Dad has been working in the garden just about every day. After all the initial roto-tilling was done, he made raised beds and planted carrots, beets, swisschard, and lettuce and spinach also (I think; I can’t remember for sure). The majority of the time, however, he’s been digging a sort of “trench” all around the garden. It makes an edging of hard, packed down dirt all around the garden. When I asked him if it was to help with drainage, he said no, it was to keep out the weeds. He said it would also act to carry away excess water when needed, but its primary purpose was to create a wall of packed down dirt around the garden to keep the weeds from creeping in. Yesterday he planted tons of potatoes, and today he planted leeks and was making a bed for squash.
Lots of nice dirt, huh? I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like the dirt this year has been especially nice. Usually the soil just seems like clumps of clay, albeit maybe thinned a little by the compost we put in. Usually when I dig my garden, even after the major clumps have been broken up, there are still thousands of little tiny balls of clay. Whenever I wanted to plant something, especially seeds straight into my garden, it was annoying because I couldn’t seem to get a handful of dirt to “cover seeds 1/2”–only little clumps of clay. This year, perhaps due to the way the ground thawed and the not a lot/not too little amount of rain we got, the texture of the dirt seems finer. Yay for soil that isn’t wet, clay-packed clumps!
Deirdre has been his Helper, bringing up glasses of cold water to him throughout the day–she takes his glass out of the freezer, puts ice cubes and water in it, and goes trodding up the hill to give it to him, quite happily. Owen was helping the other day by hauling buckets of dirt from where Dad was digging in the trench, along the “trench” up to the top of the garden where they were depositing it. Don’t ask me where or what for. Mom asked Dad that evening what he had Owen doing to get him so tired out because he had said, “I’m tired. I’m going to bed,” without going through the usual bedtime routine of a song. Owen keeps busy in his own way probably more than any of the other younger kids, but usually with playing: getting Caleb to finish his chores and come outside with him, getting Caleb and Deirdre to play a toy soldier game with him, getting Justin to go on a bike ride with him, etc. Doing work is even more exhausting! 🙂
Earlier on, when Dad was digging up ground with a mattock that hadn’t been dug previously, he had a bunch of us come help beat out the sod. He was trying to get it all dug before the rain came. Evan, Justin, Owen, Caleb and Deirdre and I helped–Caleb and Deirdre helped by dumping wet leaves over the sod pile that Dad was making, and picking up a few rocks out of the garden. Evan haaaaates to beat out sod; he thinks it’s unbearably tedious and pointless-seeming, and the pile never seems to get smaller. To me, the work has a sort of rhythm to it. But I always disliked mattocking up ground, which Evan much prefers. So, when Dad heard him say that, they switched places. Evan mattocked much faster than Dad had, and I daresay Dad beat out the sod faster.
Today Dad told me I should get my camera. Mom relayed the message to me; I was surprised, wondering what Dad wanted me to take a picture of. As it was repeated to me that I “should get my camera” I figured he was telling me I had left it somewhere. I asked “Where is it?” He replied “I don’t know!” LOL. Ooookay. Mom correctly understood his meaning; he had something I should take a picture of. Something Mysterious. So we followed him outside as he walked back up to the garden, with a shovel, to show us the intriguing thing. “You found buried treasure?” Mom asked him. “I don’t know, that’s what we’re going to find out!” he replied. As we walked up the hill I scanned the garden, looking for anything out of the ordinary. I almost walked past it–Mom saw it first. It was a pile of dirt at the edge of his packed-down “trench”.
“I saw it move,” Mom remarked. Dad laughed; moving was exactly what he had seen it do, and the reason why he brought us up there. “This pile of dirt wasn’t here yesterday! And there’s some kind of creature in it, and we’re going to find out what it is,” he said. He made sure I would be able to take several pictures with my camera. He was afraid whatever it was might run up his leg.
