Monday I undertook to ‘do’ the garden. Dad rototilled it Sunday, and the weather obliged by promptly dousing the whole thing with rain most of the night. This, I may say, is the exact same thing that happened last year, except that year we were to blame because we really did till too early. No-one can say that June is early.
Monday was absolutely muggy. I adore Oregon when it is muggy, because the heat and humidity never begin to reach the horrific levels attained by the East and South.
The rain steamed up from the grass, the poplar sprouts smelled up the air with balsam, and so on and so forth.
Chickens ran around [jungle fowl]. Flowers dripped on unsuspecting persons.
In the late morning I got out into the garden to inspect damages, with a few flats of seedlings in tow. The night’s rain had caked over the surface of the newly tilled soil....I waded in. When my shoes gummed down and stuck fast, I abandoned footwear altogether. The soil was WARM...unheard of.
We have a rare quality of clay on our property. You can take fingerprints in it. This is good for the amateur forensics expert, but rather an unwelcome discovery for the root of a hapless vegetable.
It is also positively SLIMY when very wet.
My dad was lured over...he can never resist looking at the garden. He started chucking peat moss at me [despite not remembering what it is called: ‘Do you want some, ah, spaghnum moss in that muddy spot?’]. Early on I realized I would need to make little footpaths through the mud. These became treacherously slippery until blanketed with peat moss. Peat moss is a boon to mankind!
Well I took a heavy rake [did not take it, first sent long-suffering father off to get the rake...my feet being entrenched in clay] and started going over the clay. The bits that had been, ex post facto for the most part, covered with a tarp were reasonably dry.
Dad: You don’t want to overwork it! Just remove the bits that would hinder a little plant from developing...
Me: *Snort of laughter* EVERYTHING would hinder a plant from developing....
We dug holes for the tomatoes and made jokes about ‘you’re actually supposed to strip all the leaves off and just bury the little central stem’.
Dad made a comment about ‘it looks like a river of mud doesn’t it? Just kind of snaking through the grass...like one of those mud-slides in [insert name of third-world country which I have forgotten]’.
‘It’s horrible, absolutely horrible!’ I declaim in a tragic voice, then bust up laughing.
The ground steamed and we steamed and the grass steamed and we discussed the matter of corn-planting in earnest tones. The question of when to plan the corn was a serious one, and fraught with consequences. At length dad goes inside to fetch the corn [which I had put in little bowls near the kitchen sink, to sprout...just that morning].
He doesn’t get very far. Still enmired in the mud, and worrying over the corn, I hear a shout from across the hen-yard: ‘There’s a wet chick here!’
Let me back off and explain that our hens have been ferociously broody in the last few weeks. One hatched a batch....before I could intervene, another hen secreted a few eggs and BAND, more biddies. There were two broody hens on that last batch of eggs, plus SPARE BROODIES. There was yet another chicken sitting on about 6 eggs, I knew they were going to hatch soon but they WOULD choose that day to start in....
Hatching biddies require a certain amount of intervention on my part, and more so in this case because the idiotic hen had pushed the biddy out of her next...it had just hatched...hence my dad’s cry of ‘Wet chick!’.
I was really not equipped to deal with a hatch of chicks by this time. Nevertheless I hauled myself out of the mud and ran, panting with laughter, to the hen house. We discussed frantic plans for a heat lamp and cardboard box...after being poked inquisitively, the hen ran off the nest and we did not consider it a loss. Occasionally hens are horrified that these little fuzzy things are stealing their eggs.
Dad rummaged up a heat lamp from some dark recess of the garage and he’d just gotten the chick cosy when up comes Bethie, to state that the hen situation is +1. One of the surplus broodies I mentioned was on the scene and we foisted the chick under her.
I think the chicks wound up back under the original bird...later that day.
Spent, we turned out attention back to the neglected corn. In fact I got all the corn into the ground, and a lot of the tomatoes, and all the cucumbers by nightfall.
Tuesday the saga continued. Monday night I had refused to cover the garden [with dad’s help] with tarps...it was late, dark and I had just showered off the mud. Well Tuesday I got home from school and it started to rain. I heroically went out to drag the tarp forth from its hidey-hole on the back lawn. That tarp was HEAVY. It was full of rain and muddy, and sluggy besides [slugs reach terrifying sizes in Oregon]. I trotted it forth to the garden and covered it over...an Atlas-like job...no wait, that was Hercules. A Herculean task.