Rock of Ages

For one Valley couple, planting a few backyard flowers turns into a geological nightmare



illustration of man holding big rockIllustration by Leo Acadia

Oh, lovely spring. Birds filled with song. Buds ready to burst. The soft “shush” of shovels slipping into soft earth.

Yeah, right.

Here in the Hudson Valley, we gardeners can only dream of that “shush.” All we ever get is the “CLANK” of metal against rock. No matter how many clumps of earth we dig into, it is always the same. CLANK. CLANK. CLANK. That’s when we realize that beneath the surface of one of the prettiest places on earth is nothing but a big ol’ nasty quarry — a calling card of the Ice Age.

“Those #%&*@ glaciers!” my husband cries out from the yard as his shovel strikes one rock after another. This draws a crowd since it’s not very often you get to hear somebody cursing out a prehistoric geological phenomena.

But he needs to blow off a little steam: by the time he’s done digging up a square of dirt for the new daylilies, he’ll have also produced a rock pile worthy of Alcatraz.

It’s almost as bad as the day he tried to dig a puny hole for a little rose bush. He’d been out there for a while when I glanced out the window, spotted a growing pile of slag on one side and the little rose bush still in the bucket on the other. There he stood, a fist raised to the sky.
“With God as my witness,” he shouted. “I’ll never dig in this yard again!”

He was just like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind — except he’s a strapping Yankee with a Long Island accent who’d rather die than wear a hoop skirt. Other than that, they looked exactly the same.

“Hang in there, Miss Scarlett,” I yelled. “Help is on the way.”

When we finished, the rose bush was in, but we realized we’d need to build a patio, a walkway, and a replica of the Great Wall of China in order to get rid of all the rocks that had come out of the ground. It was either that or call in friends who live in flatter, sandier places and seem to value us more for the boulders than for our company. They visit every fall so they can pick apples, sip cider, and lug whatever they want from our rock piles to their trunks.

“This stuff would cost a fortune if we called a landscaper!” they yell as they drive away. If we weren’t so tired from a season of digging out rocks, we would pick up a few and throw them at their car.

At this point, you might be wondering why we don’t abandon the idea of turning our yard into a botanical wonderland? The answer is simple: Garden fever. It’s an incurable disease that has doomed us to this flowery and rocky path to hell.

We’ve tried to get off the path. But we can’t. So starting this month, and straight through to November, we plow straight ahead — and zigzag when we must around all the big rocks sticking out of the ground.