February 22, 2020

Start of a Dream: A Wee Pop-up Greenhouse

• By Janine Pineo •

Do not get me started on the weather.

Other than squish-squashing about the yard, I have accomplished next to nothing in the garden this month.

I recall some sunshine the day I popped open the new popup greenhouse. I was underneath the whole rigging trying to set the fiberglass poles into place as the shell collapsed about me like shrink-wrap. I got so hot I thought I might faint.

Good thing it was only hazy sunshine.

The entire endeavor ended with my sister and me positioning the 6-foot-by-6-foot greenhouse as thunder started rumbling in from the northwest. As the wind picked up, I could just picture myself hanging on for dear life as I was carried off like Mary Poppins — except clinging to my new greenhouse with less than calm aplomb.

Either that or we were going to be struck by lightning as we pounded in the metal groundstakes.

By the next morning, a toad* had moved into the greenhouse. And there the toad has stayed. One day it’s on the potting bench’s top shelf. Another day it’s on the bottom shelf. It spent one day wedged under the corner of a bag of potting soil with just its head sticking out. Last weekend it was smack dab in the middle of a flat of columnar basil plants, snuggled up to a stem.

Greenhouse - May 2011

Janine Pineo Photo - Inside the wee pop-up greenhouse

I know because it scared me to death as I was moving the plants into a wider tray to encourage air circulation. I reached over to get a pot and there was Mr. Toad. Other than breathing, it didn’t even blink as I moved it and its resting place to a different location.

Moments later, I almost stepped on a snake stretched along rocks lining the edge of a planting of shrubs. I had tiptoed over to the garden shed, trying not to disturb the mother phoebe who has built a nest in the eaves, and when I came back, I spied the snake.

Usually when I encounter snakes, I am in flip-flops and barehanded so all I do is emit a girly scream, but I had pulled on my heavy-duty Mud Gloves moments before and was feeling like I could take on a half-frozen snake.

It tried to slither away, but I stepped into its path and caught up with it as it moved to slip into the rock wall surrounding the raspberries. One hand got its tail, the other behind its head and then we were taking a little walk deep into the woods where I told it how much it was going to like its new rock with the moss roof.

I spent the rest of the sunless afternoon planting pansies in two whisky barrels and cleaning up a raised bed so I could tuck in a dozen new strawberry plants.

At least they all seemed happy about the weather. I, on the other hand, was rather cold and clammy by the time I went inside for dinner.

The bonus was that I didn’t need to water since we got more rain that night.

I woke up Sunday to more gray skies, thinking I might just go bonkers if this kept up much longer. By the time I had moped about the house doing laundry and dishes, the sun started to shine through a sheen of milky clouds. So I headed out to another raised bed, several seed packets in hand.

My plan this winter was to use that bed for some earlier crops and then start seeds for a number of perennial flowers to transplant later.

After cleaning up and fertilizing, I sowed three kinds of spinach and a new dwarf pea plant that doesn’t require staking.

Then I targeted one of the perennial beds near the garden shed that needed a bit of work. I yanked, trimmed and dug until all looked tidy. With pruners in hand, I then took my frustrations out on the it-will-never-bloom-in-my-lifetime wisteria that I planted back when Hector was a pup. All the vines that had crept across the lawn since last spring were ripped up with an enthusiasm that only comes from the disappointment a thwarted spring can bring.

I didn’t have to water that day, either, because it rained again that night.

What happened on Monday, however, I have decided to take as a sign.

I was bundled into my fleece jacket — the one I wore this winter — and had just finished walking the dog at the tree farm. I was cold and damp, aching from the wind that had been blowing a fine mist into my face for the last quarter mile.

As I pulled the car to the end of the road, I saw something white go into the air from the field to my left. It registered in my head, but I didn’t believe my eyes because it disappeared so quickly.

I waited for the traffic to pass and then pulled out just as the head of a bald eagle rose above the grass. The massive bird then spread its wings and lifted ever so slowly into the air.

It flew directly in front of my car, gradually climbing upward as I trailed in the road behind.

Awestruck was I.

And then, dropping like a bomb, came a crow that smacked the back of the eagle.

Over and over again, the crow flew up and then dropped onto the eagle, which just kept flying higher and higher, even as it was knocked down a bit on each hit.

After following them for a half mile, they disappeared into the trees, the crow still diving into the eagle.

The moral of that story was clear to me.

I can’t beat the weather and win. But I will persevere.

Even if I am damp.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in May 2011.

*Click here for the shocking revelation about Mr. Toad’s true identity.