By Steve Smith
As the season winds down and the garden is put to bed, I can’t help but pause and reflect on the past several months. It was a roller coaster year for me with lots of promise, a major setback, and then a fantastic recovery. Mild weather near the end of winter enabled me to get a jump on my soil preparation for my raised beds and by March, I already had all my cool-season veggies planted and growing nicely. The rest of the mixed-border beds had been cleaned out, fertilized and mulched for the year. All I had to do was watch everything start growing. Life was good.
Then on May 28 around 12:30 a.m. my wife hobbled into the bedroom and woke me up (she had been sleeping downstairs while awaiting a hip replacement) to inform me that there was a fire in the back yard. The neighbor’s chicken coop had caught on fire, then spread to my tool shed, engulfing most of the veggie beds and surrounding landscape. Thankfully, between the Marysville police and fire departments its was contained. But the damage was done. About 128 feet of fence was gone and half of my back yard was either gone or singed to the point of needing major pruning. Virtually every vegetable was incinerated, including many of the boards of the raised beds, and all of the gardening tools I had collected over my lifetime were reduced to ingots of aluminum or destroyed beyond recognition. Like any good farmer, the only course of action was to pick up the pieces and start replanting. We replaced the fence and several structures. The raised bed boards were replaced, and I proceeded to replant the garden. Much to my surprise, the potatoes re-sprouted, but that was the only thing that recovered in the garden. The fire was so hot that it sterilized the soil and even after replanting, nothing wanted to grow until I applied liberal amounts of worm castings, which restored the soil microorganisms. In the end, I had one of the best gardens ever even though many of the veggies were planted very late. It was all a tribute to the resilience of nature and the tenacity of the gardener.
By the end of the season, I had replaced the shed (which we had been talking about removing anyway) with a cute little “she shed”, added a colorful arbor with decorative iron moon gates accented with dragonflies, and purchased several “new and improved” tools to replace the ones that had been consumed.
I now have quite a collection of metal tool heads (minus the wooden and fiberglass handles) that are just waiting to be incorporated into some form of garden art.
You can hardly tell there was ever a fire. I still need to replace several of the 16-feet tall Emerald Green Arborvitae that burned, but overall, life
is good and for that I am extremely thankful. I am now looking toward spring when I will repair the last remnants of the fire damage and move on like it never happened. Tragedy always brings opportunity.
Steve Smith owns Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org