Digging in the Dirt

  • Mike McCurry
  • 03/31/16
It was one of those perfect late-spring days in Clarendon Hills when the air was cool and the sun was hot. My wife and oldest son were in the backyard gardening. She laid out a colorful Mexican blanket for our baby daughter to rest under the sugar maple, creating an idyllic Norman Rockwell family picture. It was an old tree — its branches were several feet thick and many spanned across the yard, the deck and in between our house and our neighbors’ home.
It wasn’t unusual to hear the maple crying out, especially with the harder spring winds. Today, Amy felt a parental tug in her gut to move the children to another lounging area, safe from the 150-year-old tree. She could sense the tree was laboring as the wind blew harder. After settling into the comfortable new spot, there was a loud crack. Two of the heaviest limbs crashed to the ground — right where the children had been just moments before.
When I got the call, I could tell from her voice that she was scared, so I rushed home without hesitation. Surveying the tree, the yard, and the damage done to our landscaping, I was hugely grateful for the safety of my family. I walked around the damage and up to the deck and into our home. It wasn’t a second later that the rest of the tree split, fell, and destroyed the deck I had just walked across! Talk about an intense day!
Just the night before all of this drama happened, on that very deck, we had popped the cork on a bottle of champagne to mark the completion of landscape plans we had started several years earlier. It was a long journey of hard work that we were thrilled to have completed. But Mother Nature has a voice at the table … and as always, she has the final word.
I recently spoke with two of our neighbors who know a lot about getting their hands dirty in the yard: Lorna and Robert Galandak. Many will know Lorna as the long-term Admin for CHMS (she recently moved over to HMS). This is a couple who always look happy cutting their grass twice a week and collecting leaves as they fall from the tree. To be honest, they keep their yard so tidy that our neighbors are a little intimidated; it always looks perfect.
I asked Lorna and Robert for the secrets to keeping a nice-looking yard. They told me to keep it simple. Grow plants that are easy to keep and need little water. Get out early and get the yard cleaned up, take out plants that died over the winter and use safe products that keep weed seeds from taking root. Robert actually has a secret potion for keeping bugs from eating his plants: dish soap and water. I have a similar home remedy for my vegetable garden: dish soap, boiled chewing tobacco, and Listerine. You can almost see the bugs running away!
If your family likes digging in the dirt, have you heard about the Richmond Education Gardens and Apiary project? Just West of the police station and public works facility is a space owned by the villages of Westmont and Clarendon Hills (near Richmond Avenue). The gardens are designed to eOKducate our community about our environment and natural and organic gardening. There will be rain gardens, native vegetables, wildflowers, a butterfly garden — even a collection of beehives. This is an exciting project that will benefit our schools and our community.
You can support this community effort by inviting friends to attend the fundraiser at Aguamiel Restaurante on Earth Day, April 22. You can buy tickets at Aguamiel (30 S. Prospect Ave.), or call 630-537-1966. The tickets are $40.00 for adults and $8.00 for children. Tickets include a four-course dinner and one beverage of your choice.
After that Sugar Maple fell, we fixed the wood deck and put the paver bricks back where they belonged. We planted again, and we sowed more. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it. After all, we enjoy our yard mostly because of the effort that we put into it.

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