“I saw it move right there, and right there, and right there,” he said. That made me wonder whether there were lots of little babies in there, or one thing moving around, the same thing that implicitly seemed in his mind. He and Mom hypothesized about what might be in it: “What kind of creature do you think it is?” Mom asked. “I don’t know,” he said. “Probably groundhogs,” Mom said. “I’m thinking something more gross than that,” Dad said. After contemplating for a few more moments, the moment of truth had arrived. He pushed the shovel into the ground, digging down slightly underneath the dirt pile. The shovel came up and he turned the dirt over with no event; he spread it out carefully with the shovel, but still nothing was appearing. Nothing was there, after all. (I just knew, what with making sure I had my camera and talking about what could be in it, it was going to be anticlimatic.) Nothing that is, except for a little hole down in the dirt, the means of its escape. So Dad began to dig out chunks in the direction the tunnel went, hoping to catch it. Each time he dug, another little hole appeared, indicating the route of the tunnel. It was following the trench upwards Mom, ever the voice of reason, said that the critter (probably a mole or vole) had long since disappeared along the tunnel and was now probably in Timbuktu for all Dad could do to catch it (though she didn’t say it quite like that ;-). “What, you think he can dig faster than I can dig?” Dad asked. “No, I think he already had tunnels dug all along here, and he’d be way out in the garden by now.” After a couple of digs the tunnel turned off toward the garden; when Dad saw that, he stopped digging. He wasn’t happy about all the potatoes it would be eating, though.
I also have been working in mine and Deirdre’s shared garden, and planting seeds, although not lately. The plants were pretty much decided by Deirdre. I don’t enjoy gardening enough for it to be something I feel like I would want to spend a lot of time doing, for my own sake alone (although I have other years). But it somehow seems to have a little more point to it when I’m helping Deirdre–she enjoys “having a garden”. She picked out any BLUE flowers she saw (which were forget-me-not and bachelor’s button), a peach foxglove that we couldn’t do because it was a perennial, a pale yellow California poppy, pink and purple and white cosmos (“Oooh, I think these are beautiful!” Deirdre said) pink and purple poppies, pink and purple zinnias (the next best thing after blue is pink and purple), as well as some other things I can’t remember at the moment. She also wanted to grow lettuce. That is the Thing to Grow, you know; the boys always grow lettuce.
I had her help plant some things. It was tedious going. I brought up a ruler for spacing them; not so as to rigidly follow it, but to get an idea. (Some people would be better at mentally invisioning how much an inch, or 2-3 inches, are. Myself, I feel like I can on a piece of paper or a flat surface, but on the lumpy garden ground it gets all changed around.) Originally I showed Deirdre with my fingers about how far apart they should be, and let her drop them down at her discretion. But (predictably) then this happened: me saying, “No, don’t put it that close–a little farther. They should all be about the same amount apart, see you were putting them like that before and now you’re putting them really close. Put more dirt on it than that. Some kinds of seeds only need a tiny bit of dirt, but this kind needs more…” Tedium overwhelmeth. I found that it worked best to have a sort of system: First we make a “row” with the ruler or yardstick, imprinting it on its side in the soil. Then I dump out some seeds into my hand, and Deirdre carefully picks one out and drops it into the spot I point to, and covers over them. (Or in this case, does it all by herself.)
(In those pictures she is planting either bachelor’s button or forget-me-not.)
Picking out the seeds wasn’t tedious to her–I think with some kids picking the seeds one-by-one out of the package (or my hand) would be mind-numbing and they’d rather just sprinkle the seeds. But Deirdre preferred putting them in one-by-one; each one was like an individual little “person” to her. She didn’t have the “Oh-no-my-seed-has-disappeared-into-the-dirt-so-now-it’s-gone” mindset, either, like I always did. When I dropped a seed down and it seemed to just disappear into the soil, it always seemed to me as if it really had disappeared, so even though I knew it wasn’t true, I always wanted to put in more seeds to make up for the ones that “weren’t really there” except they were of course. (The games my mind plays with itself, I’m telling you!) Deirdre, on the other hand, knew her little seed was right where she dropped it and was very good at spotting them, to boot. Sometimes when I had accidentally dropped a seed and wasn’t going to worry about finding it, Deirdre would peer at the ground and say, “There it is!”
