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Pans and Perspective

You provide the food and I will provide the perspective." – Anton Ego, 2007

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Week 8: A Study in the Totalitarian Law of Physics (or Murphy’s Law)

Anything not expressly forbidden in the universe is compulsory.

If it can go wrong, it will.

This was by far the most unproductive week, although maybe one of my earlier weeks of residence in the snow was comparable. The week commenced with more rain hindering us all from getting anything done. I spent the day indoors cleaning different parts of the house, browsing the internet and reading. Tuesday began to look optimistic; operative word: began. David and I started at the hospital garden with transplants. We had already established the beds earlier in the previous week so the work was easy going. We returned to the farm for a lunch break and then dove right back into more planting. This is when Magnifying the Magnificence of the Mundane occurred. The TL;DR is that during the first few minutes of work the roto-tiller stop functioning. Undeterred we persevered on and I turned the ground by hand with a spading fork. Deepest respects extended to all homesteaders of the earlier generations that did this, it is quite difficult. Once I got the ground turned, a 30 minute project that normally takes two minutes, I mulched the bed and transplanted eggplants and peppers. I really was farming. On our way back to the house, I took a brief detour and planted some amaryllis bulbs and mulched them as well. We shared a dinner of pizza, crafted by Chef Ellis, with David’s daughter and son-in-law, over discussions about their upcoming wedding party. The following day I helped David move the goats into one of the neighboring pastures. David wanted them to graze some of the forage before we mowed it down. I made the transition back to the garden where I did some more earth turning before mulching it with leaves. Afterwards David and I transplanted calendulas into this soft ground for both decoration and consumption later in the season. I continue to putter around in this back garden with weed management and some soil excavation as well. After a long day I retired to the kitchen and made some cornbread and did some knife sharpening.

I have to make a quick aside about this. For nearly three years I have struggled to maintain sharp tools. In school I was a knife skills tutor and have knives that were razor sharp; they could take the hair off my arms. But over time, for one reason or another, which I still haven’t determined, I failed to get my tools even remotely close to that edge. After some feedback from a neighbor of David’s who is an avid knife fanatic I have managed to bring my edges back to razor sharpness. Thursday, still awaiting a repaired tiller, David and I spent our morning moving all of the tropical plants from inside the house to the deck. It was like moving furniture with odd angles because each tree had a different shape and fitting them through each doorway, some large, but most small, required a different kind of patience and poise. We went back to the hospital garden because we still had a few beds left that we could plant in and I spent my time mulching them before moving on to turning a row of earth. Friday was the day that we expected to get the tiller back so we started with light tasks to fill the morning. Moving with the theme of the week, our truck had a flat tire, mounted securely with rusted bolts. Just another hindrance to our spring planting. I moved some pallets out of the way of the mower to provide easier access to some of the grounds. Afterwards I rabbit-proofed the walk-in gate for the squash patch with some guidance from Ellis. I have to say I was pretty proud of my handiwork. With the assistance of AAA we managed to get the tire off and made a trip to town to find a replacement. On our way we stopped at the hospital garden and I turned some more earth. At this point the tiller was so close to complete I could almost feel – I know my body sure felt it. I made corn pudding that night for our meal and we took off for an musical showcase at Luther College. It was a commencement concert for the graduating class and it feature both symphonic orchestra and choral pieces. Oh yeah, still no tiller.

Saturday started early again with the goats. They are animals of habit and even though we had made this small pilgrimage each day for the last few, they were still giving us trouble. Luckily after only a few minutes of herding – and cursing – we managed to get things under control. I spent the early part of the morning cleaning for the bed and breakfast guests. I then moved to to reading and checking emails while we waited for a new update on the tiller. But it wasn’t long until we were operational. About an hour later David returned with our machine and we began in the garden. Currently we are in a record breaking hot spell with temperatures in the high 90’s, with a humidity percentage to match. I set up piles of manure and spread them into rows as he tilled it under. Seeing this happen in a fraction of the time and an exertion of my energy just as low I was ecstatic. Birte came down to help and together we all transplanted lettuces, Asian mustard greens and more peppers. I did a few more rows afterwards for future squash transplants and finished up with some watering before retiring from the heat. One of David’s acquaintances, Peter, stopped by to camp out for a few nights. He brought wine and some snacks and we spent a leisurely evening together. I made stir fry with some of our odds and ends and the conversation continued through dinner late into the evening. Sunday morning we ate breakfast with our guests. I spent some time talking with Peter about some of his hobbies and he did a celestial chart reading for me as well. Back in the swing of things I spent the morning setting up more planting beds in the garden before jumping on transplanting. We had an extended lunch to dodge more of the oppressive heat. Shortly after David and I went to Highlandville to plant a garden for one of David’s old neighbors. We got back about an hour later and I prepared a dinner of pulled pork, baked beans and some other fixings as well. Again the conversation went deep into the night and I ended my day moving a bale of hay from the goat barn to the hoop house before going to bed.

Check out what you may have missed this week here!

Magnifying the Magnificence of the Mundane

Imagine…

The crisp air lightly brushes against my skin. Rays of the afternoon sun beam down with glorious intensity bathing me in a contrast of deep warmth. Each step through the lawn is met by the gentle rustle of grass under foot, almost like a broom running across an old wood floor. With each step creatures, beautiful and unique in design, bellow forth to escape the oncoming assault to their once serene resting place. I reach the old worn wooden gate, paint peeling from its many days standing watch over the bounty housed just behind. It creaks gently as it is pushed open, moaning from arthritis in its hinges. The timid robin flutters away, each wingbeat reverberating through the air to create a soft rumbling. Welcome to the garden.

Intricate plots of seedlings push forth from the Earth, woven amongst patches of dirt and weeds, delicately swaying in the breeze, creating a surreal quilt surpassing the second dimension. I slowly walk across the grass paths, savoring each step among the culmination of our work. The grass abruptly transitions to earth which gently depresses as I waltz across the tilled ground towards my objective. I pull my yellow leather gloves from my back pocket and little bursts of dust and dirt liberate themselves from the mass of their caked-on brothern. As I split my hands into them the crust continues to crack resembling the ground to my left that offers the beans a chance at life. I grab the black tarp and gently pull it off the pile. Some of it disintegrates in my hands into black ribbons. A myriad of organisms come to life as the sun pierces into the once darkness. Prehistoric insects scuttle across the compost into crevices and earthworms writhe, like oiled spaghetti in a dish, before descending into the mass of decay.

I grab my manure fork, my senior by countless years, rust encasing each tine creating a brilliant gradient of rich brown tones before fading into a brilliant sheen at each tip. A quick thrust into the compost produces fleeing arachnids and a cacophony of crackling branches. Each matted scoop permits a resounding thud as it slowly fills the wheelbarrow. Again, again, and again. The air looms with the aroma of old leaves, rich earth and the slightest hint of fungus. I spear the fork back into the earth; it juts out like a piece of giant silverware in a chunk of chocolate cake. I tilt the wheelbarrow forward as it releases a quiet grown, vocalizing my sentiments as well. I push the load across the lawn with little resistance to its final resting place. I tip the wheelbarrow forward, rocks clatter against the metal and the compost scrapes out onto the ground. A collection of neat nodes of compost create an invisible line. I spread it in rows, new beds for the future. In the distance David pulls the cord to bring the tiller to life. A quick snap pierces the air proceeded by a flurry of colorful commentary. I look up from my work to see David scolding the tiller as if it were a misbehaved child. The simple task of setting up planting beds had no been brought to a screeching halt in only 15 minutes.

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