Hard Work and Celebration

First, please excuse the nature of today's writing. You may find my style less articulate than usual, for I'm exhausted from a hard day's work followed by beer. At least I know I'll sleep well tonight.

This morning, this is what my garden plot looked like. The sod had been cut out, whatever grass and weeds I could find removed, and the soil leveled as well as possible.

I called in all my favors from ECG, JCC, and RWW and ensured a work team of strong folks with good senses of humor. After several mishaps that slowed our day down a bit, we were finally able to rent a rototiller from Lawn Mower Corner, a shop just around the corner from the garden with the most helpful and friendly staff imaginable. When we told them we weren't even going to load the tiller into a truck, but instead walk it home down the street, they first laughed, then cut us a deal. ECG asked, since they were feeling so neighborly, if they'd do the neighborly thing and just lend us the machine. They laughed. Neighborliness has its limits, after all.

We tilled.

And tilled some more.

RWW and I took his boss's truck to run errands: picking up the compost to further amend the soil and the stepping stones that RWW had salvaged. When we got back, JCC and ECG had nearly finished installing the frame. They had dug a trench around the exterior of the space and sunk the cedar planks, screwing the corners together as they worked. (Cedar isn't the fanciest option for edging, but it lasts longer than other woods and works well in the space and circumstances I have in which to garden.) This proved to be the most difficult task of the day, for the trenches were a bitch to dig.

When the frame finally fit, with a lip extending just an inch or so above ground, we added the compost and dug again to mix the soils. Then we raked the soil level. At this point, the dirt was so aerated, each of us considered laying down in it to make "dirt-angels." The rototilling and soil-mixing had turned it pillow-soft and deliciously fine-crumbed.

One of my favorite features of this vegetable garden space already is the choice of stepping stones we made. RWW had recently driven by a Shell station and discovered it in a state of demolition--the workers had broken up the concrete. He filled his truck with irregular chunks, knowing that he could use them in his own garden and share some with me. Each chunk is at least 4 inches thick, some more, and each has its own quirky irregularities. To allow me to access all parts of my side of the plot, we shoveled out a depression for each chunk, then set them where they'd create a practical path. When setting stepping stones for a permanent garden, it is important to make sure they're set in materials that will keep them from sinking or moving; however, since I may want to move these "stones" around and maybe even take them with me elsewhere someday, we just set them into the depressions in the soil. They're heavy enough to stay where we put them.

I wove a 75 foot soaker hose through the 7 by 15 foot space, holding it in place, at least temporarily, with JCC's old tent stakes.

Finally, we called it a day. I ordered pizza for all and we each sat down to a well-deserved beer or two.

And so I ended up with fingers that look like this?

I don't care. The day--hands in dirt, good company, satisfying result--was completely worth my crusty fingers. Besides, hand modeling was never in my future.


Susan said…
I love cedar. If it's untreated, it will weather in time to a soft, rustic grey, perfect with those clever stepping stones. Pushing a rototiller is a killer, that and dragging around bales of peat moss. You earned every beer you had.
Christa said…
Those are definitely some hard-worked hands, but how exciting for you! A new vegetable garden! My husband and I also pulled up some of the sod in our backyard yesterday. That has got to be the least fun part of starting a new garden, but it will be worth it when the space is pooling over with melons, tomatoes, beans... and more. Enjoy!
winedeb said…
I love when our hands look like that as we know we have joined forces with mother nature. I am thrilled that your garden is taking shape (and a little jealous too!) Looking forward to hearing exactly what you are planting and then seeing the first of the sprouting.
You have alot to celebrate and what a better way to do it than with pizza and beer! So fun!
Wendy said…
Well done you! Those are some mucky mucky fingernails.
Bet you slept well last night. :)
Anonymous said…
what a day! I couldn't think of a better way to spend a weekend. You guys sure earned that pizza and beers! I can't wait to see what comes out of it...
Susan in Italy said…
What a job! I love the photo of you (I think) pushing the tiller with every muscle you have. That's the clearest expression of "arduous" I've seen in a long time. Congratulations on getting it all done!
Anonymous said…
Mmmm, your own veggies! How exciting!

Christina said…
Susan: Everything in my garden is untreated, including the cedar. I'm just hoping that not everything turns out grey (though on the cedar it will look lovely)--let's hope it all grows!

Christa: You must feel good now that you've successfully pulled out the sod. It is so hard to do, but such a good feeling once accomplished.

Winedeb: I planted quite a few seeds and garlic already, but some things do better if planted a little later, so I'm holding off on some crops. I'll start posting about each crop as seedlings come up. The pizza and beer tasted extra special that night.

Wendy: I slept like a fallen log in an undiscovered forest. It was delicious sleep.

Ann: I can't wait either. I just hope something does come out of it.

Susan in Italy: That is me pushing the tiller. With each pass, we'd almost have to pull the tiller back so it wouldn't run away from us, skirting over the surface of the dirt. We had to resist the tiller and press it down, deep into the soil. It certainly was arduous.

Kristan: Exciting indeed. I've got lots of good green folic acid veggies growing if you're needing a pre-natal vitamin boost.
Melikay said…
Christina--you are awesome!! You are my hero. What a fabulous accomplishment. I can't wait to hear the stories!!
westie said…
KUDOS!!!! Christina!
WOW! Great Job, however, seeing what you went through I may have to live my garden life vicariously through you for awhile. The hard part is done, look forward to seeing what you have in store the the garden..... Best wishes Westie.
Anonymous said…
Hi Christina,

Thanks for the nice comment you recently left on my blog.

I've only had a few minutes now to look at your blog, but it look great! It's nice to see someone else who reads Michael Pollan's stuff. I hope to spend more time soon reading some of your earlier posts.

I've added you to my RSS feed, and I look forward to following along in your garden.

Good luck with your new raised beds!
Shaun said…
Christina - It is great to see you attacking your new-found confidence in harvesting with zest. I hope your next crop of goodies grows as well as your last one in your made-to-order plot. Like all of your readers, I look forward to hearing about your further developments in the garden.

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