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A Rock (or two) and a Hard Place

June 11, 2021

Another Way for week of June 4, 2021

A Rock (or two) and a Hard Place

Two weeks ago we were betwixt and between, frustrated and at sea. How could we get ourselves out of the pickle that we’d gotten ourselves into?

If you follow this column, you know we’re gardeners with a fairly large space for a couple of retired empty nesters. We enjoy canning and freezing and sharing vegetables with friends and relatives and so we continue to plant much more than we can consume ourselves.

The soil was getting worn out, frankly, by 17 years of production. We finally found a guy this year selling topsoil at an affordable price. We went to see the topsoil—didn’t want a lot of rocks. He had a pile of sifted dirt that looked gorgeous. We ordered 5 loads and the delivery—after much waiting and leaving messages and wondering—took place over a couple of days. The wait delayed the start of our gardening this summer by weeks.

Three of the five dirt piles. Sorry the photo is so dark. Matched our moods.

The young man promised to come back and spread the dirt around—no charge—as part of his delivery. We understood he was busy. Over-committed, I decided. Stretched way thin on what he could accomplish. We began shoveling it ourselves and Stuart used his ramshackle garden tractor with a snow plow on front to shove the dirt piles around.

A neighbor usually used a tractor tiller to prep our garden patch for us but that looked iffy this year due to health concerns for his family. They also make hay and it was high haying season. We hated to ask him. We debated renting equipment and Stuart was toying with the idea of how to make or repurpose a device to spread the soil around. He wished for an old metal mattress spring like he’d seen someone use. Maybe he could use an old trailer frame that sat under our deck? It was nearing Memorial Day weekend when we’d hoped to take a long weekend trip to the mountains, celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary. Perhaps we’d work all weekend instead.

On Friday morning our neighbor’s retired son asked if we needed help with the garden soil. An elderly aunt had died the previous week so their family obligations impacted his life of course. We were overjoyed at his offer, even though we knew their own spring work was also behind. But nevertheless he was willing to bring over their box blade implement which smoothed things out, and then he also tilled it with their tractor tiller.

It was like a miracle, an answer to prayer we hadn’t dared to pray. That night before our weekend getaway, I hurriedly planted some of the plants that were waiting patiently to be put in the real dirt. We were so very thankful and breathed a thank you to God.

Garden now, 2 weeks later. (Lettuce, radishes, and onions had been planted earlier, before the new soil delivery.)

The young man never did show up with a device for spreading the dirt around, and neither did he bother to respond to messages left on his phone. Suffice it to say we do not plan to buy any more topsoil from him. Lesson learned.

The moral of this story? We need each other. Neighbors who reach out and help when you are in a difficult situation whether it is illness, poor planning, a car breakdown, or getting locked out of your truck. There are always debts of gratitude to repay.

We still have more rocks than we wanted but many of them are round, smooth rocks from the great river bottom area of our county, reminding me of the richness of this soil that many years ago lined the river bed. I will use some to mark the edges of flower beds and a sloped mulch patch at one corner of the house.

A smooth garden (yes there are rocks) but the corn is now up and potatoes pushing through.

Let us always be grateful for the kind deeds done for us. I hope I will also be reminded of the generous help of our neighbor and vow to “go and do likewise.”


When did someone last help you out of a pinch? Or returned a favor?

I’d love to hear your stories and lessons learned!


Comment here or send to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. This story is full of miracles. As long as we are not tied to the method of delivery, God can supply our needs in wonderful ways.

    I can’t answer your either of your question right now, but I can recall helping my Grandma take rocks out of the soil so her strawberry bed would thrive. How did the rocks get there? Long ago, a trolley had run parallel to the edge of her property. Of course, there were ROCKS and pebbles. I helped her because I wanted to spend time with my Grandma–and because I liked to eat strawberries. 🙂

  2. My cup runneth over! And now we’ve had rain to be thankful for. Did you tell the trolley story in your book?

    Strawberries are a worthy prize for picking rocks!

    • I didn’t tell the trolley story, but I did mention that one existed along Anchor Road:: “A few months later, Auntie Mame brought another batch of hats. When I spied the red-felt hat with broad brim, I knew it had to be mine. Our catwalk this time was not the narrow confines of Grandma’s bedroom but her front lawn along Harrisburg Avenue, where an old trolley used to travel on rails sunk deep into a graded bank of gray limestone chunks like uncut gems.”

  3. Athanasia permalink

    Don’t you compost? What do u do with all your kitchen trimmings and grass and fall leaves and etc. Plus i thought you had chickens? There’s all the straw and manure to add in and compost too. I hope you will not have to buy dirt again.

    Picking rocks here is a normal part of life here. Every time the soil is tilled, new batch. Every field is edged with rocks, even boulders. Our houses are surrounded with fences made of them., some of them as old as my first settler ancestors.

  4. Hi again, Athanasia, thanks for showing up again here. I had honestly been wondering what had happened to you and whether you were ill or …. just disappeared. We have composted in the past; not in bins like we should, but in a pile in the corner of the garden. Unfortunately our dog likes to rummage too much there and I have to bury stuff quickly there, so I don’t put much out there, and of course not bones etc. I do put our corn shucking, watermelon rinds, etc. No, we’ve never had chickens, you must be thinking of another blogger. We do put straw between our rows in the garden to keep weeds down but overall, the soil was getting carried away by time and wind and rain (and into some of my flower beds by me in small plantings,) so it seemed like it was time to replenish.

    I like your last paragraph. Again, great to hear from you.

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