How often do you have to attend to several insignificant but time-consuming projects before you can settle down and really get to work? You might recognize this as the Old Woman Getting Her Pig Over the Stile Syndrome. Although I wanted to get out in the sunshine and plant radishes this morning, vacuuming the floor came first.

I’d think I was done when my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, would holler over the noise of the machine, “Over there. You missed all that over there.”

When I’d bend closer to the floor, I could see microscopic scraps of lint. But when I’d stand up straight the floor looked clean and neat. You can understand why James Gleick’s “Chaos” and Mandelbrot set images came to mind.

Being familiar with Mandelbrot, you know that there is no end to the amount of filth on your carpet and therefore no end to vacuuming.

I know where to draw the line. But I am married to a woman who can see subatomic particles.

Before I could go out I also had to check Facebook. Cliff mentioned pasting seeds to strips of paper and planting the strips, which sounded like a good time-saving idea and I wanted to follow up on that. On another page I read that soaking radish seeds in Lysol before planting worked “miracles.” But that sounded more like a Russian bot than hard science. Facebook is a great tool, but you have to vet your sources.

After putting in three rows of radishes, I dropped a small rock on the end of each row so I’ll know where not to put my feet for the next week. Among your gardening friends, you might count rockers and packagers. I’m a rocker, but you might have seen your neighbor’s seed packets on sticks. Is he is a Wall Street type who fled the city early this season for reasons best known to himself? Do you need a picture of a carrot on a stick to tell you what is in the ground beneath 6 inches of green top? Send out a small child to fetch a bunch of carrots for supper. Does he come in with radishes if there is no picture of a carrot on a stick at the end of the row?

Any adult who is unable to see the difference between the wisp of carrot green sticking up out of the ground and a two-week-old top of a radish should forget farming and sit back and wait for a call to serve a two-month stint as secretary of agriculture.

For years my radishes have come from lowered beds. This is all one has left after selling all the topsoil to friends who wanted raised beds – or who gave away all the rocks. My garden is shaped like a bowl with a hollow in the center, and the sides 2 or so inches below the level of the lawn. In past years I’ve given my brother buckets of rocks I sifted out while planting. He’ll get no rocks from me this year. The garden has already dropped several inches below lawn level, and I’m likely to end up raising rice in a small pond.

After throwing in three 5-foot rows of radishes and two rows of carrots, I finally ran a taut string from one end of the garden to the other. The string is parallel to the south side of the garden and because the crops I put in earlier lack any kind of planning, the string for the new improved photogenic garden runs across two rows, much as a new civilization builds upon the ruins of an old.

For months six crow friends have been eating table scraps in the garden area. Because they’ll also eat my young radishes, I put out a life-sized scarecrow. It comes down tomorrow. Every time I look up and see the silent, grinning thing hovering over me, my heart goes right up in my throat.

If you are in a good neighborhood, does the term “raised bed” bring to mind your friend Heather’s professionally maintained backyard of trucked-in loam? When it is finally warm enough to step outside, she appears in her white gardening gloves and a bonnet that screams “paint me” at local artists.

Heather has firm, straight shoulders and good teeth, and well she should. Both of her grandfathers were M.D.s from Harvard, and an ever-so-great-uncle sentenced Thoreau to jail. Not far from rows of manicured raised beds, a bartender hovers behind a small portable bar in anticipation of visitors. This is Maine gardening as it is getting to be. 

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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