March 28, 2020

Laying Out the Garden

• By John F. Chisholm •

May 12 – My daughter and I rototilled the garden yesterday.

That’s a deceptively simple statement, eight words. It sounds far simpler than the truth: My daughter and I hauled loads of manure from the cow pasture, spread it over a 30-by-30-foot plot, dumped the composter’s contents on top and mixed the resultant goulash into a monster mud pie at least a foot deep. In the process, we pulled enough rocks to add considerable weight to the stonewall, knocked the soil from innumerable clumps of sod, set the edges of the garden and repositioned the corner stakes.

That’s not counting starting long-quiescent engines, changing the oil and cleaning the sparkplugs. In addition, we cajoled recalcitrant implements into renewed functionality, tightened loose fasteners and greased moving surfaces. When finished, we cleaned them all again, stowing them away once more for next year’s garden.

The sun shone. We worked and sweated as light, westerly breezes caressed the day.

Of course we admired the garlic planted last fall along the way ― It’s up! ― and contemplated the rhubarb now at least eight inches high. In fact we laid out the entire garden in a hundred different patterns with the peas, carrots, summer squash and tomatoes changing places with every scenario. They joined hosts of other vegetables in a vast game of musical chairs.

I rubbed my head, swatting an early black fly. “I thought you said the carrots were over there?” I turned and pointed.

“They were, but I moved them. We can’t risk shading them out.” My daughter smudged her face with a dirt-caked finger as she contemplated future rows of tiny carrot seeds laid out in miniature vee-trenches under taut, sun-bleached strings.

“Parsley won’t shade out carrots.”

“No, but the peas could.”

“I thought the peas were at the north end.”

“They might be,” Kim agreed, “but now I’m thinking they should be right here.” She cantilevered her arms over an imaginary row, a scarecrow on patrol.

And so on. Endlessly. But somehow the work got done at the same time.

Or maybe that was the work. I don’t know. In truth, I can’t say. Perhaps that’s because it was time spent with my daughter. Then again, it could be the thought of all that produce in the future. Who doesn’t love fresh food straight from the garden? I’m only certain that I don’t understand how manure, black flies, rocks and compost mixed together by a gasoline-powered rototiller can make such a delicious day.

But it can.

It must be magic because it’s absolutely true.

Stanger still, we expect the entire experience to be captured by eight words:

My daughter and I rototilled the garden yesterday.