Five Green Acres Mary Jo + Andrew Borchardt Poynette, WI
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The Harmonica Garden

The Harmonica Garden
June 14, 2010 Mary Jo

We hemmed and hawed about putting in a garden this year.  Weren’t we already biting off a lot of responsibility with the addition of those woolen sweeties in our pasture?  At the very least, we decided to do something small, just a few things.  Tomatoes were a must, the very definition of vegetable garden for me.  And I had already gotten some seeds, potatoes, and onion sets, so we should really plant those, too.  Memorial Day weekend was upon us, that weekend where we traditionally break out in a marathon jungle-weed-taming frenzy and plant the entire garden in what may be the longest, back-breakingest day of the year.  We looked at each other, looked at the coffee mugs in our hands, and wordlessly decided not to spend the weekend like that.  The fenced-in area formerly serving as a garden had already been thoroughly annexed by 5 foot high grasses, nettles, and various other opportunists.  Should we suffocate the mess with layers of mulch and plant on top?  That would require adding soil to the top of the lasagna pile, but I just can’t come to grips with buying something I have in sweet abundance, nor would I consider digging it up from elsewhere, at least not as a time-saving, shortcut measure.  Should we rent a tiller?  My goal was for a No-Till garden (the alleged kind without many weeds) yet last year found us tilling to reestablish order; I really didn’t want to be forced to till again.  What lofty intentions I had, to get out early in the spring and prepare the beds before the weed orgy began, but I turned out to be rather preoccupied with getting sheep, didn’t I?

Without the slightest idea of how the garden would materialize, I went to the local farmer’s market anyway, because there still must be tomatoes, even if I tuck them into a flowerbed.  Twelve plants had seemed like a good idea before set out; I bought eighteen.  Heat of the moment.  I arrived back home, cardboard flat teeming with plants bound for more soil, and stood before the garden, hoping to divine a solution, a solution that didn’t involve so much work.

Then I remembered something Andrew had shared from his harmonica class.  His instructor, a man who lives and breathes the harmonica, suggested that his students learn one or two or three songs really, really well.  Play that song, really rock out to that song, giving it your all, and the audience will be left breathless, wanting more.  They’ll have no idea that you’re not actually a rock star, that it’s actually the only song you know.

So I decided to plant the garden one song at a time, using that miracle of modern science, the Garden Claw (also called the Weasel?) to lightly till up the garden one bed at a time, at a leisurely pace.  I’d start with the tomatoes and see where I end up – maybe I’d plant other things, maybe not.  I reconciled myself to the notion that gardening was more of a chore, a responsibility even, than an endeavor of pleasure.  We’ve gotta eat.  We’ve got this land.  We must have a garden.  Or at least tomatoes.

As I twisted my way through the modest-sized weeds, (I chose the least daunting bed to start with) something quite remarkable and entirely unexpected happened.  I started on fire. My heart rate accelerated as I twisted and turned the weeds, shook out their roots, piled them up.  Oxygen filled my lungs, lots of it, as my breathing rate adjusted to accommodate the vigorous movement.  I took my time, carting in 2 year chicken coop compost, carefully laying out the rows.  I took my time gently laying the tomato plants on their sides, tucking them in almost sideways to encourage lots of root growth.  I carefully, methodically, laid out the dripline soaker hoses we’d invested in our first summer at the Acres,  snuggling them up with the plants themselves.  With great satisfaction I pulled the wagon to the Chick Growing / Greenhouse to collect straw from the floor, blessedly enriched with chicken droppings.  It was the icing on my tomato bed cake, mulching the plants, covering the bare earth to keep out weeds, nourishing the soil with the light sprinkling of chicken manure.  All of my reading and dreaming and planning for the garden came to a head.  This was how I wanted to garden – my way – with care and deliberation and calmness.

I had ROCKED that tomato song, with a quickness even, and was starving for more.  I was on fire.

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