Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is this the greatest blessing?

One day we are lazing about in our cozy living room, warmed by the gas log, watching college basketball with one eye, reading our chosen books or magazines with the other. Perhaps catching a few zzzz's in the dimming light of the early winter nightfall. We seldom feel guilty about these wasted hours away from farm and business because.... day soon, we are heating an acre of greenhouses. There are plants in each of them, some planted, some plugs, some without roots of any kind. They are infants in green and require the same attention baby humans do, except more so. Babies will holler, or wail, or whimper, but a dry tomato seedling, a bacopa with its roots exposed, or a five week old snapdragon plug, will expire into dust like a bad guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Not only do these babies need care, they are on a schedule too. Six weeks from plug to bloom for the petunia in 606; eight weeks for that little shiny leaved begonia. That New Guinea basket will be a Memorial Day item if its not hanging on a leader in #10 this week, instead of heading down to Kansas City for a flower sale in late April. In the spring, the milestones are weeks; count back from week 19 (third week of April) and the pyramid grows... Alyssum and salvia take four weeks from plugs. Impatiens and zinnias and cosmos and marigolds five. Petunias six. Dusty miller, dianthus, gomphrena are forgiving but not quick; they need six late planting but maybe seven potted early. And the slowpokes....vinca and begonias. A full two months from plug to a blooming pack.

Its a short easy slide to panic mode. Saturday or Sunday a truck arrives with the current week's plugs. In addition, there are rooted cuttings and seedlings of our very own waiting in the wings. The dry erase board sprouts bullet points and lists for transplanting. The carts in the big greenhouse hold each customer's orders in miniature. This is the week we plant vinca for Visitation, hence a cart with 42 512 plug trays of red, white and pink Pacifica vinca. That translates into 450 flats of vinca. And this customer needs a pack and flat size that doesn't lend itself to our transplanter. Each of these little vinca will be planted by hand. By Thursday, I hope. Because if these plants are still on the rack on Friday, they are not truly going to be planted in week 9.

Here are the plugs for a new customer also with a specific week for delivery. His case is different though. I know the school fundraiser will happen come rain, come shine, come whatever. But I have to wonder if this new garden center customer will hedge somewhat if the temperature on April 15, his first delivery drop, is about 40 degrees. We have to keep these possibilities in mind every year. Will these plants still be in top condition if our customer bails because of a freak snowstorm or freezing temperatures? Its a chance we'll have to take this year because we don't know this fellow's preferences or habits. After a few springs, we'll have a better idea.

This past Saturday, the cuttings for combo baskets are still on the ground where we unboxed them three or four days ago. The cuttings for planter tubs are still on racks a few aisles back. There are 20-25 plug trays still to transplant on yet another rack. Our New Guinea and geranium cuttings are ready to transplant into 4" and tubs. The other batch of unrooted cuttings, though small in number, have also rooted nicely and are ready for pots. I did get this week's batch of vegetables planted.....almost 90 plug trays of peppers, cole crops, and tomatoes. That's alot, but nothing compared to what awaits me on this week's vegetable schedule. I seeded lots of flowers on Monday, but that seems eons ago and I'm worried I'm getting behind.

Its also Lee's birthday. Ann and Matt are grilling steaks this evening and I've got a chocolate cake ready to frost for the evening's festivities. In the meantime, Hurst Greenery isn't resting on its laurels; we're applying ourselves to our given tasks.

Blake has finishing up the plumbing on the new irrigator in the annex bays of the big house. The manufacturer has cheapened the construction and it has taken some jury rigging and extra ratchet straps to finish the project. Ryan, with Clyde helping, has been filling hundreds of Earl May flats, hundreds of hanging baskets, and now, hundreds of gallon pots. They've made innumerable trips up the driveway on the skid steer and now are consolidating the supplies in the dirt shed and disposing of some of the riff raff and odds and ends we've accumulated since the last cleaning. Its all rather nasty work with the melting snow, mud and ice jams.

In the big greenhouse, Ann and Matt are commandeering the transplanter, making the plug trays on the rack into Earl May flats at an impressive rate. They are up against the clock; the next truckload is supposed to arrive at 4 pm and they don't want last week's plugs still unplanted when this week's arrive. The transplanter runs on air and the whoosh and clack of the fingers and slides are barely audible above the clatter of the air compressor. They have a good system going; they have lots of hours logged as the weekend and after hours transplant team for us.

Aaron is assisting. He has taken a nap, helped his grandpa in the annex and now is pushing the on/off switch for his mom and dad.

Lizzie, Gabe and Abbie have an area 198' by 96' to roam. They have drink boxes, a bike stroller, sunglasses, buckets, various greenhouse extrusions, x braces to hang on and sidewalks to run over. Its sunny and they are stripped down to short sleeves. Every once in a while, someone doesn't share, or takes a spill and one mom or another has to stop and console. Dirt in the eyes and snot in the nose is another constant. Finally, Abbie plops down by the huge pile of potting mix Lee and I are using to fill plastic urns for another customer. She helps her mommy fill pots for a little while, but eventually treats the big pile as her personal sandbox. The peat moss sticks to everything; I think I have a pretty good idea what the lint catcher in Lee's dryer looks like.

Maybe I'm warped, but this scene made me smile and thank the Lord for my many blessings. Your idea of bucolic may not be a greenhouse surrounded by muck and full of dust and loud machinery. But I can think of few things better than to do good work with those you love all around you, working with you. God only rested one day, you know. So I believe He intended our work to be more of a blessing than the curse laid on us out of Eden. I deeply miss Ben and Kenzie these weekends; they've taken their turns at the family business as well, but are spending this greenhouse season too far away to partake. But I carry these Saturdays in February and March with me in memory, relishing the raucous lunches, the laughter, the companionship, the togetherness and teamwork on our family farm.

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