She found an earthworm–not a hard thing to find, only I wouldn’t pick it up and cuddle it in my hands like she does. 🙂 She likes earthworms, and thinks they’re funny. At one point she was scared/grossed out by all kinds of bugs and creepy crawly things, although (at one point at least) she still thought earthworms were funny even while she was shuddering. Now she has the latter amusement without the former revulsion.
Most recently I planted a whole bunch of morning glories along the chicken fence, and some cosmos, zinnia and feverfew seeds in mine and Deirdre’s garden. The morning glories I planted were ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ (a red one), ‘Grandpa Ott’s’ (purple), ‘Glacier Star’ (light blue), ‘Early Call’ (various colors and the only kind which wasn’t labeled “heirloom”) and a bush morning glory, ‘Blue Ensign’. I planted them in batches, doing more every day until I had planted them all along the side of the fence where the chickenyard gate is. I was surprised at how fast they sprouted–7-10 days, it’s supposed to be. The first little ‘Blue Ensigns’ were sprouting in two days! The others rapidly followed. In fact, any that didn’t sprout in a couple days haven’t sprouted at all.
My main enemy is the rooster that hangs around outside the fence–“Ooster”, the little kids call him–and the hens anytime they get out. There’s all that freshly dug dirt, and I must’ve dug it just for them to scratch in! And what did I do but encourage them by feeding them all the grubs I found in it. It was really more the hen in that case. Any time I tried to feed Ooster one when he seemed hungry (because he is an outcast now, so he can’t eat at the feeders when the other chickens do), it took him a while to realize I was offering him food. The hen, on the other hand, saw or heard me digging from the other side of the fence and decided to hang around. She kept craning her neck down and up and all around, peering through the fence; in other words, she noticed I was digging ground up and was looking for good bugs to eat. The other hens were pretty much oblivious. After I had fed her a good number of grubs, she started pacing back and forth, looking for a way to get out of the fence. So, being nice and accomodating, I let her out (that was before I was planting any morning glories). Then the other chickens wondered what they were missing, although not for long. Mr. Rooster in particular (the black one, presently the “Head Honcho”, not the one that hangs around outside the fence) kept staring in our direction, and came over to check out what was happening. He was interested to see if I had any food; a large part of his friendliness involves always checking to see if you have any food. I can’t remember if I found any for him, but at any rate he didn’t get obsessed about it like that one hen did, and in a little bit wandered away, with the hens around him following.
The hen that I let out of the fence, meanwhile, was pecking up little bugs and grubs and earthworms, which the little kids claim the chickens won’t eat (and usually it seems they don’t) like mad. Then wallowing in the dirt started to seem more appealing than pecking up tasty morsels, so she commenced to do that. She settled herself comfortably into the dirt while scratching away with her feet to make a nice cozy spot for her to settle into. Chickens like to get down in the dirt on hot days; there’s a certain spot where we used to dig for things in the dirt (actually just about right on the other side of the fence from where I was digging) that they have taken advantage of. They just love to get in there, which after months and years of chicken-scratching is deeper than it used to be, and get comfortable in the dirt. Often a whole bunch of them get in there together, sometimes a rooster with his hens, scratching at the dirt every now and then to nestle themselves in a little deeper.
Anyway, I know this post is already very picture intensive, but I couldn’t resist putting these pictures in as well.
The end of that jolly time was when the outcast rooster-who-hangs-around-outside-the-house decided to jump on her to mate. She squawked quite loudly and indignantly, and in her flusterment (or more like it, to get away from the rooster) flew up onto the fence and back inside.