Before the word “hoe” was co-opted by a new generation to mean something else entirely it was a tool.
Um. Let me stop there. Before the word “tool” was co-opted by a new generation, THAT word meant something different. But I digress.
To wit, here’s an example of not only the new use of the word hoe in a set of brilliant, stunning lyrics by the immensely talented Nicky Minaj (about whom I would know absolutely nothing if this piece of pap hadn’t shown up on my Facebook page):
I continue to be very glad I know nothing about Nicki Minaj, who clearly is in serious need of an English education, but whose attributes (such as they are) are making her a lot of money. Plastic surgery apparently makes up for a great deal, including lack of creativity, brains, competence with the English language and a host of other valuable traits. Tits work, I guess, if you will forgive my being just as in your face as her attributes are. Shall we say.
But I digress. Before Ms. Boob Job(oh, excuse me, I mean Ms. Minaj) and a whole generation redirected our understanding of the word hoe, it was- and for most of the rest of us- still is a garden implement.
Dear Ms. Minaj: THIS is a hoe:
Now that we have that clarified, I can continue.
The previous owners of my home, who sold it to me twelve years ago, were both committed gardeners. The room that sits just below my deck was full of every kind of implement, including compost. That implement set sat quietly gathering cobwebs and served as scaffolding for my Mouse Manhattan for twelve years. The only reason that happened was because when I returned two corgies to their breeder when they simply did not turn out to be a good fit, I moved an enormous wicker hamper full of dog food into that storage room. You’d think someone who grew up on a farm would know better. We don’t have corn and black snakes here to take care of that problem. Not long after that I found out that I was playing host to an enormous- and mind you probably very grateful- community of mice who were enjoying the hell out of that organic dog food. But I digress.
When I enlisted a handyman to build out the storage room, I grabbed the big heavy handful of tools and leaned them against the downstairs wall.
I was intimately familiar with all of them when I was a pre-adolescent. My parents had put me to work in Central Florida with great zeal, being great believers in child slavery especially in mid-summer, when kids become a lot more convenient to mow, hoe, and sweat profusely while you sip a mint julep inside in front of a fan.
I had no idea I was so well-equipped. While my yard was quietly dying over time, the previous owners had left me with just about everything I needed to control the weeds, plant new babies and encourage growth.
The tools nearly grinned at me from the wall. Get busy, they said.
Last week, I’d tried. I’d grabbed the shovel to plant a big, fat forsythia that I’d proudly picked out just for a certain spot against my garage wall. South-facing, I thought I might invest several hundred and build a huge wall of shade, since that garage gets hot, and the heat transfers to the house.
At first I just nabbed the shovel and hove to. That is, until I hit concrete. I made a fair- sized hole, just enough according to the instructions.
Concrete. Well. I might just have solved the problem of why my forsythia is dying. In fact there is a three-foot by twelve-foot strip right against that brick wall in which nothing grows.
Huh. After twelve years I might want to the get the hint that nothing is going to grow there. Even succulents don’t grow there. They are all leaning in the other direction.
No wonder…..but I digress.
The shovel worked wonders up to a point. After that I was digging with a small spade. Anyone who is familiar with the relative stupidity and singlemindedness of those of us who’ve never gardened will be thinking Why didn’t she use the bow rake?
Well I have one, but I didn’t know it (in fact I just had to look it up on Google) and I had no idea as yet how much trouble it might have saved me. But it won’t cultivate concrete. Apparently, my forsythia can’t either, which is why I will now have to move the damned thing before all the leaves fall off in our 104-degree weather.
By the way, as this is how most things go, not only is my forsythia wilting but so are we, as my air conditioner chose this week to crap out on us. Classic. I have far more empathy for my forsythia than you might imagine.
The next day I wandered back out, full of myself for having settled the soon-to-be-moved- again forsythia into her new spot (after which she immediately began to wither and die). I had more ice plants to punch into the soil. This time I grabbed a hoe and a bow rake. They made opening up spots for two ice plants in mere moments. Those little green giants have rewarded me with bright, happy, fuschia blooms, and have settled in nicely, unlike some other plants I might name. But I don’t want to be rude.
Duck, She’s Heading This Way and She’s Armed
Some years back when I first bought this house the previous owner’s work was still in full bloom, flower and health. I bought a set of garden tools and set to. I managed, in no short time, to cut the stems of most of the ivy that curled prettily against the side of the house. It all died. I mistakenly gouged up gorgeous flowers and threw them out to allow milkweed to flourish. And boy did it.
In a ham-handed attempt at pruning, I managed to decapitate many young plants and buds just as they were about to express themselves joyously.
After a while I realized I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and I’d better leave well enough alone. That I did. So much so that stuff died, compost piled up, hailstorms wiped out ornamentals, voles ate my juniper bushes and all hell broke loose. Including the loss of a massive, much-beloved walnut, which left my poor yard to scorch.
The tools sat quietly in the storage room, along with dried compost, and whole lot of hope that someone would wake up and put them to work again. They were sorely needed.
All the tools now bear my handprints. They heft happily in my palms and go to work willingly, making life in the garden not only bearable in the heat but also far more efficient. The danger- and it is with me- is that my enthusiasm knows no bounds. My ground cover cowers when I walk by with a hoe in my hand, knowing that I am entirely unpredictable. It has a long memory, and some has escaped to hide in the safety of the lawn lest I mistake it for…I have no clue but it doesn’t look right.
The other day I was in my lawn eyeballing some greenery that wasn’t exactly grass. Not milkweed either. I couldn’t quite identify if it was friend or foe. That’s dangerous in my yard. More plants than I care to admit have been sacrificed to friendly fire. The hoe was leaning against the garage wall. I eyed it. Escapees. This time I took the time to see where they may have originated from, and it’s real ground cover.
This weekend, as the temperatures will once again moderate to the 70s, albeit briefly, I will gently lift and move said ground cover to places where it is sorely needed. There it will land in rich compost, be lovingly tamped in, and watered thoroughly.
I am armed with tools. Including a hoe. With all due respect to the redoubtable Ms. Minaj, whose work I have never heard (and clearly never will), my hoe works hard, and she sure as hell isn’t stupid.
Which is more than I can say for the Reluctant Gardener.