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Shannon Bardwell: Promise land


Shannon Bardwell



The garden has been tilled. We mixed in sand left over from a construction job to loosen up the prairie clay. The gardening book says don''t use "river sand" as it has some bad stuff in it and no telling what might crop up. All that dark soil lying fallow beneath the earth''s crust; it was a beautiful sight following a long colorless winter.  


I''m making my list: lettuce, spinach, asparagus, cucumbers, peppers, okra, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, beans and maybe some strawberries.  


Sam''s leaning toward buying the manure. He''s thinking it can''t be that expensive, I mean considering what it is. I was thinking of asking Cindy Wiygul if we could glean her pasture if she didn''t have plans for her cow pies. 


Our neighbors, the Hatchers, started gardening for Y2K. Thinking they might need to feed themselves, they developed a pleasant hobby. Lenora loaned me the book "Square Foot Gardening," promoting maximum harvest in minimal space. She said that the book is a bit tattered. I like used and tattered.  


Lenora''s gardens are beautiful, raised vegetable beds, flower beds, a greenhouse clothed in plastic sheeting. On winter nights I love seeing the glow of the greenhouse across the prairie; it looks warm and promising. 


The book says I need a trickle system for water. I''ll buy a soaker hose and also bury some gallon jugs like my momma used to do. She poked holes in the bottoms of old milk jugs and buried them to the rim. The water leaked out to the roots deep below.  


Jim Craddock said I should plant tomatoes every two weeks and get the first good harvest off each, a good idea. Paw Paw says he will give me some okra seed from 100-year-old pass-along plants, also some squash, bush beans and cucumbers. He says I can have a cucumber rack, but come in the pickup to get it. I''m very appreciative of all the good advice, books and seeds I''m being given. I have never enjoyed learning things the hard way. 


I''m keeping a sketch diary listing seeds, temperatures, frost dates, tilling date. I''m hoping to go by a garden center for a package of asparagus seeds, called crowns. They take two years to produce; with crowns it may be sooner. The garden centers are full with seed packets, transplants, soils and garden things. I saw kits for soil testing. Some were expensive and some were only about $4. Sam''s thinking we should take it to the county agent and let them test it. 


The phone rang; it was Sam with some bad news. The weatherman is forecasting a drastic change and we may have hail. I fear ice pellets ping ponging my newly-tilled earth. Now I''m a farmer whose hopes and dreams are bound up by weather reports.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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