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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dark brown soil

Window farm[posted by risa]

I got up feeling that I ought to do somewhat, it being Saturday and my only shot at living large. But it had been another long week of driving in the dark, working, and driving in the dark, and sleeping, so I kind of circled around the bedroom, like a dog circling its bed, and lay down and conked out for another hour.

This sort of thing has been on the increase lately; and I can only read journals like Path to Freedom with the sort of unease that one feels when one's train has left the station and one is not on one's train. But there you are; pay the bills and do what you can about yourself when the strength and the opportunity come together. When they don't, take a nap.

At length my day off began, Beloved being on hand to have coffee with me, and we gazed into the fire together -- and maybe dozed a bit more, who knows. And, if the weather had stayed as it has mostly been for, like, the last eighty days, that might have been that, but the sun came out for a few hours. By eleven o'clock, I got my feet under me, and they stayed there for awhile. It was an almost unfamiliar sensation.

We had talked about setting up a "starts" operation in the West Window, which we haven't done for a few years. We have bought more and more plants and fewer and fewer seeds, and would like to reverse the trend, and do more seed saving as well.

I pulled the bench away from the window and set it by the long table, being sure to put the leak-catching bowls exactly where they had been, except on the bench and not on the floor.

It would be nice to get to the re-roofing this year, but I might not.

No surprise there. The money for it has just not happened, and there's less flexibility in my lower back every year. And we're leery of adding a loan just now... s we listen to the drips and joke about them being a kind of elevator music.

I spread our remaining clear polyethylene along the floor beneath the window, seven feet by two. This would catch any moisture escaping our "farm."

I went out to the potting-shed side of the barn and assessed the available geegaws. There is a set of freestanding steel shelving, the kind with wood-tone on the shelves and little iron curlicues down the sides, not as tall as I remembered it, with five shelves. Some cinder blocks supporting some wooden racks in the "greenhouse" end of the room. Lots of empty containers. Some not so empty, with last year's soil still in them. After wrestling aside the stacks of woven-wire green garden borders that had been piled between me and these treasures, I brought bricks to stack up underneath the racks in place of the cinder blocks and dragged them all out into the sun, along with the spiderweb-festooned shelves and the containers and swept everything down with an old fireplace broom.

So far so good, but the cinder blocks were proving too heavy for me. Some of this is old age, some of it my hormone regimen. Lots of women are stronger than I am, but they're not me... we have a hand truck, so I went to the garage and dug that out -- more shifting, banging and, I'm afraid, a bit of language -- hauled the cinderblocks in by the West Window and set them up, two by two.

I then went down to the woodshed and came back with two old fence boards, dripping wet, covered with moss and algae, but sound cedar still, and cut them down to seven feet with a bow-saw. Wet wood likes to swell, and will bind a saw but you can cut level across the board, then turn it over and do the same on the other side, then give it a little whack with the back side of the saw and the trim piece falls right off. These I brought in and set up on the cinderblocks. Then the shelving came in and was set up.

I then filled two oblong 24" by 12" by 12": deep planters, with last year's planting mix and some humus, setting aside the worst batches, which showed evidence of slug and snail eggs, for the poultry. These I brought in, with a trowel and the remnants of a bag of planting mix, and set them up to the right of the shelving.

Beloved surfaced at this point. She's been organizing her office.

"I'll have some of this for my starts, I hope? Tomatoes, broccoli, and such?"

"Mm, hmm, the shelves. My farm is just the planters."

"Great! If I'm lucky, I can start next week." Her office is a few years behind. But she's really making a dent in it this time.

"Are there any seeds about?" I asked.

She got down a small shoe box.

"You don't need beans, I hope." She set aside her bags of beans and some other things.

"No, not planning anything fancy. What have we got here?" I pawed through the remaining 2007 envelopes, most of them ripped already. Marigolds -- nope. Zinnias -- nope. Sunflowers, sunflowers, sunflowers --she's really big on sunflowers -- calendulas, echinacea, morning glories -- morning glories?

"Somebody gave me those. No way I'm putting them in the ground."

"Holy camoly, I hope not. 'K, here we go: globe radishes, New Zealand spinach, Detroit beets, Buttercrunch lettuce." I tilted out some of each into my palm, stirred them with a finger, and shook them out as evenly as they would go across the dark brown soil.

With the trowel, I added a thin layer of more soil from the bag and pressed and smoothed everything down a bit. I was feeling rather pleased with myself by this time, and went to get the camera. You have to be a farmer at heart, I suppose, to want to record a blank expanse of dirt from which food might or might not grow.

Then I went back to the barn for a watering can, and stepped down to the creek to fill it from the passing water. I'd water down the seeds, park the can under their bench, and move on to a bit of woodcutting -- or maybe a nap.

The sky had by this time clouded over. I paused to admire the chickens, gabbling over their slug eggs. The first drops of the next rainstorm began clattering down.

Nap it is.



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