Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

The Horror.

Posted on | May 29, 2015 | 2 Comments

It was a scary day in the garden.  After a couple days of heat and thunderstorms I knew some of the tomatoes would need more support stakes.  The wind and sideways rain were sure to have toppled the spindly ones.  While I was down there I decided to put in the last of the squash and cucumbers.  By staggering the planting and placing them in a different section of the garden I hoped to throw off the squash bugs that were beginning to arrive.  I also removed the straw covering the raised bed adjacent to the bean trellis and sowed a fresh crop of lettuce and spinach seeds.  I hoped the quickly growing green beans would provide enough shade to keep them cool.  I put more mulch on the onions, weeded the asparagus, and picked a basket full of snap peas for the third day in a row.  All of that was normal.  No problems.

But the storm also caused the winter kale to keel over.  I left it to bolt—-serving as a trap crop for cabbage worms and also providing some flowers for early pollinators.  Now the blossoms on their lanky stalks were all knocked down into the rows, sprawled onto the potatoes and peppers.  Since the spring kale was already established I knew it was time for the old stuff to be ripped up.  Which is when I ran into trouble.  I had a sinking feeling when I spotted some fluff on the greens.

No, you didn’t, I thought.  No.  You.  Didn’t.

I slowed down, carefully pulling the long, thick stems free of the straw mulch and gently shaking the dirt off their roots, easing my way into the vegetation.  Sure enough, before I was halfway down the row I found them.  Oh, she did it alright.  She did it again.  Aaaaaagh.

This time she had planted her babies in the leftover kale, their eyes still closed and their ears still clamped tight to their fuzzy heads.  Every single year!  Sometimes under the squash leaves.  Once in the blueberry bushes.  A fresh crop of bunnies prepared to wreak havoc on my unsuspecting garden.  She doesn’t really care if I find them, she never has—-“the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear”—-every year they are barely hidden, only inches away from the garden rows that I tramp endlessly, millimeters away from where I work the soil with my hands and my trowel.  Because she knows!  She knows!  What gardener confronted with this horror will not fold?!  Bugs and weeds be damned, be swept away with sprays and hoes in a vigor of death and destruction!  But baby bunnies, oh sweet, adorable baby bunnies, their fluffy power, their imposing “strength is just an accident owed from the weakness of others.”

Who could possibly stand against this:

“The horror!  The horror!”

I sighed as I carefully replaced the straw over her nest.  I rose wearily and headed for the garden hose.  The only thing worse than a nest of bunnies was an orphaned nest of bunnies, their mother eaten by the livestock guardians when hopping to the pond for a cooling drink or crushed when crossing the road to quench her thirst in the ditch.  I picked up the empty planter saucer that I used to carry down the squash transplants.  Instead of returning it to the greenhouse I filled it with fresh water and placed it within easy hopping distance to the nest.  I was sure that this assistance would only encourage her efforts next year.  But “droll thing life is — that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself — that comes too late — a crop of inextinguishable regrets.”

Yeah, it’s like that sometimes.

I settled back into clearing out the rest of the kale.  Which is when things really got frightening.  When I discovered the true heart of darkness in the midst of an overgrown kale patch.  I was down on my hands and knees, reaching blindly into the impenetrable greens, when the balls appeared right up in my face.  Root balls.

I fell back screaming, certain my eye had been pierced with a hot poker.  But it was just a fleck of dirt.  When my vision cleared, I risked another glance.  They were still there.  Giant balls.  Root balls.

Apparently if kale is left to flourish untended, the bases develop into huge, swollen, unconscionable nodes.  I carefully pulled away the stray bits of Johnson grass and shuddered.  They were everywhere.  A forest of balls, coming at me “…in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”  Root balls.

Quickly I rose and went to the top of the garden to get my nitrile gardening gloves, knowing balls should never be handled without the proper protective layers.  Root balls.

Duly encased in rubber, I commenced my attack on the monstrosities, forced to battle “…in an impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid skepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary.”  The bunnies were horror enough, but this abomination could not stand.  In a household filled with The Other Half and 3 male children, the garden was my refuge.  Mother Nature reigned supreme and there was no room for the Green Man‘s mischief.

The kale yielded, the fluffle was spared, and the offensive greenery filled an empty feed sack.  Then I carried out the ball sack (you know, root ball sack) and hoisted it over the fence into the pig pen, balls and all.  Root balls.  Although I did warn Petunia and Miss Piggy.  They’re delicate gilts, housed only with barrows, and not used to balls in their faces all day.  Root balls.  They were not too disturbed.  Pigs are hardy.

But as for me, I needed a break.  I headed to the house, carefully peeling off my gloves, brushing the dirt off my knees, and wiping my sweaty brow.  Inside I poured myself a shot of American Honey on ice.  For “…it was not my strength that wanted nursing, it was my imagination that wanted soothing.”  Not everyone leaves the heart of darkness intact.  Luckily I, too, am the hardy sort.  But the kale will not be allowed to run rampant next year.  Perhaps the broccoli, maybe the brussels sprouts, but not the kale.  No, nevermore, people.  Nevermore.

All the quotations in this post are taken from Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness.  Because this is a cultured blog, people.  Cultured.


2 Responses to “The Horror.”

  1. Pollie
    May 29th, 2015 @ 6:30 pm

    OMG, Stevie! I cannot stop laughing! I love reading your stories!

  2. Aunt Ro
    May 31st, 2015 @ 6:20 pm

    Your paternal Grandparents would be SO PROUD of your poetical exclamations!!!! Well done!!!!

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