By Mitch Mode.
I start the garden in March. I have two lengths of rain gutter capped and sealed at both ends. I fill them with potting soil. I poke a hole with my finger, drop seed, cover with soil, soak with water; done. I carefully place the two lengths of gutter in the south-facing living room window, one on the sill, one suspended by lengths of nylon strapping.
The strengthening sun of March rises and brings heat to the dirt; dirt takes the warmth, passes it to seeds. After a week, give or take, the first green shows; thin, delicate tendril. We watch in wonderment and excitement. No matter what the weather on the other side of the glass, spring and the optimism of that season are happening inside. A few days later a full line of green plants stand spring green against the brown; sign of life, sign of spring to come.
This year the sun, on the good days, shone bright and the young plants responded. A quarter inch of green; half an inch; and inch; steady and strong they grew.
We had kale in the top rack, chard in the lower, both good growers and both comfortable in the cool weather of late spring when the soil would be warm enough outside and a chill night would not do damage to the young plants.
Tiny leaves took shape, unfurled as if a green flag; recognizable soon after they broke ground. We watched every day; watered them as needed. From small things big things come.
The kale did well; the chard not so much. A question: why the one and not the other? Question answered on a sunny afternoon when the cat, Lade, stretched out on the lower bed, soaking up heat from both sun overhead and warmed dirt under. Lady found the lower gutter, the bed of chard, a perfect place for her afternoon naps.
The chard faltered; tiny plans uprooted by Lady, dirt scattered on the window sill and floor. In a few weeks the chard was a lost cause. We did not have the heart to put Lady off the bed, she’s old now and we cut her some slack. She’s a good cat in a house of three dogs.
About the dogs: They are quirky. For all our familiarity with them they continue to surprise. Riika is 13, Thor 10 and Fenway 2 so by now you’d think we’d have come to terms with them and in a sense we have. But coming to terms with them does not mean we understand them for their whims. At times is seems as if they are aliens that have come to visit and have no clear understanding of language, commands or common sense dog behavior.
At times they confound us. Consider Thor. Thor loves vegetables. He begs for spinach and salad, drools unflatteringly at the sight of kale and chard and asparagus. He eats leaf and stem and we have no reason to think he’d choose meat over greens.
Fenway has learned from Thor, He runs to us when we are preparing greenery for lunch and dinner. He has learned to beg though one has to admit Riika probably taught him that. In the end days of last autumn Thor and Fenway made their way into one of the raised beds after we’d pick and dine on the leftover stalks of salad plants
So there’s that; dogs of unique personality and behavior. We feel we’re used to it but they surprise us at times, even now.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800. To comment on this story, visit StarJournalNow.com.