“Sod It!”

An adventure with Maggie and Marge, “The Gardening Fools.”

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY JEFF CROSBY

I’ve always liked this charming story from GREENPRINTS No. 54, Summer of 2003. Of course, I like lots (read: all) of the stories that run in the magazine. So why am I reprinting this one? You’ll find out!

In the early days of our friendship, Marge and I became known as “The Gardening Fools.” We acquired this title working in Marge’s kitchen garden. It wasn’t our fault. It was due to some unlovely tomato worms, the ones that apparently aspired to the growth patterns of zucchini. Positively chunky, they seemed worthy of a television documentary, complete with close-ups and British-accented voice-overs. How to get rid of them, we pondered. Chemicals were out, and they seemed a bit too meaty for the sole of a shoe. A car, however, seemed perfect.

The only vehicle between us at the time was Marge’s VW bug, an appropriate choice. Knocking a worm onto a trowel, we placed the monster on the driveway. One driving, the other directing, it was: “Left, left, forward, right a bit…eeeuw!!” Our career as Gardening Fools had begun.

After that, we thought we could do anything.

The sod story came about when my husband and I finally bought a house outside of Boston. The small, neglected plot out back was the bane of the neighborhood. It had also become the comfort station of choice for every dog in the vicinity. So the first order of business was to put up a fence.

“This is good,” I mumbled through the sod that plastered my face. “Yep. This works. We can do this.”

All our neighbors had chain-link fences around their gardens, so all we had to do was put up six-foot-high stockade sections on either side of the house, placing the gate near our back door. (The stockade was a temporary response to my desire, since age 11, to own a walled garden. Reading The Secret Garden does that to little girls.) The driveway was on the other side of the house, but it never occurred to us that we might need to put a gate there, too. As we shortly learned, that would prove to be a big mistake. Especially since we didn’t own a wheelbarrow.

The design was simple: flower beds, a veggie plot, and a tiny lawn, about 10 feet square, where I could sit and gaze upon my garden. So tiny, The Gardening Fools felt it was an ideal candidate for sod. Instant lawn! We could do this, we thought. Piece of cake.

Our first clue that there might be more to this sodding game than we thought came at the nursery, where we noticed that the very beefy man who was loading the rolls of sod into Marge’s new little hatchback was sweating profusely. Here was a giant of a man, six-feet-five, shaved head, neck like a linebacker, sweating and grunting each time he lifted and loaded. We glanced at each other, eyebrows raised.

The car was groaning, too, its rear end sinking lower and lower with each Swiss roll-like bundle of sod. Marge’s eyebrows inched even higher than mine.

“It appears heavier than we thought,” she murmured.

“Seems that way,” I replied, watching as Andre the Giant heaved the last roll.

“Think we can do this?” She asked.

“Sure. Piece of cake.”

After driving home, we proceeded to back the car into the driveway. Right up to the place where the six-foot stockade fence now stood. The other side of the house, where the gate was situated, had only a narrow footpath leading from the street.

“We can do this,” Marge said. “We will unload the sod, one roll at a time, and pass it over the fence.” Right. One five-foot woman tossing a 50-pound bundle over a six-foot fence at another five-foot woman. I positioned myself inside the garden, waiting expectantly.

“I don’t know, Maggie,” Marge said as she gallantly attempted to heave the first roll higher than her waist. This was quite a bit shy of the top of the fence. “I don’t think this is going to work. Didn’t think about putting a gate here?”

Marge was now staggering about under a bundle of warm sod. Peering through the gaps in the top of the fence, I stopped laughing long enough to have a brilliant idea.

“Maybe if we both stand on something, it’ll work.”

We soon had a stack of logs for Marge, a bag of peat moss for me: rolling instability on one side, brown slippery plastic on the other.

“OK,” said Marge, “here it comes.”

And indeed it did. It was up, it was over, it was…knocking me flat on my back. I laughed hysterically.

“Oh, sure, this is good,” I mumbled through the sod that plastered my face. “Yep. This works. We can do this.”

Covered in mud, we decided to give up on the up-and-over route. We moved the car to the front of the house. We then un-loaded and carried a roll down the long path to the gate. Sensible. Also daunting. It would take all day to do this one at a time, and by then we’d be too tired to lay the darn sod. (We were ready to sink to swears.)

“We need something with wheels, a cart or something,” said Marge. Suddenly, another brilliant idea flashed through my muddled brain. “How about a golf-bag cart?”

“Hey! Might work.”

Rushing into the house, we resurrected an ancient contraption discarded by my golfing husband. Then it was out to the curb to load, stack, secure, or somehow stick the sagging rolls of sod onto the caddy.

“I don’t know, Maggie,” Marge said again. Stacked horizontally, they rolled off. Vertically, they lacked the stiffness to stand up. Just our luck—limp sod.

A passerby, watching our struggle, paused. “Hmm,” he said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “Golf cart. Sod. Making a course?”

Finally, after hours of hard work trying to avoid hard work, we set to hefting the rolls, one at a time, down the garden path. Filthy by now, our arms like spaghetti, our legs like rubber, we laid the sod upon the soil. Actually chucked, more like. We duly trampled it and rolled around on it. Then two worn-to-the-nub Gardening Fools, having laid it, lay upon it.

“Sod it,” Marge said. “Next time we plant seed.”

Now…16 years later…the sequel!


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