Tuesday, May 10–Pat Brodowski sent a wonderful care package from Monticello. Seeds of various sorts, some still on the cob or stalk, and a book by Helen Cripe on Jefferson and Music. It rained off and on all day in Bismarck, ND, but it has been so droughty here that by 7 p.m. the soil was dry enough to till. I started the evening by placing Italian tomato seeds in little potting soil containers (the size of a child’s alphabet blocks). Then I yanked the old corn roots out of the Square IX (Jefferson) garden. Then I got my tiller up over the two by twelves into the raised bed. The “soil” in the Jefferson garden is five year old Angus manure, brought in by a good friend last spring. It was too “hot” last summer for some crops. It should be better this year. I tilled as deep as I could with my ancient lurching tiller, and pulled weeds along the inside perimeter. Then I planted Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara seeds, this year on the east end, and planted Jefferson corn, beets, peas, beans, and melons in the middle. All carefully labeled this year so that I know what it is I am weeding a month from now. Jefferson’s insistence that a good gardener keep excellent records is so obvious and so important–and so hard actually to accomplish–that it gives me deep pleasure in labeling and mapping everything. I have white plastic plant row labels, and I photocopied ten copies of a basic outline grid I drew of the two gardens.
At some point, I left the Jefferson garden to work in my larger, more traditional garden. The soil is better in that garden because I put less manure on it last year. I planted four long rows of corn–several varieties–east to west. There is no way to plant a garden without getting down on your hands and feet and getting dirty. There is something so sensuous and life-affirming about smoothing well-tilled soil, leveling the imperfections with your hand, feeling out little rocks or dead roots and throwing them to the edge of the garden. And yet in order to do this you have to get yourself out of your usual detachment from life. You have to overcome your ego, your hygienic fastidiousness, your disdain for stoop labor, your habit of uprightness. But the payoff is great. It doesn’t take very long to relax into garden life.
As of last night, the garden is approximately 25% planted. The tomatoes are impatient in my dining room, ready for transplant the minute I reckon we have had the last frost. I have several dozen cucumber plants started, too. I’m moving the tomato patch (crop rotation). This year I am determined that the Italian garden will flourish and that everything will be properly labeled. I want onions, beets, radishes, potatoes, and carrots to flourish this year.
I’ll plant again tonight, and Thursday. My goal is to be finished with everything that could stand a mild freeze by the weekend.
The terrorist pheasant krukked nearby in the prairie grass, just waiting for me to retreat. Its smugness offends me. I want it to go away. I’d rather not kill it, but I regard it as baneful and malevolent. Michael Pollan has an excellent chapter on this subject–how a theoretical pacifist can be turned into a caricature of Bill Murray in Caddie Shack almost overnight when nocturnal creatures start preying upon one’s garden.
We need rain.