Friday, July 07, 2006

Right At Home

Lofty Thoughts

Right At Home

It would make a great magazine article: "Gardening with my Amish Neighbor." Strangely, most of the time, I completely forget how special my experiences are; I am too busy fighting off potato bugs with Esther and hacking weeds at the other end of the row she started working on while I was still trekking down her lane. I take my time and admire the clover field to my right or the wild cherry trees that drop a generous birdie feast over the gravel to my left.

I have lost count of the years I’ve known Esther. Once we were strangers who lived across the road from each other. Then one winter I invited her over for tea and asked if I could pay her to grow some vegetables for me—I explained the concept of a CSA (community supported agriculture). By the time I quit my job in Wooster, I counted among my newly acquired blessings that of having more time to work in “our” garden.

This morning I hoed some of our 28 tomato plants and Esther told me she thought the hoe I have been using for the past three years is responsible for making me tired. She is partial to a small three-pronged hoe her daughter Edna picked up at the flea market. After trying it, I was inclined to agree.

Tools were of concern today. Reuben has again misplaced the shovel and Esther wants to dig out the comfrey plants that are still coming up two years after we moved the herbs to a different spot. She likes the blue flowers they produce.

Soon, we moved from working in the “big garden” to the “little garden” which has a wonderful rich loamy texture. The big garden is only a few years old. In a former life it may have been a gravel pit, for all the stones that keep surfacing. We’ve managed to kill off most of the thistles in it by spraying them with vinegar, but it isn’t especially fun to work there.

The little garden was perfect for working in today, with exactly the right amount of moisture in the soil. Not only that, it was cool and breezy. We took off our shoes and I worked for several hours pulling weeds and the lettuce and spinach that had gone to seed with some radishes that would never make it in the summer weather. I only stepped on one stone the entire time I worked.

I accidentally pulled up a carrot while I was weeding. I was getting hungry and wishing for some water to wash the carrot. Edna brought a bucket and the next thing we were having a garden lunch of (very) fresh carrots. Edna and Esther each found a large one but I contented myself with several smaller ones wrapped in some romaine leaves. About an hour later, we ate oatmeal sandwich cookies and had a glass of water as we sat in the shade of a maple tree.

While I was weeding, I’d noticed the run-away chamomile plants. They’ve spread from and earlier herb bed to the pasture on the other side of the picket fence. Now I know why Esther frowned when I brought her a packet of chamomile seed in the spring. “What part of the chamomile plant do you use to make tea?” I inquired of Esther today.

“You dry the flowers,” she said.

“Do you have any idea how many hours I’d have to sit at my computer doing Internet searches to learn all the things you’ve told me this summer?” I asked my neighbor. I’m suddenly struck by the way my life has taken a turn for the better since I’ve gotten to know my neighbors.

While Edna and I took care of the last peas, Esther got the job of cleaning out the garlic bed. She had to contend with the drifts of asparagus that kept falling across her back as she worked. Edna and I were pulling over gown peas off the dying vines and shelling them into one of four large stainless steel bowls she’d brought out—far more containers than we needed.

Rover barked and we looked up as a pony cart rolled down the lane. Esther went to talk to the young people in the cart. In less than a minute, they’d turned around and were trotting back up the lane. They had only come to let the Millers know there would be another neighborhood ice cream supper next Thursday—the pony express.

I wriggled my toes in the soft dirt and stretched. Above me the windmill creaked and the little bantam rooster continued to crow even though it was afternoon. My dog, Beau, and Rover chased each other around in the lawn. It was only half mowed. A visitor had interrupted Esther while she was mowing it (with a push mower) last night.

Before I left, I went into the house to wash my hands at the sink inside the back door. There is no mirror above the sink; no pictures on the wall except for a calendar or two. There is no television, phone or radio. There is an “ice box” in the “wash house.” My neighbors manage to live on a couple of gallons of gasoline a month. There is an engine to power the washing machine and another to pump water when the wind isn’t blowing. For some reason, I don’t think a lot about any of this when I’m there. In fact, most of the time, I feel right at home.


At 10:10 AM, Blogger Lucia said...

I enjoyed reading this post...very calming...and real...and of summertime gardening.


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