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OtterSummer 8.07-HiHoe

After supper last night, my brother-in-law Carl suggested a look at the garden. After finding five pairs of kid shoes and wrangling the crew outside, we found a garden clearly suffering from the late spring. The walk-thru became a game of ‘identify what ’s that?’, distinguishing stressed sprouts from their hardier counterpoint weeds. There were rough rows, though some seeds had drifted in the sog. Tomatoes looked the worse for last week’s hail storm. Peas seemed to be coming along, though frightfully late.

My nephew John accepted my hoeing lessons while his dad and siblings performed a Keystone Cops rendition of find the hose. Nick was in charge of turning on the faucet once it was connected. Christopher was sent to ferret around in the garage to find a spray head while Carl and two year old Lilli buzzed off in the mule to find a sprinkler out in the shop. Three year old Andrew supervised.

Nick quickly found that the first hose had not survived the brutal South Dakota winter as it lost all its pressure in a series of pin holes and wider slices, so he joined Christopher in the garage, eventually returning with a more promising alternative. John carefully hoed the tomatoes while Carl returned with the sprinkler, one of those fancy tractor kind that crawls along the hose, though the replacement hose seemed just a bit too short for the purpose. Lilli and Andrew found the mud hole created by Nick’s test runs as Carl discovered that the sprinkler would need a bit of engineering before it would be fit for use.

John had finished hoeing the tomatoes by that time, so everyone but me headed back to the shop; many hands necessarily making light work, I guess. In their absence, I took over the hoe, flashing back to a lazy late-sixties summer when I’d signed on to hoe spinach for a local truck farmer. There, I learned the intricately sloppy art of lifting weeds from their soil and leaving them in my wake. The result doesn’t look Food and Garden Network tidy, but satisfies the basic need to root out the competitors.

I find such almost repetitive work enormously invigorating. It’s not quite mindless work because it requires some discrimination and a little finesse. It’s not diverting enough to prevent deeper thinking, though, so satisfying the need to weed doesn’t preclude contemplation. The work’s almost meditative.

Carl and the gang eventually returned, Nick turned on the tap, and the sprinkler began its long crawl through the tomatoes as the twilight gave way to twi-dark. I could no longer distinguish between friend and foe, so I hung up the hoe to go inside and help the kids get bathed before bedtime. An hour later, it was raining ferociously as Carl stepped outside into a swarm of mosquitoes and night bugs to turn off the sprinkler.

The adjacent corn field shows the effects of the mercurial spring, too. It’s a wonder the crop even got planted, and it’s at least a month behind. Next week might bring more seasonal weather, but nobody knows. Night before last, a hail storm thirty miles north wiped out one farmer’s crop and left roadside ditches filled with hailstones.

Still, the garden’s in, needing only a few filler plantings to complete the ensemble. The weeds are taking hold and the soil might be the most perfect stuff I’ve ever cultivated. Black prairie soil filled with organic material. This morning, I’ll finish this first weeding and complete whatever contemplation last night’s sunset interrupted. This evening, The Grand Otter makes her appearance, fresh from meeting the other side of her family. The Muse has a class reunion and I’ll tag along after cleaning the prairie earth from beneath my fingernails.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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