Getting Your Hands Dirty

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to most since I bought my house was putting in raised beds for my vegetable garden. I had a garden at my last place but the soil was more rock than dirt. Some things did OK but others did not, and I had a pesky woodchuck who liked to eat my butternut squash and watermelon every time they started growing. Luckily for my raised bed plans, I seem to know all the right people.

Over the past few months, a family friend who delivers lumber has been showing up with large beams and dropping them off. Then we all got together one day,  plotted out where the beds should go and got to work assembling them. For the past few weeks they’ve sat empty…waiting for the soil to fill them up.

That’s where my mother’s farmer friends come in. She works in a restaurant out in cow country, and one of the local farmers comes in every day. Later in the summer he’ll start showing up and leaving boxes filled with tomatoes and peaches in the waitresses cars. He claims he can’t sell them. About that time my mom starts showing up at my house and we start cooking up huge batches of sauce. One of his buddies–whose farm is much closer to my house–comes in once a week or so and he’s been telling my mom he’d drop off some compost for weeks. On Thursday, he finally did. It looked a little like a T-Rex left me a gift.

My friend Tracy offered to come over and help me shovel. She lives in a condo and the association is always getting after her for sneaking squash in behind her bushes or planting a tomato in a pot and  leaving it on the steps.  So now she’s sharecropping at my place. In return for the produce she’ll get in a few months, she shoveled mountains of crap with me today… but only after we made a trip out to my mother’s farmer friend’s place. It was quite the adventure.

When we got there Farmer Larry started telling me about the “goddamn groundhog” who was eating his lettuce. I’d brought the dog with me as usual, so as we walked between the greenhouses and pallets of starter plants he pointed out the lettuce that had been nibbled on. I let May sniff around for awhile, and eventually she caught wind of the little guy. She nearly got her head stuck under a pallet, and started digging a hole to go after it. But she doesn’t bark much so she didn’t scare the critter out of his hiding spot.

After a while she gave up and we went back to browsing, and taking the extremely generous “donations” of yet another farmer to my backyard garden project. We got eight tomato plants, a six pack of bok choi, a six pack of eggplant, a six pack of jalapenos, some basil, parsley, cilantro, and more lettuce than I know what to do with. And I still haven’t completely filled the biggest garden bed. But that poor woodchuck met its demise.

After Tracy and I headed home to start shoveling compost the farmer started having his farmhands look under the pallets where the dog had detected the groundhog. They could see the little lettuce thief milling around under there. A couple of ill-considered shot gun blasts later, the little guy was toast.

And Tracy and I have our fair share of blisters.

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