Companion Rotation

“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.

Jane at the new, smaller chicken door, which keeps LaLa the Goat out, but is a bit harder for her to get through with her hurt foot. She manages, though.

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.

Our wedding, May 2, 1997, Bainbridge Island, WA. We always tell the youngest twenty-something that he is married to us because he stood with us through the whole ceremony. That's his 6-year-old head.

“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.

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7 responses to “Companion Rotation

  1. Terri Cohlene

    That’s absolutely the sweetest story. Congratulations on living your love! See you tomorrow!

  2. So dang clever!!!! Happy Anniversary! You and the bearded one…what lovely companion planting…

  3. Wow are we twins? First I find you while I am looking for hoop structures (images) and am entranced peeking through your window at your life and your alarming stick figures that seem to be able to tell me more about you than your photos. I decide to follow you because we seem to be like kindred spirits on the other side of the earth…separated by meridians and then I find out that you were first married for 15 years (me too…but my son was only 6 months old when we all got married together)…and I have 2 years before I reach 15 years with companion plant number 2. He has a beard but nowhere NEAR as luxurious as the bearded one…we bow in kudos to the bearded ones ability to grow luxuriously hirsute. Happy aniversary to both of you…I hope you will share your toast forever. “Those who eat together…stay together”… and here’s to hoping that you always want to 🙂 Cheers for the lesson on companion planting. I will tuck it away with my crop rotation and when all this rain stops we might just get out into the garden and plant that almond tree that the possums tried to skin…who knows…it might even survive to see our 30th aniversary 😉

    • We must be kindred, if not twins. Perhaps we are a set of triplets and we have yet to hear from the other crazy writing lady in love with her second husband and three very tolerant, interesting and fun “kids.” I’ve read a few of your wonderful, generous blogs ( http://www.theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com) and see that your daughters are also insightful with their critique.:)

      The Bearded Hun is indeed hirsute, and we both laughed all over ourselves over that perfect word.

      Almond trees! We might be too dang wet for almonds here, but we buy them raw in 10 pound bags at a big chain box-store here called Costco, and roast them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. We eat them like candy. With planted trees, you do have to take the long view. We’re hoping to get our first apple harvest this year…we planted a Spartan and a Granny Smith 3 years ago.

      How magical we’ve met. 🙂

      • We are here for the long haul and as we have studied horticulture and now design, we are making sure we know what we are doing with our property. I want to do a permaculture course in Sydney but need to raise some funds to do so…maybe selling weird and wonderful plants at a market stall… we like being hippies but sometimes the “penniless” bit gets in the way. The freedom to do what we like when we like is great and now we just need to find a way to make it pay! 🙂 Have a great day and I will keep my eye open for that crazy lady…she will have to come from Russia…or perhaps China…or even Italy! I think I would like to be a triplet with an Italian lady…especially one that can cook amazing food and who grows all her own mediterranean foods… We have an olive tree here and I am going to plant a grove of them out on the property along with as many nut trees as we can grow. I am not a great apple fan and its somewhat ironic that I live in Tasmania a.k.a. “The Apple Isle” but at least if I want some apples, I can find them on roadside stalls EVERYWHERE ;). Have a really great day and know that Steve (hubby) is now attempting to outdo “The hirsute one” and grow an enormous Grizzly Adams beard 😉 See you soon

    • Oh, the Bearded One is the artist. And I love what you wrote…”alarming stick figures that seem to be able to tell me more about you than your photos.” Perfectly said. I feel the same way about them. Thank you.

      On Wed, May 2, 2012 at 4:55 PM, Christi Killien wrote:

      > We must be kindred, if not twins. Perhaps we are a set of triplets and we > have yet to hear from the other crazy writing lady in love with her second > husband and three very tolerant, interesting and fun “kids.” I’ve read a > few of your wonderful, generous blogs ( > http://www.theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com) and see that your daughters are > also insightful with their critique.:) > > The Bearded Hun is indeed hirsute, and we both laughed all over ourselves > over that perfect word. > > Almond trees! We might be too dang wet for almonds here, but we buy > them raw in 10 pound bags at a big chain box-store here called Costco, and > roast them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. We eat them like > candy. With planted trees, you do have to take the long view. We’re > hoping to get our first apple harvest this year…we planted a Spartan and > a Granny Smith 3 years ago. > > How magical we’ve met. 🙂 >

  4. Christine Widman

    Ah. The sweet memories of your wedding. Happy happy anniversary.
    Here we are planting the desert willow grove that I longed for. 7 trees.
    They are already blossoming with their orchid colored flowers.
    The palo verde are in the Robert Frost’s “Nature’s first green is gold” stage.
    Peach and yellow parchment roses grace the curves of our prickly pears.
    After all…”It’s May. It’s May. The merry month of May, That lovely month where everyone goes blissfully astray.”
    I hope you and the Bearded One go blissfully astray tonight.
    Much love,
    Christine

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