Wednesday, February 29, 2012

No Guarantees

The gardening expert who writes for our local paper apparently has tired of gardening topics, as she had in previous years. One of her recent columns addressed "The Donald," of all things. A few years ago she warned us against getting ants in our pants, when I was sowing what I would happily reap in May and June.

Now is when Spring gardening begins. Fail to take advantage of the opportunities and you'll be the one griping "this Spring was too wet." We had a window of a day or two this week, following our big snow a week ago Monday. Now it's raining cats and dogs, so anyone who didn't seize the moment will have to wait a while longer.

I've come to the conclusion that successful gardening, like farming and many of the other good things in life, comes to those who work hard when the working's good. Sit on the couch and someone else will grab the worm.

I've heard that our magic date for pea planting is February 24, sort of like March 17 (St. Patrick's Day) for potatoes. I missed February 24th because the ground was too wet, but I've planted around it -- Wandos on February 18, the day before our one snowstorm for this winter, Laxton's on February 27, and Telephones and Super Sugar Snaps February 28. Now it's raining and I'm happy.

I also tossed in some lettuces and beets. It may still be early for beets, but with the unseasonably warm weather of this winter, waiting longer might seem a big mistake in April or May if temperatures prematurely hit the nineties. We recently attended an agricultural extension service meeting on broccoli, where several people suggested that our frost-free date has moved forward a week or more from the May 15 date our grandparents stuck in our minds. I won't test it by transplanting tomato plants into the garden much before then. Besides, the weather's been so weird we might have snow on Memorial Day, which means I'll hold some back even then. The "frost-free" date is no guarantee, never has been.

Guarantee? Not too much in life is guaranteed. Once upon a time, not so long ago, several banks ran ad campaigns guaranteeing free checking for life. In part because of the fallout from that experience, those of us who review bank advertising generally put the kibosh on attempts to "guarantee" terms. For some reason, this reminds me of certificate of deposit campaigns tying interest rates to the performance of a local sports team. Maybe Elk Cliff Bank will run a rural promo promising a higher CD rate if Jack Frost visits after May 15.

"Sign me up!" says Virginia.

She's a lucky woman. She had no reason to know it, no one ever told her, but she satisfied the conditions to inherit land from her grandfather just in time. If the "Frosted CD" sounds good to her, you might want to follow her lead.

I need to pay attention to Dorothy, who told me last night that around here we start tomato seeds inside on February 14, Valentine's Day. I'm late.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two Favors from Calvins

Yesterday, our friend, Tommy, arranged for us to borrow a 1-horse trailer from his friend, Calvin, a short man with a cowboy hat and a pipe.  Even compared to me, he was short -- kind, generous, and short.

This morning at 8, Tommy appeared to direct the show, him not one to let a friend's trailer out of sight with another friend. Borrowers, remember that advice, especially if you, like Tommy, have a heart operation scheduled the next day. It's no time to let a friend multiply your stress. 

We coaxed Velma in with whole corn, spreading it in a line to the front of the trailer, like Hansel and Gretel. She seemed suspicious, focusing on the feed near the entrance, then backing home to the paddock. The pull of hunger was too much. Soon she was stretching inside, hind feet on the ground. Tommy held the door ready to slam when she lifted the left leg up, then finally the right. BAM! She was in. We tightened three straps on the door and centered the "FARM VEHICLE" sign. 

I aimed the pickup down the road, smiling about how things had gone, but still nervous about the trailer, which may have looked normal when my grandfather only had one horsepower. Karen and Tommy, with Bennie (a goat), followed in our stationwagon.

About 3 miles later, as we approached Glasgow, I felt the trailer shake as if its hitch might be slipping off. It shimmied and quaked and my cellphone rang. "Pull over!" said Karen, "She's trying to jump out." They'd been watching Velma's snout push out the bottom of the door, and then she'd levitated herself onto the door, which was a half door, the upper half open to the sky. Smart pig, she knew why birds need daylight.

So much for easy. We gathered round the bouncing trailer and wailing, snorting pig, who seemed determined to make us regret our informal U-Haul arrangement. I tried to hold the door shut and daylight out, while sing-songing Velma and feeling like Peter. Her last day was supposed to be gentle. 

Karen returned home for lumber, drill, screws, saws, and whatever struck her fancy. She came back with a couple pallets and a bunch of wood. We set to work rehabbing the trailer so Velma couldn't get close to the door, and blocked as much daylight as possible. We were finally on the road again about 10. 

Perhaps I should mention that through all of this Bennie rested sweetly in the stationwagon. Who's smarter, the goat or the pig?

We wound our way through one switchback after another to the abattoir in Naola. Of course, we had to unscrew our rehab work before Velma could find the way to her pen of last resort. Meanwhile, Karen went inside, filled out the paperwork, and chose how we wanted our darling babies returned. The butcher's wife shared some tears and before long we were on our way home. 

Having done this once, moving Roxie was a piece of cake. We carried her 2 miles down the road to another Calvin, who had agreed to introduce his boar to Roxie. We're hoping she enjoys her vacation and comes home pregnant in a week or two or three.

We completely dismantled our work on the trailer, removed all the screws and nails, and cleaned it up so the next horse doesn't smell pigs and short Calvin might let Tommy borrower the trailer again, not for pigs. Six hours after we started, we found lunch at home.

"So you're real farmers, now?" says Virginia.

No, but we're learning.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yard Art

Today we're watching our only (?) 2011-2012 winter storm melt.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

On Strike?

I've been accused of going on strike. That hasn't happened since I was 16 and a member of Retail Clerks International, when I learned what a scab is. For me, striking was a vacation. I wanted my wages to buy doughnuts and records. I didn't need them to pay rent and buy groceries. I showed up now and then to carry a placard, walk back and forth along the sidewalk, and feel sorry for the older guys whose spouses and babies depended on them for food.

No, I've been the opposite of on strike. After years of "working" part-time and filling the rest of my time with constructive play, this year has found me clocking 40-hour+ weeks and struggling to play. I've neglected my blog partly because it seems to get as many visitors when I don't post as when I do. Who among you wants to read about Dodd-Frank and banking stuff anyway?

"I do," says Virginia.

Don't listen to her. She's green because I have been writing some other things, not about her, things I'm not about to put on this blog.

"Poems," she says.

Yeh, them too. If I put them here, others might not want to publish them. Not that anyone's pounding on my door.

Something else, too. Maybe she'll let me finish it some day.