I haven’t done much in the garden this past week. I reconsidered staggered plantings of peas and put in the whole 12-foot rows on Thursday afternoon. The more I thought about it the more I felt a three-foot row of plants might not give me enough for a single serving and peas store in the freezer really well.  I was also looking toward the future and decided it was better to take them all out together to make way for the pole beans that will follow in their space.

I also put in seed for collards, spinach and Raab broccoli. With all these seeds in the ground I grew nervous about the murder of crows watching me from the pecan tree. I have a rather artful water sprinkler on a four-foot high copper-tube pole. It’s round and has a lovely blue-glass crescent moon in the center of circular copper-tube rings. When a hose is hooked up to it and water pumped thru, it spins around and throws the water out in lovely arcs. So, I fetched it from the workshop in the barn, placed it in the center of the garden and hammered its supports into the ground. I then dug out a roll of iridescent mylar tape, the kind used for party streamers, and taped some lengths of it around the outer copper ring of the sprinkler. The nearly unceasing winds here hit the moon center and spin it around; the streamers flash and flap. The crows took off with a racket of complaint. This contraption is a great deal prettier than a scarecrow and is doing its job.

The weekend blew in frigid winds and even a light dusting of snow. At least once every morning, I bundled up and went out to see how the garden was doing. Since I already have cabbage and broccoli plants in the ground, I wanted to check on them. Both of these vegetables are highly frost-tolerant but if they started to look droopy, I was prepared to cover them with plastic milk jugs. Seriously. I’ve been saving up gallon milk jugs for a couple of months now and when you cut off the bottoms they make perfect cloches.  They allow in light while keeping out cold and, if they get too warm, the caps come off to let in some air.

I am mainly concerned about critters treating my garden like a salad bar. I’ve seen rabbit droppings in the yard and the footprints of raccoons. When we first moved here I noted that none of my neighbors had put up fences around their row gardens and I wondered about that. Perhaps, I thought, there is so much abundant vegetation available that the wild creatures don’t feel the need to venture near human territory.

But, Monday morning there were footprints in my brassica bed. Something four-legged with small paws jumped into the end of the bed, walked among the cabbage and broccoli plants and peed on two of them! Then jumped out and went on its way. The leaves that had been sprayed had turned yellow and there was no sign of nibbling. So I thought it must have been a neighbor’s cat and giggled about how the cat piss would keep the rabbits away for a goodly time.

When DH came home that evening, he logically asked and I had to admit that I have not seen one free-roaming cat since we moved here. So, out he goes to inspect the footprints. Ah, the spacing of the prints, the depth in the soil that indicated the weight of the creature, the size of the paws — he was in high, former Scout Master heaven! After a great deal of this, he declared that it was a cat after all, maybe a small bobcat from the nearby swampland. If the wind hadn’t been blowing so fiercely for days, I think he might have done a CSI and looked for hairs. I was pleased to have gotten the general species right and consider wild bobcat piss might be even more threatening to bunnies than house cat piss.

It’s been raining since the snow blew away but it’s supposed to clear tomorrow and allow me to go out and put in turnip seeds and pop onion sets into the ground. And if the sun shines this weekend, we’ll fill in another bed with horse manure and get our early potatoes slips underground. The seed potatoes have been hanging in the cold pantry and instead of budding eyes, they’ve got six-inch long stems sticking up out of them. So it’s past time for them to have snug dirt beds.  

I think back on the panic attacks I had last summer while I was stuck in a little apartment in Lynchburg, feeling like I was running out of time to prepare for whichever of the many possible disasters that may befall us.  I feel so much calmer now with seeds germinating and starter plants spreading their roots. In hard, dark times food is more valuable than gold. When I have peas and spinach in the freezer, mason jars full with stewed tomatoes, crocks of dried beans and a barrel of salted carrots, I should feel serenely secure.

I hope, too, those of you reading who do not have a garden now, or even a yard to put one in, may be stocking away valuable information for future use whether for pleasure or by necessity. Real life is basic — it requires food, water, and shelter; all else is embellishment. I sincerely hope we aren’t reduced to basic survival but it’s always good to know how to do it if you must.

I want to thank the few of you who voted for me to continue this series but the deciding factor was my son telling me how much he is enjoying it. Maybe one of these days, he’ll register and enter the Pond instead of lurking around the shore.

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