Garden Is In

Every year, just as the weather is warming and I feel Spring’s breath tickling the back of my neck, knowing that it’s only teasing, I begin to fixate on a bluff of poplar trees half a kilometre, west of our house. I’ll stand on the deck every morning and watch. I glance over my shoulder throughout the day, keeping a close eye on it.

It begins like a green mist in the tree tops. I’ll squint my eyes wondering if it’s really there. Everyday it grows. Greener, thicker, looming ever closer. Like a horror movie foreshadowing the impending chaos the green mist will bring as it overtakes the inhabitants….Dramatic? Ha! Yep!

As those tree tops bud and then leaf, my life changes. Dramatically.

From the romantic notions of seed catalogs to online orders to drawings of garden plans to dreaming of fresh veg. We finally have to put our money where our mouth is.

As May long approaches the panic to get the garden in hits. Like a brick wall. One day late spells disaster! But your parents had their potatoes and carrots in last week! Danny are you sure the soils broken up enough? Maybe one more time around just to be sure! So this side gets shaded at about 6pm, what will do well there? Where did we plant potatoes last year? So they’ll be over here this year? will the shade be a problem? where’s my parsnip seeds?!? Okay, so this pile of seed packets like cool weather, this pile full sun, these are lots of water, these are well drained soil loving …..Bahhhh!!!

That’s a normal year. This year? Worse. Something about knowing we have to feed ourselves for the year from it makes it so much more intense.

With the abnormally warm spring, I’ve felt like I was behind since April. When others were working their soil, we were forking straw off the garden from the pigs last winter. Wonderful insulator straw is. After a few weeks of double digit days there was still piles of snow and ice happily nestled in our garden.  While others were planting spuds, we were working up the soil and mixing in the remaining straw and pig manure. I finally got everything planted the Tuesday after May Long. Close enough to schedule. All that panic for nothing!

The other day the bull got out.( It is spring, and he has a notion for other activities.) He took a trot right through the garden. Once he was back in, without having visited the ladies, I went to survey the damage to my precious children. A few bean seeds were kick up, no biggy. I planted them back in the row and when back to what I was doing. Then it hit me. I planted that garden a week ago. Those beans should at least have sprouted by now? So I went back to the scene of the crime. The soil was powder. Well strawy powder. The seeds were as hard and dry as the day I planted them. Crap.

I needed to water.

As the water hit the parched earth, it ran off the rows like wet ingredients slide off of dry in a mixing bowl. Taking only the top layer with them and leaving the cocoa and flour beneath untouched, pooling around the edges. I couldn’t set up the sprinkler, it’s so far from the house that the pressure is pathetic. It had to be done with hose in hand.

The next couple days were spent standing for hours, soaking the rows. 4 hours one day, 4 hours the next.

It rained that night.

But not enough.

Forest fires are raging in northern Alberta. Communities have been evacuated. The entire province is under a fire ban. It’s that dry.

As my 8 year old son complained about having to hold a garden hose and walk as a snails pace, exclaiming,”This is so exhausting and boring!” I was reminded of our pioneers who didn’t have such a luxury as a hose, let alone running water. “Josh” I said to him, ” What do you think Almanzo (of the famed Laura Ingalls Wilder books) and his family would have had to do? They’d have to haul water from the creek,” as I pointed across the pasture to the Iron Creek flowing through our land. “And carry it by the bucket full to water this garden! Would you rather do that?” Suddenly using the hose wasn’t such a bad chore.

Often when I’m faced with exhaustion or just plain “don’t-want-to-do-it-ness” I seem to draw upon a sort of ancestral guilt trip from those who came before us, “Oh! You think you have it bad! The 30’s were hell. I wish there would have been weeds to pull at least we’d have had something to eat!” Ya. Some great grandparent giving me a mental lickin’ from beyond the grave.

A new green mist has begun to haunt my dreams. Constantly looking over my shoulder to check it’s progression.

Quack grass.

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