Spring rushes in on the wings of a rainstorm, the same as squalling winter's exit. The winter rains came late this year, beginning about a day after the Agriculture department declared Humboldt County an aggie disaster area because of drought.
The gardens that haven't washed away must be loving it. The North Coast is replete with gardens and gardeners. Whereas dinner conversations in western PA tended to be about snow tires (up until the late 80s, when they were about computers) and in Cambridge about Asian cuisine restaurants, on the North Coast the favorite topic is gardens and the vegetables and so on that grow in them.
Margaret is the gardener here; I'm the help. Her front yard stops traffic, but she's outdone herself with the new strawberry patch of spiraling layers, a sort of strawberry swirl. She's cultivated every inch of ground in the back, but I claim a certain credit for her potted tomato plants. My wish for my first basketball hoop and court meant the cement driveway didn't get extracted in favor of bare dirt, so the tomato plants are mostly in big barrels. There aren't too many thriving tomato gardens in Arcata as far as I know, but we've got one, and I'll bet it has something to do with the reflective and heat-retaining properties of my b-ball court.
Anyway, I pick the strawberries and the tomatoes. Tomatoes are part of my Italian youth; my grandparents had them, and two of our neighbors had a large patch (we were related somehow to them, and apparently all Italians in the county) so the smell of tomato plants always means summer to me. Come September, there would be baskets of tomato and green peppers left on the back porch.
Margaret goes to Quaker Meeting every Sunday, and you may be surprised to learn, as I was, that besides their mostly silent service, the Quakers sing. In honor of the first Sunday of spring they sang the Garden Song.
Inch by inch, row by row
All you need is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Til the rains come tumbling down.
There is also an anti-Garden song, which they also sang:
Slug by slug, weed by weed
My garden's got me really teed
All the insects love to feed upon my tomato plants
Sunburned face, scratched-up knees
My kitchen's choked with zucchinis
I'm shopping at the A and P next time I get a chance.
Either way, it's a North Coast song. Except for the A and P.
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