Our idyllic life in American Flat, where mining will gearing up, will soon be ended. Our lives, too, are shifting gears; we’ve gotten an advance from the miners, acquired a building site in Silver City, and plans are speeding along.
The trade-off? A 60-foot-wide service road and drainage trench will replace our chicken house and yard, tool shed and garden, and converted Airstream trailer/studio; work to begin in one week. We had to hustle to salvage anything we wanted to keep.
My Silver City gardening comrades were delighted to help dig up, bag, and transport the 8-year-old, dark brown deposition in the chicken yard to the community garden, and the much younger compost pile (sincere gardeners have surprising enthusiasm for this sort of task). The humus is already fertilizing pungent garlic spears.
We divided boxes of seeds, bags of fertilizers, twisted hoses and plastic pots between trash and Silver City’s community garden, saving rolls of chicken wire, fence stakes, and green plastic fencing. Art supplies, canvases, papers, filing cabinets, shelves, were trailered to our side of the ditch-to-be.
Backhoe and grader arrived while I was grubbing out garlic starts, shallot sprouts and bulb onions. The two young operators accepted an invitation to dig starts for their own gardens. Harvest in the car, I left them to it; some things a person shouldn’t watch. I took my starts to the community garden and spent the day transplanting. I returned home to a berm, taller than myself, beyond which the Airstream perched crazily, far across a flattened stretch of dirt embossed with tread marks. Tool shed and chicken house were now on our side of the project area. Everything else? Fifteen years of our lives, gone without a trace.
Early the next morning, an orange dinosaur-like track hoe began roaring and gouging, followed by an armada of 10-foot-tall dump trucks and long sled-loads of white, piano-sized boulders, that shuddered the earth when dumped. Support vehicles swarmed.
My husband and I left immediately for a 10-day camping tour of our favorite hot springs, then east to the Grand Canyon. When we returned, the wide, boulder-bristling trench snaking hugely down the hillside seemed, in comparison, almost penny-ante.
For the past two years, when the garden started thriving, deer would spring up and over the community garden’s hog-wire fence. Their sharp hooves ripped apart the straw-bale beds; those tender lips nibbled everything green and growing. We wove and tied long branches into the large-mesh wire fence, but the deer prevailed, no contest.
We needed a “real” deer fence. Using dozens of tall, lithe creek willow branches harvested from trees at home, we’re building a towering, dense, imitation forest around the perimeter. Inside the fence, I’m rooting out pale, gnarled bindweed roots, digging in crushed dry leaves, and planting seeds and potatoes. I do love growing food.
There’s a passing parade as I work: dogs, dog walkers, walkers, kids, cars driving by. Dogs sniff; pedestrians wave or stop to chat. Some praise my faux forest fence. Kids give me hugs. Drivers-by wave. It feels good to be included in others’ lives, acknowledged.
Life in the Flats has been delightful, but also solitary. A few casual visitors stop by, we’ve hosted some gatherings, and my sisters love to visit; still, days pass when we speak only to each other. Living in a welcoming community again will be fun. Paradise appears to be bigger than splendid isolation.
Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and long-time Comstock resident.
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