I've been worse than the dog lately, pacing at the window, staring outside at the (extremely) slowly dwindling snow in the yard each day, waiting for Spring to finally arrive. When we moved here to Massachusetts, we were warned about this; what starts out as a love of all that pretty, fluffy snow falling so gently from the sky turns slowly but relentlessly into that restless sweet-Jesus-will-winter-EVER-FREAKING-END feeling you get after several weeks of not seeing the ground through a blanket of cold, wet white shit.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, we the sun seemed to remember that people in Massachusetts also need a hint of warmth. The temperature was hitting around 60 degrees during the day (but still plunging back into the low 20's at night, as a kind of "don't get cocky, bucko. This can all change and we can roll in the glacier anytime we want to" reminder from the capricious Yankee weather fairies). However, this new-found warmth has created a couple of hints of life returning slowly outside, with buds showing up on trees in the yard, and some irrepressible greenery thrusting up through the melting sludge still scattered in shady spots.
This has all made me even more restless than before, and anxious to get on with some of the Big Plans we have for the house this year. What with the move and then all the hijinks and the lead removal, it was pretty much all we could do last year not to let the house kill us.
But this year... this year is different. I've got plans...
Before the winter set in fully, I had built these raised beds in preparation for a spring and summer of bountiful garden. But before I had time to do anymore than get the frames up (three 8' x 16' beds), the snow came, and I have spent the entire winter looking at them full of that white, frozen crap instead of rich earth. Imagining them growing their cornucopia of vegetables and goodies to fill our larder.
Finally, with the thaw, I called up the local farmer down the road, who brought out a few loads of soil, to fill my waiting emptiness.
Just getting the truck in and maneuvered into reasonable proximity was a bit of a trick. The snow still lingering at the bottom of the slope posed a challenge, as did that beautiful, obnoxiously in-the-way stacked stone wall that runs parallel to my lovely raised beds. (It seemed like such a good idea to position them there originally...)
But three truckloads later, we were in the gardening business!
And there we are - 25 yards of mixed soil and composted manure, filling my garden beds with their lovely, lovely potential.
OK, so you can see from the picture that "filling" the beds is kind of an approximate thing. We settled for "reasonably close". Or at least "not too far away." How about "sort-of next to?"
I was so excited to finally get the dirt, that I just shrugged and grabbed my shovel. About a yard or two of soil laboriously tossed from the pile into the bed frame later, and I knew I was going to need some kind of better system.
Meet my system:
"Hey honey, let's all go out and spend some time in the sunshine together!"
Somehow, I have enough shovels for all of us. That's some good planning on my part, eh?. Even the Critter got into the act. She seemed to think it was some kind of game to be allowed - nay, encouraged - to get dirty.
"Hey Daddy... what's 'manure'?"
"Oh. Um. I think I'll stand over here and take care of Squirmy"
Squirmy was in little boy heaven. He spent time making mud pies, checking out what the rest of us were doing, and probably consuming his own body weight in nice, clean dirt. I mean, dirt and composted manure mix. I tried to ignore this. I figure, I'm going to grow some parsnips in that stuff, and feed them to my family, so what the hell. He's just getting a head start.
And he makes a great supervisor.
"Oy. Woman. You missed a spot."
This didn't last long. My Bride isn't one to let the boy forget his place, or who really wields the power in our household.
My neighbor finally took pity on our efforts and scooted over with his tractor, complete with a front loader, and finished the last 80% of the earth-moving. And we lovingly shaped and scooped and heaped the soil into nice, even beds, which will wait out the next several weeks of night-time frosts until they can receive their seedlings and sprouts.
Though I come from a long line of very successful gardeners - my Mother could coax flowered wallpaper into a bountiful harvest, given a trowel and few scraps of potting soil - this marks the first time I've been anything more than an occasional guest participant in the gardening racket. I've no idea if we're going to actually harvest a single tomato or radish, or how much we're going to be raising this just to give the local deer population a break from all that hard foraging work. But what the hell. Doesn't that dirt look lovely?
Even the dog looks impressed.
Our other neighbors (not the one with the tractor. The ones from Manhattan that decided to try the "country life") were so impressed, that in a fit of excitement during a shoveling break, we've decided to till up another spot of land about 20' x 30' in addition to the three beds we just created, as a shared garden between us. Because we are apparently into self-inflicted pain.
And in a few weeks, we get our first-ever chickens!