“The plan is changing again!” It’s our older twenty-something daughter calling at 10:30pm on Friday after a complicated night of ferries and cars coming from downtown Seattle (our daughter) and Forks over on the Olympic Peninsula (her boyfriend). In 4 hours the plan has changed 4 times — not coming, coming, not coming….
“We are coming! We’ll be there at midnight. We’ll let ourselves in.”
“Sounds good,” I say. I’ve been digging trenches and planting potatoes all day and I am going to bed. “See you two in the morning.”
Plans change. The heart of a plan is a ticking clock, especially my garden plan which has changed weekly this month after I started reading again on crop rotation.
The idea is to plant a sequence of different crop families in a garden area so as to build up the soil and/or manage pests. Some plants are heavy feeders (broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce) and some are heavy givers (beans) of nitrogen. Heavy givers, called “nitrogen fixers”, have nodules along their roots with specialized bacteria called rhizobia that absorb nitrogen from the air then release it into the soil.
Some plants, like strawberries, can attract fungi into the soil after a few years. It doesn’t hurt the strawberries but it will mess with potatoes if you plant them in that former strawberry bed, like I was going to do.
And how do you rotate crops when they were carefully companion-planted to start with? The crop rotation rules say onions can go anywhere, but the companion planting rules say onions stunt beans. It’s a Rubik’s Cube of Nature where everything affects everything.
Companion plants don’t change — they’ll always be good companions — but crops still have to be rotated to keep the bed vital. Soil does just wear out. Heavy feeders, then heavy givers, then light feeders (root veggies), then back to heavy feeders. These are my final waking thoughts before I hear our daughter and her boyfriend arrive and I fall asleep.
Saturday morning I scramble eggs for the four of us; we thank the Hens, and then have a lively conversation about the boyfriend’s kayaking trip in the ocean; about the hundreds of slugs — most really tiny — on the outside of the hoop house apparently lusting for the cabbage and broccoli starts inside; and about the new chicken door the Bearded One made in the aviary that the Houdini-goat LaLa can’t get through.
We all look out the window past the blooming pie cherry tree…
… and see Jane the Chicken limping down the hill. Our daughter notices. “That chicken is limping,” she says, and I explain.
My best guess is that she crashed getting off of the roost the morning when I was late opening the coop doors. The hens crash into the door even when I’m on time and in the process of opening the door. But still. Jane was limping the day I slept ’til 7:30 and she wasn’t limping the day before.
It’s light by 6:00am and not freezing anymore, so now we’ve started just leaving the coop doors open. There’s nothing to crash into. The hens are safe because the aviary is still locked, and the morning crashes do seem to have stopped.
Our daughter gets up for more coffee, checks the calendar on the fridge on the way back, and says, “Oh my Goodness! Your 15th anniversary is this week!”
It’s true, we say.
“You were married to Dad for 15 years,” she observes.
The story here is that I loved the Bearded One in college, we separated as he was being engulfed in law school, and I left Texas and married another good man in order to escape my tyrannical father. That other good man is the kids’ birth father.
“Crop rotation,” I joke. “Serial monogamy.”
The Bearded One smiles. “You are legally obligated to hang around.”
“I’ve been legally obligated before,” I say, and then kiss him.
The next day, our other daughter rotates in for a 12-14 hour stay between nursing shifts. She’s eating the same breakfast and says, “Hey, Happy Anniversary you guys.”
“Thanks.” We toast each other with toast.
“So,” she asks, “what’s the difference between the 15 years with Dad, and the 15 with the Bearded One? Make it short and sweet, please.”
I think. Both daughters are so interested in this, especially this younger one. What is the sign of true love? How do you stay together forever? As if I know.
“With the Bearded One, I’m more and more myself,” I say. “Before, I was losing myself.” I begin to say more, but she stops me.
“That’s good,” she says, “I get it.”
“We’re companion planted, and we’ll rotate together.”
She nods, and then says, “What’s that on your chin?”
I wipe my hand across my lower jaw and hold up the evidence of the morning goat feeding, a long piece of orchard hay. “A goatee!” I say. The perfect companion for the Bearded One.