Excerpt from Playing in the Dirt With The Digger

Memoir by Cheryle Hoskins Bigelow

From In The Words Of Olympic Peninsula Authors

Most of our friends know my husband as a professional musician, but at home he has another identity. When a woman on a tour of our former garden asked him if he had assisted in designing the lovely scene, he said, “Oh no, I’m just the digger.” This does not adequately describe his role then or now, but the name has followed him to our new garden on the Olympic Peninsula.

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Gardens and birds go together like scotch and soda, gin and tonic, cookies and milk. You get it.

The Digger is most interested in garden design when it involves a level, a hammer, and nails. As soon as he unpacked his tools at our new home, he hit the building supply store and purchased the materials he needed to plant a cedar post in the ground and top it with a crossbar on which to hang a bird feeder and a suet holder. In early spring we add a wire basket holding yarn, twigs, and crushed eggshells. The birds will soon seek out these supplies for the nesting season, and we witness our feathered friends building nests of many colors from the yarn basket.

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I wanted my garden in Sequim to accommodate my aging bones and aching back, so I intended to plant in large pots, wheelbarrows, or any waist-high container. Four wheelbarrows now contain annuals, edible greens, and a variety of herbs. The Digger surrendered his favorite keepsake wheelbarrow to me after I rusted out the bottom by planting in it while he was in Arizona . . . I purchased a new one to replace his treasure, but he didn’t like it; so I planted in it, too, and he bought himself another one that he guards carefully.

“Next, you’ll want to plant in the bed of my pickup,” he said with a grin.

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I had planted large pots with bulbs and perennials as recommended in the glossy gardening magazines, so I could switch them around at will to display optimum blooms without having to get down on my hands and knees to cultivate the plants. I couldn’t lift the soil-filled pots easily, so I bought a “pot lifter” hand truck which The Digger “jacked” to move his band equipment. When it was time to move the pot garden (don’t panic — I mean the perennial garden), I had to interrupt his lead guitar picking of an authentic version of Surf Rider, echoing the robust style of The Ventures, to come out and help me.

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Gardening in rainshadow country does require more attention to watering than you might expect, as we escape the moisture that constantly falls from the sky in many other areas of western Washington. The dahlias that look like fireworks in late summer have a reputation for heavy drinking, but we lucked out by planting our tubers in two recycled raised beds. The above-ground-level soil and the slightly higher wood sides of the planting boxes (that provide shelter from the sun) seem to reduce their need for a daily drink to a good binge about once a week.

I am not a Master Gardener, and I do not recommend trying to get these late blooming showstoppers to dry out, but they are happy “on the wagon” in our garden.

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The year The Digger and I bought our house I read an article that proclaimed “Yellow is the New Pink” in the garden, and I decided to be trendy for a change. The first step was to paint our front door yellow and purchase a yellow lawn chair. Then we rescued the broken down white picket fence left behind by the previous owners and painted it a soft yellow, like the one featured in the magazine piece. We topped it with a saucy rambling rose that dishes out tiny yellow blooms.

I would like to send a picture of the front of our house to Martha Stewart to show off the yellow color scheme, including the bright yellow (trimmed in black) American Goldfinches raiding the yellow feeder. But, like our other resident Washington state birds, they refuse to pose for a photo shoot. Sometimes just raising the camera destroys the magic of a moment, so The Digger and I usually settle happily for the pictures we store up in our minds.

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