The Good Earth
The heavy lifting is finished for the season.
Now there is leisure time for me to laze-off on our deck and, a mug of steaming Tension Tamer in sipping distance, reflect on the bountifulness of the good earth.
There was a time when the heavy lifting hadn’t even begun.
A month or so ago Dearest Duck stood at a window gazing out over our acreage.
OK, maybe not “acreage” as such. Square-footage is more accurate.
Nevertheless, Dearest Duck was looking out at our rhubarb patch.
“The rhubarb is growing tall,” she said. “Come see.”
Standing beside Dearest Duck, I surveyed the large patch of rhubarb that we’d planted before the Beatles disbanded.
“Actually it looks overgrown and seedy, my Duck,” said I — words I’d rue.
“I suppose,” said Dearest Duck, sighing a sigh that foreboded ill.
Later, as I reclined in my Lay-Z-Boy, a book spread like a giant butterfly on my chest and a dandy nap approaching, Dearest Duck — almost as if casually passing by — bent to pat my knee and say, “Harry, my hard-working honey, if that old rhubarb was gone we could plant potatoes.”
The butterfly on my chest flew away. The approaching nap turned tail and fled.
The Time of the Heavy Lifting was upon me.
Before noon my booted feet stamped a shovel blade into a rhubarb root.
Have you ever attempted to root out well-established rhubarb that was planted decades-deep in the last century? No easy task, eh b’ys? Deep in the good earth, rhubarb roots grow like stumps as hard as turnips.
Heedless of umbrella leaves and stalks gone to seed like backyard triffids, I worked my way around a plant, stomping my shovel’s blade to sever the root. Dream on Harry. Stomp. And pry. Stomp. And pry. Stomp. And pry, careful not to crack the shovel’s handle.
Since there was little top- knot to hold back the flood, sweat cascaded down my brow, threatening to wash my spectacles off my nose. Sopping my forehead with a sleeve, I glanced toward the window from which Dearest Duck first gazed at the rhubarb patch. God love ‘er, she waved to me, encouragingly, kinda like the Queen acknowledging her subjects. I dug some more. Stomp. And pry and… …suddenly, a humongous wedge of root popped from the good earth with the velocity of a champagne cork. I fell flat on my arse. Dearest Duck held her hand to her lips like the Queen stifling an “Oh, my gracious.”
I slaved nigh on to sunset when the season’s first bloodsucking nippers attacked.
But I’d cleared the rhubarb patch. I’d stomped and pried, loaded my wheelbarrow a thousand times and trucked a ton of severed roots to the rubbish heap.
In the twilight, Dearest Duck met my collapsing carcass on the deck.
“Harry,” she said and — get this! — handed me a cold Corona.
Next morning, beaming through the vapour rising from her Quaker Oats, Dearest Duck said, “Harry, my love, we need to buy some seed potatoes.” So we did. After the fog pulled back into the bay, Dearest Duck sat regally in her deck swing and watched me plant potatoes. I dug some trenches. I lodged seed potatoes in line like…oh, I don’t know…like palace guards.
I covered the potatoes with shovelfuls of the good earth.
I patted the ground with my shovel’s backside.
From the deck, Dearest Duck clapped her hands in controlled delight, like the Queen at steeplechase.
Daily we watched for potato stalks to break the surface of the good earth.
But here’s the thing. It is impossible to eradicate rhubarb roots.
Eventually, potato stalks poked above the ground, lined up in dark green array like soldiers ready for inspection. An aside — sorta. Men have faults, but there is something inherently perverse in women.
Have you ever finished painting…let’s say…the living room and waiting proudly for your honey to admire your handiwork? Sure you have. Did she say, “Marvelous job, my love”? No she didn’t. She said, “You missed a spot” didn’t she? Aside ended. Surprisingly, the sun joined us on the deck as Dearest Duck and I beheld our sprouting spuds.
“Easy to see them now,” said I.
“Hmmm,” said Dearest Duck. “Easy to see the sprouting rhubarb leaves among them.” Agggaaahhhhhhhh! In the meantime, anyone want to order a barrel of spuds come Fall?
Thank you for reading.
Have you ever attempted to root out well-established rhubarb that was planted decades-deep in the last century?