Sunday, May 17, 2009

Twelve Hour Shifts

"That's it," I yell to Dawn who's covering baby beet plants at the far end of the field. At dusk I ask her to escort the Pooch inside. "I'll be inside in a moment." I shrug off making 26 small cardboard box covers for transplants. Instead, I cover them with plastic Dixie cups. The Pooch was absent all afternoon. I expected him to find cover from gusty winds that threw the empty garbage cans across the yard. By 7:15 the sun is lower in the west and I'm getting worried. Unusual behavior for a cat that likes to come in and grab a bite to eat, take a nap and follow me around while I work in the garden. "Is that the cat near the steps?" Dawn asks. At 8 pm he makes his appearance to help with the preparations for the upcoming frost advisory. He sticks his paw down a hole left from a garden stake I'd pulled. Then he walks over bedsheets covering herb transplants. He finds one especially comfortable and watches us work.

This morning I see him ambling along peony plants in the back forty heading for the neighbors. As he gets to the property line I call out. "Where are You going?" He stops. Oh, oh, caught in the act of disappearing. He trots toward me and I walk to him. Maybe he'll show me his hiding place. As I stand by the horse corral waiting for him to make his move, I wonder if it wouldn't be easier raising horses. All one has to do is throw them a bale of hay, make sure there's enough water and, perhaps, ride around the flats down by the river. Pipe dream.

Saturday is dump day. We're set to dive the dumpster for milk jugs and water jugs. I bring twine to tie them together. After a brief conversation with the dump master sharing weather information and other important facts, such as how to anchor a milk jug in high winds, we leave with 30+ plastic jugs, a few black plastic plant pots and three white plastic pails. I tie them to a fence post in the garden. Later, while mowing the back forty I see Dawn running after milk jugs escaping toward the river. I count plants and containers. I'm a big fan of insurance. Not the kind you have when there an auto accident and then they cancel you. The kind where you do one thing and the opposite happens. I know the cabbages are frost tolerant. If I don't cover the recent transplants. they'll wilt and die.

I make 40 cardboard orange boxes I'd saved from Wal-Mart. The boxes that say, made from real oranges, not from fake oranges. We've got 88 plastic Dixie cups, 2 rolls of landscape fabric, old bedsheets, a 50 foot roll of black plastic covering a half finished patio, clear plastic paint drop cloths used in the kitchen remodel, assorted odd plastic covering art work in the barn, rags, old drapes, and an assortment of wood fence post ends, boards, pails of sand, rocks, landscape timbers to weigh down the crop covers- all of which lies wet and frost covered in the grassy strips next to the 10X80 garden plots.

The Pooch grunts and moans occasionally on the foot of the bed. I stick my nose next to his and he licks it. Big yawn. From his 5:00 am greeting meow to soft sighs at 6:30, I cover my head and try not to think about the garden. At 7 I'm dressed and checking the thermometer under cover between the house and garage. It says -thirty degrees. The radio called for temperatures in the high twenties. For an hour I uncover what we covered 12 hours earlier, inspecting for possible frost damage. Only the basil looks wilted. One cabbage plant got crushed by it's plastic cup cover. The sun has warmed the ground covers. Everything is dripping wet. Water runs off the roof of the bird feeder. Hummingbirds that stoked up on nectar while robins grabbed that last worm in the twilight are back to the feeder, luxuriating in the warm sun. By the end of the uncovering process, the temperature is in the forties.

On the weather map, the two large H' s have moved toward the east. Most of the country is looking at clear, sunny weather. There's another low coming from California. Predicted low temperatures start with the mid forties and rise to the fifties by midweek. Warm and dry. Time to get out the watering cans .

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