Two beautiful days in a row (sorry, New England), taxes done, house holding together for the moment, I figured it was time to work the peat moss into the gardens and then hope for some rain to set the growing season in motion.
To do so, I went out and got some Compost (Year Old Manure recommended by my gardening advisor, Roseann) from my Three Year Old Sheet Metal Cow, Bessie. How she comes through with that year-old manure for me (Bessie, not ... never mind), each and every year, I'll never know. I also ran out and bought a Young Pioneer Collective Farm Rototiller, all in the hopes of making the work go a little easier.
Nick, with his hoops pulled, as I pull out a sharp utility knife to cut open the peat moss.
Nora, the lower garden, as I prepare to slice open the peat moss and spread it around.
Next, after ruining two towels in an attempt to staunch the bleeding, I wrap my hand in gauze, cover that with a large tube of Toluene flavored airplane glue I just had sitting around the garage for no particular reason, dance around the yard in pain, then, before the glue hardens, attach the handle of the rake to it, whereupon I can spread the peat moss, as well as a goodly chunk of my thumb, into the little corners of the garden, the one above being Nora.
Once again, I do the same with Nick, before passing out from loss of blood. I awaken an hour later while being mistaken for a fire hydrant by my two loving Boston Terriers. I would have preferred them to lick me awake, but, whatever. I did have to get back to work.
Now, it's time for the rototiller to get to work. It should be interesting, never having used one, but let's live and learn, shall we? I fire it up, the massive 43 cc, 2-cycle engine roaring to life (with a sound vaguely reminiscent of one of those Honda motorbikes from the sixties), and hit the throttle, engaging the tines and shooting the machine off across the yard toward the dogs who tried to wake me out of my coma moments before by sprinkling my head with holy water.
Oh, man. I'm still not right. I've gotta sit down.
The dogs get away. (Only to later get in a fight with a skunk.)
It takes some wrestling to get the rototiller where you want it to go, when you want it to go, but after a few moments of trial and error, as well as one completely unexpected attack on the statue of Buddha in the corner of Nora, the tiller did its job, almost digging down to China, at one point. You learn quickly that If You Don't Push It, It Don't Go, Thus Digging Holes Through The Center of the Earth, where you will find heat, pressure and Brendan Fraser's movie career. (I should talk. Freelance this week has consisted of emceeing one bar mitzvah and two birthday/block parties. "Hi, kids! Yes, I used to be on TV -- wanna talk about the symbolism in 'Citizen Kane'?")
The soil is now loose and ground up to about eight inches down. I'll do all this again when we get some moisture around here (likely, next St. Swithin's Day) and it all gets worked together a bit. But, I must admit, I am happy -- I got to work in the sunshine for about 90 minutes today, perfecting a comedy routine the Bat Shit Crazy Neighbor says I should take on the road.
I would have continued on to the Butterfly Garden in the SE corner of the yard, but two rows in an I picked up a buried, abandoned paving stone left 24 years ago by the former owners. It stopped the tines real quick and didn't help any of the mechanics. I shut it down, turned it off, removed the stone and decided it was time for a break of the rest of the day variety.
I seem to be picking up the work ethic of both Bitterman and Furious George.
Meanwhile, a neighborhood cat found my thumb later in the dirt of Nora. Furious George luckily snatched it away, thinking it was a Crunchy Cheeto. I got it back from him after a mere two gnaws and have reattached it with Gorilla Glue.
Man, that stuff will hold anything.
(As for the skunk -- Roscoe has now endured two baths and one scrub down with a chemical that promises, PROMISES, to neutralize the scent. Sadie didn't get hit. She stayed back and kept shouting, "Got your back, bro!" in that Boston lilt of hers. Checked him carefully, can't see any marks or wounds. I think the spraying got him before they could tussle. Would anyone like my afternoon? Or my Buck O'Neil baseball jersey that caught it full on?)
Just a quick note before I run outside and fire up the ol' rototiller (we've got two nice days in a row so I'm planning to work some peat moss and fertilizer down into the soil), but I may have found a book for you to enjoy while waiting for the official start of the 2018 growing season.
Katherine Sergeant White was the fiction editor of The New Yorker for years and the wife of author E.B. White. She was quite the gardener at their home in Maine, and wrote 14 gardening essays over the years for The New Yorker. After her death in 1977, her husband collected the essays into this book.
They are simply wonderful.
From the joy of digging through seed catalogs to the peace of a properly tended garden, Katherine White touches the heart, mind and dirty fingertips of the obsessed amateur. She's been in all the same places as us, from success to failure to oh, my God, what is that growing among the azaleas, so she seems quite the kindred soul.
Just one who can write fluidly and beautifully about nearly everything.
The book is $17.95 from NYRB Classics. I'm sure you can find it for less on Amazon, but finding it through a local bookseller is always a pleasure and helps the local economy.
Also, I suggest a real live paper book, so you can read it just before bedtime and fill your head with rutabaga dreams.
Wherein we discuss how putting Cats, Golf and Nazis on the cover will in fact sell just about anything. (In this case, humorous essays.)
One of the joys of spending the money intended for your hernia operation on growing vegetables and herbs is watching in excitement as those first few shoots and leaves pop out of the ground and toward the electrified LED sunlight just above.
This is an exciting time, especially on our first time out with the Young Pioneer Collective Farm Kit, from MiracleGro (known in this country as the AeroGarden), which comes complete with a non-functioning Soviet tractor and angry peasant farmers.
The angry peasant farmers (not historically accurate) come with a pre-recorded track which demands better hours, wages and benefits before the Secret Police arrive to carry off the ring-leaders to the gulag. It's quite the absorbing political drama, even as it is set in farm country.
Still, I remain all the more fascinated by the growth we're already getting and can hardly wait to take over the kitchen and start planting all the outdoor crops.
Maybe this year I can plant rutabagas and sell them by balloon come August/September. I don't know where I got the idea, but it is a good one.