Jilly D.

Spring dip

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on May 10, 2014 at 2:13 pm

20100521GH_270Ten days after plowing, it’s time to harrow the fields. Harrows are big curly metal tongs you drag through the plowed field to break up the clods and continue to smother the weeds with overturned dirt. Harrowing is very important to weed control. The longer you wait to plant after plowing and harrowing several times, the fewer weeds you will have in your field.

Plow, then harrow and harrow again. Then it’s time to pick rocks. Every year we pick the biggest stones out of the field. The frost heaves up a new crop every spring. I suggested a few years ago we market ourselves as a rock farm. We could be a u-pick rock crop farm. After harrowing each May, we could let people pick their own boulders and stones for their hearths and rock gardens. I thought we might even sideline in a fat camp program involving rock picking as a weight loss program. I was too busy picking rocks and planting to ever go very far with those ideas.

May is the month when there is nothing much left from last year’s harvest. The potatoes have all got eyes on them and will become seed next month. The onions sprout new greens. The few remaining carrots and beets seem limp and less flavorful. Nothing yet available from the gardens. The kitchen cupboards are bare. Only the herb garden has awakened.

Except asparagus and rhubarb. Both are delicious; just not mixed together. Each provides its own reassurance that a bounty from the farm will follow.

Asparagus and rhubarb are perennials. It takes several years before you can get a decent crop from a bed of asparagus. The same is true for rhubarb. They are a bit fussy to get started, but once they take root in your garden, you just have to harvest every spring. These are the crops I enjoy most. Nothing I have to do much except harvest. Foraging is fun. May is the beginning of good times.

Good times become better with the passing of time. I remember one May when the lawn needed mowing by the 20th. Charlie, Sam’s dad, drove his lawnmower down to the pond and he enjoyed the spring sunshine while he cut the grass on the pond dyke. I was busy transplanting broccoli and Brussels sprouts and Sam was repairing our boat.557054-R1-15-16A_016

I left for town to run weekly errands; banking, post office, supplies, hardware, laundry, etc. When I got home I looked through the glass window of the front door. There were Sam’s overalls, barn jacket, shirt, sweatshirt, socks and underwear hanging from the antler racks on the wall. On the floor underneath were puddles of water from his dripping clothes. His boots stood upside down next to the radiator. I started giggling.

It wasn’t funny yet.

Sam was furious. I couldn’t stop giggling long enough to find out why he was mad as a wet hen. He had just fully realized how close he came to drowning his father. He took his dad out on the newly repaired boat to see if it was really fixed. They paddled from one end of the pond to the other and everything seemed in good order. They enjoyed being out on the water together in the warm sun.

“Sam, we’re taking on water,” Charlie said. “Sam.”

Sam started baling water out of the boat with a bucket.

“Sam. We’re taking on water too fast,” Charlie said.

AFCU Class Swenson & Cooper Work 20100521GH“Dad, get on my end here,” Sam said. He reached out his arm to his father. As Chuck stood up to move to the other bench, the boat took on a lot of water quickly. The two of them tussled, hand in hand.

“Dad, hold onto me!” Sam said. They were only 10 feet from the edge of the pond but the bottom here was muddy and murky and above their heads. Both of them had on heavy overall farm pants with barn coats and heavy long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, and boots on. When wet the weight of all that clothing was tremendous. The water was cold — 43 degrees – and the air suddenly didn’t seem so warm at 62 degrees.

“Sam, let go of me!” Charlie couldn’t get upright as Sam grabbed hold of his father. Charlie was taller if not stronger than Sam. He broke loose of Sam’s grip to upright himself in the frigid water. The two of them thrashed about and both quickly got to shore.

Once Sam was on his feet, he grabbed the boat’s tie rope and jerked it with him to the pond’s edge. The two of them yanked that boat out of the water and fell onto shore. They got their boots off and emptied the water. Neither one of them said a word.

Charlie put his boots back on and got on his lawnmower and drove back up to the house. He hung his clothes in the garage. That didn’t stop Janet from noticing the mess and puddles in the garage when she got home and put the car away. Furious and scared, she wouldn’t let Chuck go down and play with Sam again that summer unless either she or I were home.

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  1. Enjoyed this, Jill. Crazy men. I imagine Sam got that boat fixed. I hope his dad got in the boat with him again.

  2. […] Home. If you’re interested in country living, I recommend Jill Swenson’s recent blog Spring Dip, her latest of many reflections about Life off the […]

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