Work in a garden brings its own rewards, but there are many things that are important for a productive and enjoyable session - the right tools (cleaned and sharpened), gloves with all the finger ends intact, a durable shade hat, a long-sleeved top, sunscreen (especially for the back of your neck), one container for compost clippings and one for weeds, a kneepad of sorts and perhaps even a buddy.
I actually think of gardening as a rather solitary pursuit and like it for that very reason. Others of you might like to garden with a neighbor, a friend or a spouse in order to share the workload and enjoy some conversation. For me, it is downtime, an opportunity to unwind and gentle my mind - well OK, a chance to ignore the dust bunnies under the bed and the e-mail on the computer.
But I'm never alone for long anytime I wander out to my garden. No matter the day, the time or the season, shortly after I arrive to putter I hear the familiar voice of our barn cat Marmalade telling me he is ready, as well. Once I hear him, I look for his orange flag of a tail heading toward me - garden supervision next on his list. He immediately checks out and comments on the chore at hand - be it pruning, deadheading, weeding or planting, although admittedly he's not very crazy about watering. If truth be told, Marmalade's favorite assignment is catching mice, but gardening seems to run a very close second. He will leave his bachelor quarters in the barn or join me from the pasture where he has been supervising the horses grazing within minutes of me surfacing in the garden. How he knows I'm there I don't know, as my schedule for gardening is non-existent and I know sometimes he was very far away, busy with his numerous ranch responsibilities.
After a reasonable amount of work has been accomplished, Marmalade is very good about suggesting a break, something all gardeners should do. My hand will be tapped or with elbows out he will firmly climb into my lap for a scratch under his chin, behind his ears, or the best one of all - at the base of his tail. Nothing too mushy or lengthy, and when I get it right, his rumble of approval is very clear. It's not that he thinks gardening is all about him, but remember, he is a cat. Then it is back to the task at hand, giving me his undivided attention and the occasional comment or suggestion, rarely drifting off or getting distracted by a butterfly or a foot that needs cleaning. He never settles in the middle of a daylily clump (like some dogs I know), or chews on a peony stem, seeming to understand perfectly that neither is good gardening etiquette. He just wants to be in the warmth of the afternoon or the quiet of the morning with company. Now that those precious days of summer finally are on the way, Marmalade and I wish you sunny skies, soft rains and the purr-fect gardening companion.
Jane McLeod is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org