The Back Forty

“Hey, Mom and Dad? Can Jason and I take over your back yard?”

They responded with, “Sure hun, whatever you want. Just let us know if you’re going to dig any big holes.”

I could sense the disbelief that THIS time it was different, I swear.

So many times I had attempted to do great projects with this untouched slope of clay. Just as many times, all the projects sat for years mouldering and uncompleted.

The property came into my family when my grandmother, Nana, purchased the house back in 196sumthin’ or other. At just under an acre it had everything she wanted. It had much cherished land, a small orchard and to the utter glee of my mom, then in 5th grade: it came with a horse to boot.

Over the years, gardens came and went and the plum trees produced the most astounding plums you ever tasted! Mom tended a flock of sheep in the pens. Rabbit hutches lined the south wall. And I needn’t mention all the chickens! Veal calves were finished and dressed, all the while a flock of the loudest most destructive overly fed fat white geese stripped the hillside bare of every last blade of grass.

Goats came and went and the orchard (planted in 1949) started to die. Coyotes discovered our flock and came for them one by one till every last bird was gone.

And there the back forty, sat, untouched and untended for years. Until…

“Those neighbors of ours are such jerks! Why did they call the city, when they could have kindly asked us to weed whack?!”

Did I mention that we had a storage shack that looked like a tornado had done a bang up decorating job on it? Or that we had over a decade of weeds pupil height creating a thatch that only a machete could pierce? Or a forest of palm trees so dense and untrimmed that only the rats could navigate it?

This was no simple weed abatement job. This was major construction. Massive dumpsters, stump grinders and a bob cat were needed to get the job done. The junk pile that had accumulated over the past thirty something years was finally gone!

And again, the land sat. But each year, it got a haircut. The clippings were left to decompose. The scarce patches of topsoil began to grow. For the last ten years, the land has been slowly regenerating itself. Worms have returned to the soil and every year, a glorious display of wild radish swaths the hillside in violet and green. Bees, butterflies and birds swarm during Spring and Summer.

But that’s not enough.

Only after we can feed our friends and family all year will it be enough. And even then, given my plant addiction, enough will never be enough. With the blessing of my parents, Jason and I have already started the transformation of our back forty.

–Marisa