Working Retreat

April 14, 2010

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 It’s Wednesday, and I am still thinking about the hot bubble bath in a clawfoot tub and the yummy meals prepared for me last weekend. Proprietor, Lani Eklund of The Inn at Locke House, offered a Weed, Feed, and Stay Retreat to anyone who would volunteer one workday in the gardens. In return, you’d receive three w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l homemade meals and one peaceful night at the Inn. Considering what a good cook Lani is, and how little opportunities I have to run away from home, it’s debatable who benefited most.

I arrived at 9:00 a.m. Friday morning. The Inn is only ten miles from home so I didn’t have far to travel. After taking my bag to a Victorian-style room named The Langdon, I pulled on my garden gloves, grubby yard shoes, and sunhat. Other volunteers chose a different workday for their retreat, so it was only Lani and me pushing our gloved fingertips into the soil to rip out pesky weeds and zealous mint.

As I worked, colorful blooms swaddled my turned-down head and bowed shoulders. Within the hour, I pulled up an acorn seedling that had rolled in from the Inn’s oak grove, southeast of the gardens. The acorn’s taproot is twenty-seven inches long, a record compared to my collection at home! (Read Acorn Blues under Country Buzz.)

We weeded around the stocks of rosebushes, at the base of iris blades, under shrubs and herbs, between plants I recognized but couldn’t name. Some of the irises are 100 years old, as are the roses on the west side of the Inn. As we worked, we talked about our garden dreams, family, Facebook, blogging, and subjects I no longer recall. With heirloom plants at our fingertips and a house built in the 1800s sitting in the background, the scene reminded me of my great-grandmothers’ days when women stayed home and gathered to quilt, sew their gardens, preserve the harvest, and birth their children. All Lani and I needed was long bustled dresses and lace-up shoes.

After lunch, I weeded in a cool, damp bed under bushes that poked me in the head, and just about everywhere else on my person. Yellow Oxalis (Oxalis stricta) dominated the soil between the floras. In the 1800s, people planted Yellow Oxalis in fields and landscape. Oxalis puts on a pretty show with its yellow flowers, but today we consider this invasive clover to be a weed, an unwelcome disfigurement in our beds and lush, green lawns. Oxalis grows from a bulb. To control it one must dig the bulbs out with a shovel or use a good weed killer. I wasn’t aware of this at the time, so the bulbs are still beneath the surface which means that whatever I pulled up will grow back. This is probably grounds for Volunteer Recall.

We pulled up our stiff bodies and put our tools away at 5:00 p.m. Lani, who worked alongside me all day, made a delicious seafood dish and cucumber salad. My room was warm and comfy, the bubble bath soothing. When I folded back the covers, and laid my head on a pink check pillowcase, I felt like a young girl. I haven’t slept in pink sheets for years. What a treat!

In the morning, Lani whipped up her own recipe of Egg Florentine Bake. I wanted to weed again so I could taste more flavors of this professional cook, something I’m not. Through the screen door, I watched a blue jay splash in a birdbath over a weed-free bed. Weed-free beds will satisfy the heart of any gardener, especially when his or her stomach is full after a restful night. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre



One comment

  1. What a great day at The Inn at Locke House! I didn’t know about the working retreat. I may look into it myself as I don’t live too far away.


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