My brother John was inspired by John Steinbeck’s Breakfast to write the following:
Hill Bed by John Barr
Just as the Fall last year in Rosenow, Germany, was so beautiful that it kept me inspired after my surgery, a couple of months ago I converted a pile of weed-covered soil, which several years I had dug out around the house to put in a drainage system but had never done anything with the dirt so that every year it was covered with weeds, into a Hill Bed and planted 300 Euros worth of flowers in it. I have never done anything like this and was horrified at how quickly 300 Euros disappears for plants. The red rose was the only thing I had planted three years ago so it was established, but the rest is from the last two months. Since my soil is so clay-ish, whenever I tried to water something it would just run off. But a visitor from Berlin a couple of months ago tipped me off to putting a kind of “snake” of stones on it which help make flatter steps or terraces to keep the water from running off so easily. The stones all come from my digging in the dirt, no matter for what purpose. They were moved down by glacial activity millennia ago so that one of my neighbors always says “they’re from Sweden.” He told me about why many of them are smooth and rounded. It’s from being tossed and turned over and over again on their long journey southward to Rosenow. Now that I have not been able to visit my Swedish friends for almost two years because of COVID, I use my stones to remind myself of them. Our part of northern Germany even once politically belonged to Sweden. They treated us rather badly back then, it is said.
I am curious to see how fast each type of plant spreads, the goal is so that no dirt is showing, but I like the look of the stones so may trim the plants around them so that the stones still show through, but so far this is not necessary.
The whole village, which wrote me off years ago…in a friendly way…for living in such a shabby house, is so impressed with my “Huegelbeet” that they actively come to tell me how much they like it or occasionally ask me if I would like another anemone or astilbe, and cars driving by come to a halt and people look out of the windows to see how it is doing.
It is not very impressive compared to what others do in their yards, but then it is only 2 months old. I go out there every other morning, after going swimming in the lake at 6.30 a.m., and pull up the tiniest weed and water it if the day is going to be hot, which many have been this summer (alternating with semi-catastrophic rainstorms). Our lake, 5 miles long, meandering through the forest all the way to Boitzenburg Castle, as well as the other 599 (no joke!) lakes in our county, are also a result of this glacial activity. Much of the region is a nature preserve, though there is some medium-scale farming. One must eat…
After others told me about their vaccinations I went out there and told all the plants in that bed that they were to think sweet thoughts about these others. If this works on me…and it does, quite amazingly…why shouldn’t it work on others? I was sort of chagrined that it turns out others were only feeling down for a day or two from a vaccination, so that my plants probably had not even yet licked the stamps to put on their virtual aerograms to them.