I have definitely spent more time in my back yard in the past. Back when we used to water the grass, specifically. Over all those long summer months, I didn't feel compelled to get out and trim or mow the lawn. It didn't need it. Instead, I spent the first couple weeks of June filling up our yard waste bin with the leftover branches from our winter tree debacle. Once that mess was pretty well sorted out, I pulled out the weeds that had sprung up in the newly sun-drenched plain that was once shaded by towering eucalyptus. That was how I discovered the gourd vine. Stretching ten or more feet across this expanse was a green twist of a plant, sprouting at least a dozen fist-sized yellow and green striped gourds. It was what we call "a volunteer."
This little plant became part of my weekly water runs, as I couldn't imagine simply leaving it to its own devices after I had found it struggling so gamely in the outback. I made a point of giving it a little drink each time I dropped by to tend to the roses who spent most of the summer trying to adapt to their newly solar-enhanced position.
When September came, it was time to harvest the apples from the tree that marks the edge of the frontier. This year's crop was a healthy lot, seemingly happy with all that extra sky into which they could grow. The biosphere of our backyard continued to evolve. It wasn't until the last week of that month that we had anything resembling precipitation. At last, the dusty scrub that was our lawn finally began to green up, if only in patches.
As autumn began to take hold, those green patches continued to grow, until it became necessary to drag the lawn mower out for only the third time in as many months. I used all that power to level the various breeds of grass, and to mulch up the leaves that had begun to collect at the bottom of the trees out front. When I went into the back yard, behind the now clean-picked apple tree, I found something entirely new. Just a few yards away from our volunteer gourds was an equally healthy and thriving tomato plant. The twenty-or-so tomatoes were easily an embarrassment over the plant that we had struggled to keep alive on our deck all summer long, producing just a couple of tiny fruits, more suited to garnish than an actual salad. We couldn't have done any better if we had planned it.
Or maybe not.
My wife thinks she remembers tossing some tomato seeds into the back yard sometime last summer, much in the same way she remembers tossing a gourd back there in the spring. The reality of the plant that has grown takes some of the edge off the fantasy of beanstalks and giant peaches. We talked about all the things we might toss out there over the next few months, just to see what might sprout up. I suggested throwing out a couple dollars in change.