Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Let There Be Water Under the Bridge: April

This is what happens in April.
 Saturday evening.  I am watering wilted fuchsia baskets in the big house when Blake calls. He has checked the reservoir for possibly the 50th time this week and likely the tenth time this warm day with wind gusts up to forty mph from the south. "How're you doing?" he asks. This is a shorthand I understand.
 "Are we done? I'm watering sad fuchsias" 
 "Will they die? If you water them now, it will be all salt water.." 
We have a deep well, but it is so high in sodium, we have to mix it with our sweet well.
  I lift a couple of baskets to check...."No, they'll make it til tomorrow."

I shut off the hydrants and walk up the hill to the office.  Lee and Ryan, who have also been at the business end of a garden hose, are ahead of me.  We've done what can be accomplished with the resources we have.  The rest will just have to wait, just as we look to the skies, our phones, and the ten o'clock meteorologist to gauge our chances for relief. When there's no more you can do, you just go home.

At least it is Saturday night.  I've promised to grill some burgers for my husband.  This simple meal will include a head of cauliflower chopped and the seasoned burgers sprinkled with some tomato basil feta that appealed to me at the HyVee and hearty chunks of last summer's lime pickles. Blake will not complain.
Chopping the head of cauliflower reminds me of our trip to California's Salinas Valley last summer.  The Salinas Valley is a potpourri of food production, a crazy quilt of edibles in all stages from transplant to harvest, leafy greens to artichokes, all possible through the judicious and calibrated use of irrigation.  After two years of shortened field crops and the constant worry and expense of providing water to our greenhouse plants, I know what it is to deal with scarcity. We don't have a spigot to turn on when we need it.

But there is no agency turning that spigot off either. We scoop up some dip with our crunchy cauliflower only as long as there is water for those farms in California, only as long as those farms and that produce have sufficient value to society.  If, perchance, some California critter is declared scarce, the vast and productive farms return to the dust from whence they emerged.

The greenhouses are home to creatures above ground and below.  We fight the ages old battles with the rodents human history has pronounced a scourge; we stumble to avoid squishing harmless toads; we clean sparrow nests and wasp nests from our machinery and chimneys.  But there are marvels too.  The first butterflies of the season, the red admirals,  find a flowering oasis; hummingbirds in transit buzz through for a week or so.

  The locals make their best nests cheek by jowl with the working parts of the business. I enjoy the robins of spring, the swallows of summer that scoop snacks off the greenhouse plastic like it was a glassy ocean, the killdeer that ply their wiles in the fall as I pace the watering route in the mum patch. The line between habitat and human is large and blurred and is home to life abundant and sometimes unexpected.

There are two ways to solve the water shortage at Hurst Greenery.  One is to put the flowers on the trucks and send them to someone else to plant and care for; to change this:

into this:

And the other is Nature's way:

April should be for showers in our part of the world and if we spend some chilly days in raincoats with wet feet, we deal with it stoically, knowing all too well what pristine spring day after pristine spring day yields in the long term of July.  Rainy days in April go into the soil bank, literally, to be withdrawn by crops in the field and mums in the pots and flowers in the garden.  I'm donning my raincoat and three layers of shirts today on my way to work, hoping to squeeze another quarter inch out of the uncomfortable drizzle.
This is one part of April....

....and this is another...

Mud makes the grass grow....

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Good Shepherd and Other Verses

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11

"Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning ." Psalm 30:5

This is one of my special verses and none the less apt for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Even as we go about our daily tasks, we are chastened by the awareness of our burden of guilt, of the awareness of our sin in every endeavor, even when our intentions are good. We read the drama of Holy Week with dread, as if we aren't certain how the story will end. We are those disciples: unaware, ignorant, shallow, unimaginative. We may not be sensitive to our failing day in and day out, but we are on Good Friday.

What bliss, what joy, what light hearts we experience on Easter morn! We are children of the King and we find an innocent pleasure in every detail of His glorious creation. With those memories in mind, give thanks for the joys of the morning... through the eyes of happy children and the Words we have received from our Father Himself...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Nothing Contrary Here!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row.

That was then....graceful but finicky cottage blossoms, ephemeral but lovely to celebrate in rhyme.... never mind the dark historical back story....

But this is NOW...

Mary, Mary, don't be contrary
Choose a flower that will give us a show!
Whether Bada Boom or Nightlife, 
Cocktail or Harmony,
We know these begonias will grow!

The 21st century gardener's version of pretty maids all in a row.. upon row.. upon row.  
When all else fails...including imagination...we wind up with a greenhouse of marching bronze leaved begonias. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

On the Front Lines of the Season

Today's project requires a drive from home to Jefferson City, accompanied by 550 plus of our most fragrant and tender friends in the back of the Explorer, thirty or so flats of Matrix Mix and Matrix Ocean pansies. Their blooms are three inches across and, if you'll forgive my fancy, their "faces" seem to be frank and open and unswerving as the break of day. They spent the night exhaling in the car, greeting us with a warm breath of fragrance and humidity in the morning.
We drove in driving rain for three hours. It drained away before our destination, but my spirits drooped when I saw geese swimming on the pooled waters on the Missouri River bottom outside Jeff.

On the surface, the flower beds looked pretty good!
But reality set in as soon as my spade bit into the ground. Every hole for a plant became a...

..... pansy pond.....
Now I'm a long ways from my college soils classes, but even a wee bit of gardening experience, much less the decades I've accumulated, tells me these are not ideal planting conditions. Saturation, compaction, collapse of soil structure? Let me count the ways.....
And...oh yeah, I planted them all anyway. Every passerby told me what a nasty day it was to plant,but I didn't choose the day; it chose me.
Like they always say, you fight with the army you have. May my pansy volunteers overcome the odds against them, flutter their brave spring flowers against the elements, and cheer all that pass through...