The Myersville Hillbillies

Ever since we arrived in July, I’ve been crossing my fingers for rain.  I wanted rain to water in my winter seedings, to refresh our dry pastures, and (most especially) to saturate the soil so that I could plow my fields.  Instead, Rain has been less than forthcoming.  We’d get a quarter inch one week, almost an inch the next, but nothing like the real soaking that my fields needed.  With all the talk of torrential downpours, I had high hopes for Hurricane Irene, but in fact all we got was a scant inch.

Tropical storm Lee, on the other hand, has finally made my wish come true and has reminded me of the old adage  to be careful what you wish for.  We’ve had rain almost non-stop since Monday night, with more to come Saturday, and at last count I think it we have already received almost five inches–a month’s worth of rain in less than a week.  Happily, because our fields are not yet plowed, our grass has soaked up every drop.  Erosion has been a non-issue, even in my garden.  Our aquifers will be replenished and my fields will finally accept the plow (once they dry out a bit!).

In the grand scheme of things, this rain is sorely needed and a great blessing.  But even a silver lining is not without its clouds.  Last week I seeded nine trays of spinach, three trays of winter kale, and two trays of scallions.  By Monday of this week all of my seedlings had sprouted and were thirstily soaking up sun.  Of course, then the sun went away and they got soaked with another heavenly substance…  This left me with a dilemma: how to give my plants as much sun a possible, without leaving them drenched.  If seedlings don’t get enough sun, they grow tall and flimsy, “leggy” in farmer speak.  If they become too wet, a fungus called “damping off” causes stems to rot and the plants to die.  I fretted over my inadequate conditions for half of Tuesday, fixated on my grow lights and plant stand (which are, for reasons too complicated to enumerate, in Connecticut).  Finally, my anxiety reached a fever point and I decided that I would not rest until I had built my plants a greenhouse..

I constructed my frame from ten foot long half-circle hoops that I’ve made out of conduit, and which I plan to use for overwintering.  Next, I pilfered all the shower curtains in the house and duct taped them together.  Much to my chagrin, they proved too short to span the hoops I had erected in the front yard.  I tossed them aside and moved on to plan B.  With Andrew’s help, I dragged a spare roll of greenhouse plastic onto the yard, and began unrolling it.  (Now, greenhouse plastic is intended to be unrolled once and immediately affixed to a greenhouse, so it remains to be seen if I’ve created a solution that is worse than my problem)  We draped the 40 foot wide sheet of plastic over the hoops and scrunched the surplus at the sides.  The weight of the other 90 feet of plastic, still on the roll, weighed one end down; the far end we secured with several heavy pieces of lumber.  I slid my trays under their plastic shelter and battened the sides down with tires.  I crossed my fingers.

That night, the wind howled as I’ve never heard it here.  I, meanwhile, lay wide awake in bed, all the while imagining my trays strewn helter-skelter around the yard, or battered to death in a plastic and conduit cave.

Meanwhile, Andrew had problems of his own preoccupying him.  On Monday, he took his turkeys out of the broiler shelters, and moved them into a section of pasture contained by electrified poultry netting.  Based on advice from other pastured turkey growers, he had decided that his hearty birds didn’t need shelter.  Monday night’s rains – and the prospect of a wet, cool week to come – convinced him otherwise.  Andrew dragged an old truck bed liner into the turkeys’ section and flipped it upside down. The turkeys, dripping and huddled, nevertheless had settled down for the night and showed no interest in relocating. Andrew gently pushed them all under the shelter, where he hoped they would be more comfortable.

It took the turkeys almost all of the next day to figure out that the inverted truck bed liner was something desirable (turkeys are a bit like teenagers in that way–they won’t try something new until the group has approved it, which slows down innovation a bit.)  But once one bold turkey caught on, the rest were quick to follow.  Now, with every passing shower, we watch the turkeys run, en masse, to their bed liner haven.

And so now we have a bed liner in our backyard (home sweet home to 60 slightly less soggy turkeys) and what looks like a shower curtain tunnel secured by tires and debris in our front yard.

The animals and plants, thankfully, are not sticklers for aesthetics.

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