Isolated Thunderstorm be ever in your favor.

More later from Groundhog Hill.

July 11, 2012.
Year One. Column Eight.
Summer of Adversity

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