Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where Plants Die and Machines Fail

Whatever else the Universe has given me, the ability to work with my hands is not one of them. Hell, my handwriting is so bad I cannot read it sometimes. If it involves a wench or a hammer it will not be pretty. People leave the area code when I pick up power tools. The Red Cross calls in when I use a chainsaw. The difference between me intentionally destroying a vehicle and repairing that same vehicle is virtually indistinguishable. Working on anything that has electricity is an exercise in faith that not only will I not kill myself, I also won’t burn the down the house, or violate some law of physics that will cause a hole in the space time continuum that will suck all life away from this Universe and cause Disco to return, wait that’s redundant.
It really isn’t fair, because I also have a brown thumb. I can’t raise vegetables, flowers, trees, or for that matter, anything that requires sunlight to grow, and to make it worse, my only swing at mushroom farming turned a spare closet into a little room that smelled of dead fungus and cow manure. I had an Aloe Vera plant to die, which is a lot like having a dust bunny found dead under your bed. Were there only some social or personal value in the green stuff in the refrigerator I would be a famous horticulturalist but no. There are also no points given for weeds or Spanish Moss both of which thrive here where purposeful plants come to die.
But let never be said I have surrendered to this curse, nay, not for one hour or one day. I’ve had a mulch pile for years now, and decided that in a fit of total greenness, I would venture forth back into farming, and coax from the earth food. This is a lot like Custer saying he was going to make an attempt at getting the Sioux to surrender before he hurt them anymore. This is like Captain Smith ordering a drink with extra ice. This is like Steve Bartman buying a new glove. This is like Facebook thinking their security measures are just too damn tough. So I hatched a plan, and plants throughout the world, trembled.
The plan was actually a two pronged attack on multiple fails. I would go into town, get stuff for an oil change, and plants to put into the earth. My first trip was to the farm store, where the man who owns it, sold me pepper plants and crushed my dreams. The mulch pile stuff is likely too acidic, he said, without lime, and it takes months for the lime to take effect. On the upside, such as it might be, pepper plants are usually hardy and might actually survive. He is a man schooled in both farming and would be farmers. He sold me five plants, and wished me the best of luck. The pepper plants screamed in terror all the way home.
Back home, I decided to use the old Oak stump in the front yard as a planter. What could be greener? I went out to the mulch pile and filled the wheel barrow with rich black dirt. This was going to be good! The wheelbarrow is well over ten years old, at least, and it creaks and shakes on its way to the front yard. I dumped all the mulch in, and lo! Wow! That stump hole is bigger than I thought! I pushed the wheelbarrow back and got another load. Hmmmm, it’s going to take some more, but I decided to mix in some regular dirt, just to make the stuff more firm. I dig a hole in the woods with a shovel, and just as soon as I have the wheelbarrow full and begin to move it, the tire goes flat. Okay. I go get the truck and the air pump that runs off the cigarette lighter receptacle, but I still have to get the wheelbarrow closer. I manage to move it about ten feet and the handle breaks off. Damn. Now I’m out a wheelbarrow, and I have to use that tiny garden cart to get the dirt to the front yard. Do you see a pattern here? Even before I put the plants into the ground damn little goes right and I lose a wheelbarrow. Yes, it is ancient and rusting through in places and rotten, but at the same time, this is a device that has been around since 2002 or so. The tiny garden cart is just slightly better than dragging the dirt around by hand. Damn.
I mixed the dirt in together and there is something spiritual about mix dirt and mulch by hand, getting muddy, getting sweat in your eyes, getting swarmed by gnats, but putting plants into the ground that, for most people, means there will be food coaxed from this earth. I go to the wrong church, believe in the wrong gods, and my prayers go unanswered, but I still go through the trial of planting. I still feel as if my belief is a good thing. I still think of heaven, even if in a week, or less, my poor pepper plants will lie dead, dead, dead and brown in the sun.
I put a Haberneros plant in the middle and surround it with four jalapeno plants around it. I make sure the roots aren’t packed, and I try to space them out a bit. I do not want to use chemical help for this, and some say this dooms me anyway. I don’t care. This is my pilgrimage to Mecca. This is my trip up the mountain. This is my religion. These are my prayers, to be answered or denied, not by my efforts alone, but along with all the luck or ill fortune ever befallen any farmer. The earth will accept all that enters her, but She will give back in ways that serves what She sees fit, in some way. Some She rewards, others punish, but She is blind to need or prayer or hope, and we can only hope that before it is our turn to enter the earth, we can entice something from Her, that makes us feel whole in some way.

Take Care,
Mike

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