When life hands you leach fields, plant flowers

Time goes so quickly that I sometimes find myself thinking I’ll do something — such as plant a lilac bush — and then the prime time passes, and oops, it’s too late.

I hate to admit how many years ebbed and flowed at my old house before I finally planted a lilac. OK, I’ll tell you: 10 years. I never did see one lilac bloom on those scrawny little bushes.

If I had planted a tiny lilac the first year it occurred to me, I would have had bushels of lilacs by the time I sold the house 12 years later.

That was one lesson I swore I wouldn’t repeat out here in Igo. I’m proud to report that I planted lilacs – four of them – last year.

But even before I planted the lilacs, I had an even better idea to plant thousands of daffodils in the leach field. Not all at once, of course, but some every year, I jumped on it.

The reason the leach field appealed to me was because it’s such a finicky area. Spring bulbs – or wild flowers – are about the only things that could happen there. It’s taboo to water a leach field (rain doesn’t count), or to park cars over it, or to plant things with big roots that might become tangled in the perforated pipes and cause problems with our home’s plumbing.

Daffodils multiply, so that’s a huge benefit. Plus, deer don’t eat daffodils, and neither do gophers. What a happy thought.

But most of all, I loved the concept of all that stinky waste happening underground, while above ground, thousands of daffodils would be the very antithesis of all that. They might even benefit from the – how shall we say – nutritional enrichment. I was a woman with a mission to one day have a leach field filled with a million daffodils. Bring on the daffodils.

The first year I planted about 40 pounds of daffodils. Sure enough, they came up beautifully. When I say “planted” I don’t mean to make it sound easier than it was that first fall. I tried my little shovel. It broke. I tried a crowbar and gave up. I waited until around Christmas, after the winter rains had softened the ground. Then I planted.

That’s what I did last week, with this year’s bulbs. Yes, I do realize that last week was not December. And yes, I have seen paperwhites already blooming. In fact, some bloom in my front yard as I type, a gift from Diane Girard, who said the bulbs were from a Shasta County pioneer homestead.  (Thanks, Diane!)

I truly meant to plant the daffodil bulbs sooner, after all, they’d waited patiently for me in the garage since fall. Of course, then the ground was still too hard. So I waited until winter, but if memory serves, it didn’t rain a whole lot for a while, so the ground still wasn’t ready. Then the rains came. And when it wasn’t raining, I was busy. And gosh, the holidays, and a new year came and went. Then there was snow. And snow again.

Finally, I planted my daffodils last week. All 180 of them. Some had started to sprout in their bags. I buried the evidence. And then it rained a little. Perfect.

Two days later Bruce pointed out that the leach field area in which I’d planted the 2005/2006 daffodils were now starting to sprout. Shoot.

I have no idea if the daffodils I planted last week will appear this spring, or if they’ll wait it out until 2009.

I do wish I’d planted them sooner.

But I’m getting better. At least I didn’t wait a decade.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.