Friday, March 12, 2010

The Trials of Headlong Leaping, Part I

I really, really want to have a big garden this year.

I want to have a garden so big, that I will have produce coming out my ears and won't have to buy a single vegetable at the grocery store. Any supplemental corn or potatoes I need (since I'm not growing those) I can get at the farmer's market. Everything else comes from my yard, and I hope that I'll have so much that I can can tomatoes and things for winter use. (can can? It’s like the cha-cha, except steamier.)

So I've spent the last several days struggling to get the raised beds assembled, placed and filled.

I say struggled, because the planets have clearly aligned against me.

Day One, I was all set and rearin' to go, when I realized that the lumber won't fit in my car. Don't worry, I thought, I'll just borrow C's husband's truck tomorrow. Forgetting how forgetful I am, I gave myself far too much credit. Day Two rolled around with C having no idea I'd planned to use the truck. Just as well, too, since it still has a plow attached to the front. I called around and found a place that delivers lumber, ordered it up, and waited with eager anticipation for the "early afternoon" delivery they promised. I couldn't go to the hardware store in the meantime, since if they arrived while I was gone, P might have a panic attack and all would be lost. He really is not practical by nature, and we can't go around in life expecting people to just change. Right, Dr. Laura?

By three o'clock I was pretty restless and anxious and fidgety and generally irritating. I really wanted to get this party started. I have 72 seedlings springing forth out of my fancy schmancy seedling tray, and the peas are really starting to take over the place. They need to get outside pronto before they strangle the little Romas and bell peppers. It’s not pretty.

The wood finally arrived by nearly four, by which time I had to start my evening shift of chauffeuring kids around and making/serving/cleaning up dinner. Plus, it gets dark her by 6, so I was pretty out of luck.

Day Three, I still needed to go to the hardware store but got distracted by this amazing recipe for short ribs out of Thomas Keller's cookbook "Ad Hoc at Home" that takes a year and a day to prepare and really needed to get started early on Day Three in order to be dinner on Day Four. So I didn't get out to the hardware store until the *actual* early afternoon. I walked in to our local True Value, a place I like on normal days. There's a woman there who reminds me of my Aunt Mary, in a good way. I found her, and offered her my shopping list. When you're as clueless as I am, it's generally a good idea to find a more competent soul and let them take responsibility for your purchases.

Aunt Mary proceeded to go down the drill bit aisle, looking around and poking at various hanging displays of hole-drilling devices. Apparently "countersink" is not something you find in the bathroom or kitchen department. Don't be fooled by the name.

Needless to say, they didn't have one of whatever it was I needed. Well, they had several, actually, but none of the correct size and when Aunt Mary starting asking me what I was making and why and couldn't I just use the 1/8 instead of the 7/64 I ran screaming from the premises. I know I don't know what I'm doing, and I really ok with that. It's when other people act like I know what I'm doing that I get all freaked out.

Ten miles and one panic attack later, I was in Home Depot, desperately looking for some other unlucky sucker to help me. Thank goodness the nice man was able to find what I needed, and I happily headed for home.

A and I started work immediately, he sawing up the 12' length boards into 3' lengths while I ... did ... other stuff. I dunno. Probably I was cooking something. Anyway, What I was doing is really not important. What's important were the very clear directions I gave to darling (and to his credit, entirely inexperienced) A before I retreated:

Me: Do you know how to use a saw?

A: Yeah, Dad showed me when we were clearing the path in the woods at the old house.

Me: Sweet. Okay. Here's the wood. Here's a tape measure. Here's a pencil. Cut these at 3' and make sure they are straight across to that when we put everything together it's not cockeyed. Draw a line all the way across the board so you can follow it with the saw. Make sure it's a right angle, ok? Can you figure out how to do that?

A: Yeah, sure.

Famous last words. When I came back for a check-up, the boards reminded me of this unsavory character.

Name that villain, anyone?

At any rate, they all had to be cut again. Whatever. It's not like the squashes are going to up and leave just because their bed had a half an inch shaved off here and there.

Then, we started with the 7/64 #8 countersink drill bit for the pilot holes. With two boards done and six to go, it went and snapped right in half. Poor A thought he was a complete failure since he cut the boards wrong and broken the bit, but really I should have known to buy several. I think breaking drill bits runs in the family.

Day Four rolled around, and back to Home Depot went I. This time I bought three of those dang bits and while I was at it, decided to pick up the soil I would need to fill the beds once they were finished. Again, I found the nearest orange vest and explained my predicament. This time it was a stocky befreckled man who looks like he came straight off a Scottish mountain somewhere. I think under that Home Depot apron he's wearing a kilt. The orange really sets off the fiery red fuzz that surrounds his bald spot.

After having a brief conversation with himself, he determined I needed 9 bags of Miracle Grow, and very generously offered to have them loaded into the car.

I got home determined to finally finish this job. Together, A and I finished drilling all the pilot holes (breaking two of the three newly purchased bits in the meantime) and started screwing the planks together, when the drill gave out. No sweat, I needed to start dinner anyway. We'll just plug it in for an hour or two and come back to finish this thing off. After dinner, we got two screws in before the dang thing wimped out on us.

I was TOTALLY FED UP. I mean seriously! Since the start of the project, could there be ANY more roadblocks for me? Exasperated, I roughly tossed the drill to the ground and stomped off, muttering about buying a whole new stupid power drill because this one is SO WIMPY IT CAN'T EVEN SCREW TOGETHER SOME 2x6s. It was more of a yell than a mutter, really.

Ever calm, A gently suggested that we let it charge overnight before I truck back out to the hardware store to buy another drill. Fine. FINE.

So this morning, DAY FIVE NO LESS, of this never ending project, I returned as quickly as I could from my Dr.'s appointment to find that it was raining. RAINING. There's really not much more fun to be had than gardening in the rain. I know, because I did it today. There was no stopping me. Turns out, A was right and all that Little Drill That Could needed was "a good night's rest."


All the frames are assembled, placed and staked. A hauled the bags of soil around to the backyard, which was no small feat give their weight and the fact that watching him attempt to pick up a bag of loose dirt reminded me of attempting to pick up a screaming toddler that doesn't want to leave the candy store - it just goes limp and flops all over the place.

Here's the final problem: We emptied all nine bags, and alllllll of that dirt barely filled one raised bed.


1. Scottish Home Depot Guy can't do math,
2. I should have mixed the soil with native dirt 50/50, and didn't (I read that somewhere)
3. The stuff I bought (Miracle Grow Flower/Vegetable Garden Soil) is just supposed to be spread over the top and not used as the sole dirt source.

I find this last option the least likely, because if that were the case it would simply be fertilizer and not garden soil. Right? Right?!

So now I don't know if I should buy 27 more bags of the soil so as to fill up the other three beds, or if I should somehow get a load of normal dirt and mix it up and just spread the one-bed's-worth of Miracle Grow soil into the other three. It's not that easy, though, because the "native soil" in my backyard is really, really rocky and that's the whole reason I am using raised beds in the first place!

Woe is me!

However, one thing is resolved: tomorrow, I will finish this project. It should have taken me a day and a half; instead it will have taken 6.

The Seventh Day shall be a day of rest.

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