Last years dry plants crack and snap as I walk through the garden. The air is cool and a breeze blows the soft black dirt with each step. In every row I visualize what was and what will be planted. As I place a wooden steak and a few rocks in a bin I hear my dad driving down the road. His truck pulling the tractor is a welcome sight. The tough sod that will be the new garden needs to be broken up and his large tiller is better equipped for the job.
Engaging the PTO and dropping the tiller into the soft soil of last years garden he quickly turns the earth from bleached dried stubble to rich dark brown. This year as I walk alongside the tractor there are very few rocks to pull out. I watch as the tines turn the moist soil, thinking of all the organisms that make up this amazing life giving substance. A gust of wind comes up and I now get to experience this wonder with all of my senses, including taste. I’m quick to spit it out. While manure, decayed plant matter, and bugs are essential to plant growth I try not to make them a direct part of my diet.
On to the new garden plot. The dried grass here is thick and the tiller strains to chop it into the ground below. Seeing the rich earth makes me smile. By the end of summer the sod will have broken down, further enriching the soil.
With both the gardens freshly tilled I itch to start planting. Each plot of earth a blank canvas, my mind the artist contracted to create a masterpiece. The reality of the design may be closer to a stick figure but each individual element will be a perfect creation from god despite my involvement.
For now the soil will be left to sit and soak up this weeks predicted moisture. Ready now for the seeds that will soon be planted.
Thanks dad for your help!
Stretched tight along varied poles, some old and wooden, some new and steel. Barbed intertwined wires gleaming, rising and falling with the land. Short dried grasses below covering the faintest hint of green. Cool crisp breeze flowing through only slightly warmed by the sun. Clear blue sky above with a few wisps of white adding to its perfection. A bird, chirping happily, from its wire perch.
Hot sun shining off of the barbs points, bleaching the wooden posts to gray, slowly dulling the steel posts paint. The bellowing cattle move in testing the boundaries. Push, shove, scratch, looking for weakness and escape. Wires strain against staples and clips. Poles sway imperceptibly, each test loosening them from the earth they were pounded into. Lush green grass almost hiding the bottom wire. Strong winds hit and heavy rains fall, further weakening defenses. Days stretch out like the wires, long and intertwined.
Nights are turning cooler, the suns power weakening. The few strands of long grass left are now dried and brown, like the new rust on the wires. Gates are opened for the last time allowing fat, content cattle to move on. Their hooves crunching the parched grasses and billows of dust rising with each step. All that’s left to do is mark the boundary.
Cold sharp wind, hard biting snow whistle around and through. Ground holding fast to poles and at the same time pushing them out with each freeze and thaw. Barren white ground and gray sky all there is to see.
As the suns rays melt the snow and warm the earth, wires sag and posts lean. Wires are stretched and cut and tied off. Clips and staples are added to secure the wire. Old rotten posts snapped off and replaced, others tamped further into the ground. Each passing year the fence slowly changes. Metal rusts, wood rots and is continually replaced with new. The cycle consistent as the seasons.
Winter is a time of renewal for a garden. It provides needed rest and restoration for the garden and the gardener. While the gardens plants die off or go dormant the gardener takes a breath and collects their thoughts. Organic matter and snow collect to enhance the gardens soil during the down time. The gardener gathers notes from the past and new knowledge for the future.
As my garden sits quite I’m able to reflect on my past accomplishments. Looking back I see how far I’ve come from the small patch in the yard to the acres that will be planted this year. I also see the numerous mistakes. Turnips are not commonly consumed in North Dakota so don’t grow 300 of them. Zucchini plants still take up the same amount of space as last year even though I’d hoped they had shrunk. If I don’t mark where I put things it’s a surprise when they come up.
The garden is collecting needed moisture and nourishment right now. As this is taking place I’m mentally preparing for the coming year. Seed catalogs are gone through, figures calculated, notes compiled. My wish-list is long enough to fill more gardens than I have so some compromises will need to be reached. CSA comments are helping to both narrow down and broaden what will be ordered. Some of the suggested plants I’ve never grown before, so research is being done to ensure the best growing environment and care for these plants.
Preparing to expand the garden I’m also expanding myself. Slowly learning to put myself out there and show with confidence that I can accomplish the task at hand. Digesting as much information as possible to ensure not only abundant produce but also the continued health of the land.
I’m thankful for this time that allows for so much silent, unseen work to take place. Not much physical labor is done right now and there is no visible signs of life in the garden, but the proof of what is happening now will be evident in the coming months. Barring any weather or nature related disasters a bountiful crop and more knowledgeable gardener will appear at the market this year, active and very much alive after a regenerative winter.