Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Steel Blog Co.

Actually, the name of the business, in huge block letters, was "STEEL BLDG. CO.", but the square corners and round corners were barely distinguishable.

It was a fitting laugh for the end of a long day. We drove to Morgan County Seeds, deep in the green rolling hills of central Missouri, with Dad's 16' trailer to pick up our new high tunnel kit. One of those road trips where if there was a way to miss a turn, we did. But we werent' watching the clock, and chose not to stress over it. The point was to get there and get back, safely, and hurry and worry wouldn't have contributed much toward that goal.

We returned with an odd assortment of strangely small bundles of steel pipe. Somehow, like a butterfly unfolding its wings, this will soon become a passive-solar-warmed greenhouse to aid in growing later into the cold weather.

Just in time. Maybe too late.

When, at midnight, I saw the forecast was for upper 30's, with possible frost pockets after 4 a.m., I went out to cover the basil. Basil turns black at about 36 degrees.

But the night was clear, the stars were bright, and the crickets were scarce. Soon it was eerily silent, and I knew: the first frost was upon us.

There is a special feeling for this night, a gentle surrender, panic at the end of a certain chunk of cash flow woven through with gratitude for the past season's bounty. A gathering up of remnants. Acceptance.

I could have returned to the house and roused the WWOOFer from his warm bed to come help measure out row cover, stretch it over the new wire hoops I bought today, pick tomatoes, etc. But I didn't. Partly out of courtesy. But mostly because this is an intimate time in the yearly cycle of the garden. A passing of thousands of plants that I've watched grow from tiny seedlings. Stephen is a wonderful willing worker, but he hasn't known these plants since infancy. It would be like having a stranger at their death bed.

The solitude of first-frost-night is a special, contemplative place in the universe. An active meditation: I am moving about so steadily that it seems hard to believe the gathering frost on the leaves and materials. I'm not the least bit cold, even my fingers in soaked gloves. That will come later, when I'm resting indoors and realize how weary I am after a long day and a long night.

This year, only a few half-empty crates of tomatoes remain on the few plants that we managed to gro this year. A blessing, I suppose--less work, mess, smell of rotten tomatoes in the coming months.

Next year will be better.

But this year, in its own strange way, was good. And it has significantly laid a strong foundation for next year.

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