Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mom's Garden

I am not a morning person. Never have been. During the summer, my idea of getting up early is to set the alarm for 7:00. To me, it is much more reasonable to start the day around 9:00.
Imagine my surprise when I woke up at 4:30 this morning and found myself out laboring in the garden by 5:00 a.m. Anyone who knows me well would faint from the shock.
Let me explain. The garden is Ed's baby. As I explained in my last post, I can't even keep a houseplant alive. It's called a "Black Thumb" (as opposed to a "green thumb"). So when Ed left on Friday to drive his mom back to her home in far northern Colorado, I was nervous. Very nervous.
Since then, I have watered and fertilized and agonized. I have followed Ed's instructions to the letter, yet I sensed a failure to thrive all around me. The tomatoes drooped. The strawberries lay listlessly on the ground. The newborn cabbages looked dry and wilted.

Ed thinks these may be cabbages. 
The label on the stake for this row washed away, so we don't know for sure!
Then a windstorm blew through here yesterday. It blew and blew all day long, 50 mph winds that frustrated the efforts of the 2,515 firefighters battling the Wallow Fire not far from here. By the time I went to bed last night, more than 200,000 acres had burned and the fire was zero percent contained. Zero! It leaped a highway where they'd hoped to hold it and destroyed an unknown number of buildings. The towns of Greer and Sunrise, a 30-minute drive from my home, were evacuated. The fire was less than a mile from the trigger point that would have required the evacuation of Springerville-Eagar, a trigger point they expect will be reached today because more heavy winds are expected.
We were just in Springerville-Eagar 2 weeks ago for one of Dylan's ballgames!  (That was the night we hit the elk.)

Photo of the Wallow Fire posted yesterday on
White Mountain Independent's news website.
It all brings back memories of our week-long evacuation during the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June-July 2002, and my heart goes out to the displaced families and firefighters risking so much. It makes my little garden complaint seem fairly insignificant but, nonetheless, the wind had a negative impact on my little plot, as well.
The teepee of poles Ed had erected for his newly planted beans blew down and landed on two struggling strawberry plants. A heavy "wall of water" protecting one of the tomato plants blew over and crushed the plant, tearing off many of its little branches. Another tomato plant, the best of the bunch, whose "wall of water" I had removed two days ago because it was outgrowing the enclosure, was blown onto its side and appeared lifeless.
I could tell Ed was discouraged and worried about his garden when I gave him the news last night. He'll be gone for at least another week, and he was frustrated that he couldn't be here to handle this crisis himself. I felt as if I were letting him down. I truly had no clue how to save this garden he'd left in my hands.
So I prayed. In truth, I've been praying for days. I knew I needed guidance if this garden was going to survive until Ed's return. And then I woke up at 4:30 this morning and found my mind filled with memories of my mom's garden and the things she used to do to nurture her plants. Honestly, while I was growing up I never paid that much attention to my mom's beautiful, healthy gardens or her gardening methodology. And yet, there it was when I needed it. I knew what I had to do.
I got right up and went to work. I labored for an hour and 45 minutes, hard back-aching labor (there go my friends, fainting with shock again), and I did more than I ever dreamed I was physically capable of doing at this time in my life. By 6:45 my arms were trembling, my hands and joints ached, my palms were red and sore and calloused (but no blisters yet), and my lower back hurt so bad I could barely stand upright.
But what a sense of accomplishment!
The rescued tomato plants, which seem to be perking up.
The other 3 tomato plants are still protected by their blue "walls of water."
I built up the earth around the tomato plants to support them against today's expected winds, and then I took a hoe and dug deep furrows around each plant so I can irrigate them more deeply when I water.

The row of spinach.
Then I did the same for the spinach, cabbage, and yellow onions. Well, about a quarter of the way around the onions. That's a long, long row. Tomorrow I plan to finish digging around the onions, and then make trenches around each of the strawberry plants, as well.

The row of (we think) cabbage.  The peas planted on this side of the stake
have yet to put in an appearance.

When I was done, I leaned on the hoe and understood the satisfaction people like Ed and my mother get from laboring in the garden. I'd never felt that way before.
How the whole garden looked when I was finished this morning.

It also made me feel a little closer to my mother, who passed away in April 2002. In my mind I clearly saw her kneeling in the garden to pull up weeds and pick off tomato worms, and moving here and there to reposition the trickling garden hose in the furrows she dug around her plants to see that the water soaked deeply into their roots.  It was as if she were showing me what needed to be done.

Although I only filled the furrows less than halfway full,
the water level reached up to the spinach as it soaked into the rocky ground. 

I hope our garden, Ed's and mine, will be fruitful and become the kind of garden that would make my mom proud!

1 comment:

ashley b said...

impressive aunt mary! i wasn't able to start a garden this year and i miss it so much! i can't wait for next spring. i loved hearing you talk about grandma's gardening. that was one thing i always loved to do at their house in show low was just go swing and watch her and grandpa in their little garden. i sure do miss her!