Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Victory Garden- Making a Molehill out of a Mountain (or "I have my mulch to keep me warm)

I could have called this post "Musings on Human Nature" or any number of other things, but I like it the way it is. I learned some valuable things while out working in the miserable weather yesterday.

The original plan for the Victory Garden involved a LOT of dirt and probably even more time spent weeding and so forth. Thanks to my friend Steve the organic farmer's suggestion, I just had DH build me the beds (I helped, but really can't take any credit) and then I filled them in with about an inch and a half of composted dirt. I planted, watered, and so far my plants are all coming up and very happy. Steve also said that the way to combat weeds and keep in moisture (don't want to raise that water bill if I can help it!) is to mulch the crap out of the beds once the seedlings are up. I'm about at that point.

DH finally got the trailer rebuilt, but unfortunately needs it this weekend, and I have to have the beds mulched before next weekend. So, looking at the forecast and my schedule, I decided that yesterday was to be my day to go get mulch. So, since DH was out of town, it fell to me to hook up the newly revamped trailer, drag the tarp out of the back yard, strap it down, load up my implements of destruction (shovels) and head to the composter. I'm lucky- the city I live in recycles yard waste and provides 1 load per day of screened compost (dirt) or as much as you can haul of chip mulch. Sure, it's not near as pretty as the stuff you buy, but who cares? I'm not particular about mulch aesthetics. It's free, and it'll quash my weed problem. Hopefully the garden will survive a day or 2 without water if we go out of town, and it doesn't hurt to cut down on the evaporation rate anyway- summer is brutal here!

So I put the hitch on my trusty Land Cruiser, Clementine, backed her up to the trailer and set to work with penetrating oil trying to free up the latch on the tongue of the trailer...I knew it was a bear and DH warned me that he had forgotten to oil it. Add oil, off to back yard to drag the very heavy tarp up front. Tossed in the back of the trailer and then to confront my nemesis- the ratchet strap. They are brilliant in design, but they hate me. I finally got DH to explain to me how to "start" them when we were moving a freezer...and I was pretty sure I could pull it off. And I did! Hooray for me! That was a major accomplishment. I'm proud. Back to the trailer....of course I was able to get the socket over the ball on the hitch no problem. But the collar that holds it in place? Yeah. Sure. I cuss, I beg, I plead, I swear...I even went so far as to call a friend for a reality check- the collar IS supposed to drop down, right? Yeah, I thought so. ("Do you even know how to drive a trailer?" he asked. Thanks for the vote of confidence bud! I'm pretty sure he thought nothing good could come of this endeavor) I beg, I cuss, I plead and swear. Finally, I resorted to name calling, and hissed a real zinger at it. It dropped right into place. VICTORY! I did a dance and actually cheered. It was starting to drizzle.

It was the sort of weather in which most people try to avoid going outside at all, let alone spending a long time outside working, but no matter. I hurried myself off to the composter figuring I'd get wet, but not real worried about it. I maneuvered the trailer into position (Hooray for me again! 3 victories!) and grabbed my shovel and gloves. DH has this funny investment in me having nice soft hands. I confronted the mountain of mulch. Steam rose off of it and wafted gently in the chill morning air. Composting is a HOT process as the bacteria break down the plant matter. I'd guess that the internal temperature of the heap was close to 108 degrees or more. I kicked myself for not bringing a thermometer. And started shoveling. I realized VERY quickly that a shovel is NOT the right tool for the job of moving mulch. After about 10 minutes I called a friend and inquired as to whether or not he had a pitchfork. It was a long shot and fell short. I told him that if I didn't find one and shoveled all that mulch, my official status as a human being would be upgraded from "bad ass" to "hardcore". Most people don't have pitchforks it seems. None to be had anywhere. I contemplated going out and buying one, but that would have lengthened the errand considerably. So I put my back into it and tried to move as much as I could.

Eventually I discovered that if I pulled some of the top mulch off of the "cliffs" the loosened up stuff was much easier to shovel. And your aim counts- the last thing you want to do is kill yourself shoveling and miss the trailer. And if you're obtaining your mulch from a place similar to where I was getting mine, there will be odd things in there. I nearly put out the back window of my beloved Clementine with a chunk of clinker (rocky stuff made from incinerated tires that is used to make cement) that was in the mix.

Of course, as I worked, it started to rain harder and harder. It never poured, but it was really raining. I was the only person interested in mulch on a rainy day it seemed. I saw lots of people dropping off tree limbs, yard waste and even whole felled trees. I stopped to help a couple of them unload unwieldy items, but no one offered to help me. No one even offered to call me a paramedic- odd, I thought, since I was beet red. I always get that way when I"m working. I shoveled, I sweated, I was soaked and muddy. And I was starting to grumble about human nature. I'd been out there working for almost 2 hours, surely the guy at the gate would have noticed I'd been out there for so long? Hmm, surely not. But I was there, I was already wet and muddy, and by God I was going to get as mulch as I could so I wouldn't have to go back! And I pushed myself harder than I should have, I knew I was doing it at the time. But I was goal oriented- I wanted to get this done so I could get home! Eventually, I slowed down and when I went to get a shovelful and didn't have enough wrist strength to convince the shovel to anymore than land softly on top of the mulch, I knew I was done. It was time to throw in the shovel...

So I headed home, almost high from the exhilaration of overcoming so many stumbling blocks, for being one bad-ass chick, from all the hard work. I was feeling pretty darned good. It didn't last long. I knew my trailer backing skills were lacking. I've never had much practice, the last time I backed a trailer was 15 years ago, and DH says that this trailer is pretty tricky. I got it in the driveway, but couldn't get it straight- decided that angled was fine since it was still in our half of the driveway. I grabbed a block of wood to block the wheel and then went to move Clem to the street. And the trailer was headed right for me! (thank god it was "parked" on an angle!) I tried to maneuver Clem so that I could catch the trailer without getting seriously rammed. I did succeed in catching the trailer with my rear bumper (the goal- the bumpers are pretty serious boxes of plate steel) and even more fortunately, I caught it by the truck box mounted to the front instead of the tongue. I hopped out of the car and wondered how on earth I was going to get the stupid thing back in the driveway and get it to stay there when out of nowhere my neighbor (or possibly guardian angel against psychotic break from reality) appeared and just sort of picked up the trailer and put it in place. (no small task- the trailer weighs about 800 lbs empty) We held it there with a scrap from a metal shelf that would grab and hold better than my wood block had. Hooray! Tragedy averted.

And I wasn't so doubting about the kindness of humankind anymore- apparently when I was shoveling I just wasn't needy enough to deserve a random act of kindness, but I believe it was important that I stopped to help others- you just never know when you'll be the one needing help...and then saviors and knights on white horses DO have a handy way of appearing when you really need them to.

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