Thursday, March 21, 2013

Not Just the First Robin...Sounds of Spring

Ka-clack, Ka-clack, Ka-clack...what sounds like a unit train going over a crossing is actually the piston of the machine metering fertilizer into the hose so my seedling tomatoes stay green rather than purple.  Without this chorus, the ageless rhythms of the season would be more solo than symphony.  The women of Israel sang of Saul's thousands and David's ten thousands....without the machines of spring, Hurst Greenery would transplant mere thousands of seedlings, not the tens of thousands desired by our customers.

First thing every morning, when the air is still gray and chill,  there is the back up beeping of the skid steer as Ryan moves crates of 4"pots in trays, or hanging baskets, or 804s, or most likely 606s, filled with soilless potting mix (yeah, there's a mouthful for what we still call 'dirt') to whatever greenhouse we will work in.  The ├íliens', (as Lee calls them) are still "on the ground" in #11 and #4 as the HID lights glow an out of this world blue through the condensation beaded on the plastic, but the jet engine of the propane heaters roars like their spaceship is ready to blast off...or else the fires of hell lurk just inside the entrance to the greenhouse.

From the other side of the wall, the transplanter evokes nothing so much as the introduction to Billy Joel's Allentown, as the air compressor cycles on and off, the dibblers slide back and forth snicker-snack and the metal fingers pick up the baby plants as the rods below eject them from the plug tray. Whoosh, inhale, puff, exhale; the fingers plant the seedlings and the flats advance one space.  The ballet of moving parts begins again.   The tower of planted trays on the handcart and the tidy geometry of the newly watered flats belies the truth of the attention each individual four leaf baby has and will receive.  Like "children all nestled snug in their beds,"these infant plants (as they are anthropomorphized on the boxes of one supplier) are tucked away with a drink of water before dreaming of the warm sunny days ahead when they are grown ups.

The irrigators creep across each bay so slowly one hears them move more than sees them.  The wheels catch, grab, and finally reluctantly pull the python thick hose the length of the house.  The mist advances across the flowers like a summer storm front rinsing off accumulated dust, brightening the blossoms, and cooling the bay. The grandkids can no more resist being washed by the mist than they can resist playing in a sprinkler; wardrobe changes are a part of life once we start running the boom.

There is no "rocket science"here, just a myriad of pumps and motors, belts and pullies, blowers and fans, relays and thermostats, all attempting to create a facsimile of the Garden of Eden of the dust, heat, fumes, and humidity of our all too human earthly paradise.  But for a simple Hobbit soul like mine, this bit of Middle Earth with blossoms hanging overhead and tidy rectangles aligned like a patchwork quilt is satisfying as Monet's garden or a Dutch landscape.  It isn't sublime and it isn't flawless.  But this attempt to grow something beautiful is a daily reminder of what we might be....and how far our efforts  fall short.

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