The infinity vegetable patch



On the sloping ground in front of the house was the overgrown remains of a vegetable patch.  After two years careful deliberation we decided to keep this exactly where it was.  During this period, however, the railway carriage arrived.  Because it weighed twenty tonnes, some kind of properly-drained, level foundation was required.  This had to be dug into the hill.  Naturally, we’d given no thought to where the spoil from  this operation might go, so on the spur of the moment we decided the only place was the vegetable patch - it might level it up a bit.  The happy effect was to raise the terrace so that it concealed the field immediately beyond, giving the effect of a garden hanging over an abyss, like an ‘infinity pool’.  Presto! – an ‘infinity vegetable patch’.  All we had to do, as the man in the garden centre said, was ‘fork it over’.


I splashed out on some new spades: a large one for me, a slightly smaller one for Vez and two children’s ones for Maya and Storm. Armed accordingly, we set to work.  Only to find that the new spades wouldn’t go into the ground.
It was as if someone had laid concrete four inches below the surface.  The excavated soil, which, as it was spread, had looked like the finest tilth, had somehow transmogrified into rock. 
After two hours I’d managed to dig over just a three-foot square patch.  Not once did the spade sink to its full depth.  As I tried to lever a particularly obstinate stone, the strain took its toll.  With an undemonstrative click, my spade’s burnished blade broke in two.  I grabbed Vez’s spade, and within an hour had broken the handle of that.
I took the spades back to the hardware store and demanded replacements. Three hours’ more digging and one of those had broken, too.   After that, I dispensed with spades and dug only with pickaxe and crowbar.
The stones were more numerous than a bumper crop of potatoes. Barrow after barrow we filled, tipping them into a fast-growing pile in the yard.   But finally it was done.  
Then, laboriously, we barrowed muck up from the muck heap.  At least digging this in, we told ourselves, would be a doddle now the ground was prepared.  But when we started trying to do so, it was as if the ground hadn’t been dug at all.  The stones had grown back overnight.
Chapter 19, Garden Open Today