Monday, August 06, 2012

Gardening Can Kill You?

That was what Sonny had hinted at yesterday. I had been gardening again after  having been physically inactive for months. Actually, that’s putting it very mildly. The undiluted truth is this: The only places I visited this past several months are the kitchen, the bathroom and the backyard to hang the washing, and at night I retired to bed by holding onto the handrail and climbing slowly up the stairs. The rest of the time found me sprawled in a hand-me-down chair that has parked itself in a corner of the living room.

(Note: If you’ve been following this blog… the visit to the Inobong Station was not really my choice. My friend put my name down for the trip. Meg told me to go and even said she’d help carry me if any moving around got too strenuous. Rita said: "You’re so lucky! You should go." And Sonny said: "Why don’t you go? You never go anywhere!")

So in an effort to start ‘getting into shape’, just in case some family get-together that involves a walkabout comes up, I thought I should go back to gardening, which, for me, is really just turning the soil a bit, weeding and transplanting or repotting long-neglected plants. No digging with a cangkul. Certainly nothing that would impress my mother.

When I had finished with the stamp-sized patch in front of the house, I started to tackle the backyard. Not easy here because of the long grass near the fence and a type of ants, big and nasty and a whole army could be nesting in innocent-looking leaves. You wouldn’t want a single ant to fall on you and God help you if you accidentally touched a nest!

Then the other day I saw that my lemon tree which last year produced a single fruit—and   a deformed one it was too—was flowering again. Hurray! I was encouraged enough to dig around the stem and to feed the tree a spadeful of horse manure. Then I watered it diligently twice a day. Alas, when I checked it yesterday, most of the matchstick-sized ‘fruit’ have dropped and left an emptiness where it was once pregnant with lemony promises.

I got so discouraged all over again. Why does this happen, this dropping of the baby lemons? Is there anything I should do that I haven’t? Talk to the tree? Done that!

Now, while I was pondering on whether to chop down my lemon tree and plant something more worthwhile, I spied something in my neighbour’s backyard that renewed my resolve and urged me to go full steam ahead… again.

See what I saw!
My neighbour's beautiful winter melons!

I couldn’t wait for the sun to dip down a little more before starting on a cleaning/pruning frenzy in the backyard. I trimmed the lemon tree, pruned the other neighbour’s bougainvillea branches that were encroaching into our air space, cut the lalang bush, weeded and dug the vegetable bed and chased away Pudding—who should have known better than to think the mound of soil is one of her many toilets. (She almost died during the birth of her kitties. I saved her life by taking her to the vet and paying for her expensive C-section. The least she could do is to show some gratitude by not peeing and pooping on my vegetable bed, don’t you think?)

Anyway, after all the cleaning and digging were done, with salty sweat stinging my eyes, I viewed the result of my labour. Even I was amazed at what I have done! Just the other day I had been tempted to pay a walk-in Om grass-cutter to cut the grass and clear the mess in the backyard. It had seemed too daunting a job for an old couch potato. Take it from me, you just need a bit of inspiration to accomplish a mission that may look quite impossible. Mine had been the two beautiful winter melons on the wrong side of the fence and the amazing pictures and success stories my gardening friends have posted on Facebook.

Now this goes back to ‘gardening can kill you’…

The morning after the gardening marathon I woke up with an attack of hives… from above the knees up to my chest. I know I have hypersensitive skin and a dermatologist has warned me to refrain from doing a lot of things so as not to aggravate the condition. But what I saw yesterday was nothing compared to past experiences. I couldn’t help ‘marveling’ at the pinkish wheals which popped up on my skin. They looked like 3-D maps created by pouring viscous pink glue onto my skin. And the itch, oh the itch was driving me crazy. The more I scratched, the bigger the wheals grew. World maps were forming on both my thighs and pink plateaus appeared on my tummy.

Was it something I had drunk? Or eaten? Was it because of gardening? Perhaps I had touched some toxic sap when I chopped off certain plants? After lunch I tried to take a nap so the itch wouldn’t feel too bad. That was when Sonny said: “You better go see the doctor before your throat swells and you stop breathing.” (Some people don’t mince their words.)

Could my air passages swell so badly that breathing would be affected? I couldn’t die yet. Not before I’ve planted the garden! Not before I’ve finished my second book! Not until I…

So I went to the doctor who asked questions which showed he had already decided that my problem was due to clothes that weren’t washed well! His parting words had been: “This has nothing to do with what you’ve eaten or drunk. More likely you didn’t wash your clothes properly.” OMG!

OMG, what am I going to tell the washing machine? That I’m going to fire it for slacking on the job?


  1. Reading you blog entry, I sorta flashed back to that old Queen song: "Too much love can kill you".