Mamie continues to apologize for the fact that we’re getting no rain on our garden, when we did such a good job of making it so “pretty.” She’s taken to calling to give us permission to, once again, use her water from her well with the failing pump to save our crops.
With downtown temperatures reaching one hundred degrees, and our heat in the holler at over ninety, our latest habit is to wait until the last two hours before nightfall for any gardening work. An early dinner with Mamie is a good start to our endeavors. This accomplishes the watering of our soil with Mountain Mama’s water and of our souls and her words of wit and wisdom.
So far, we haven’t had a day without a harvest. Richard sliced forty-four cups of crookneck squash yesterday, and we have half a bushel of beans to string. We have yet to get our first ripe tomato, but Mamie is already harvesting potatoes, and our onions seem to be giving up on growing. Our cucumbers are rather bitter, possibly from lack of rain – or Mamie says, because we didn’t cut off the bitter ends.
There are so many tricks that Mamie has learned over ninety years, that she can’t possibly remember to tell us everything we need to know prior to us making our mistakes, and some of our errors give us all a guffaw. Before we put up our pickles, we’ll try cutting off the stem end of each cuke.
Richard expressed concern about Mamie’s chickens in light of the humid, hot weather. In her typical style, Mamie said that they weren’t eating much, but neither was she. She knew this was saving her money on feed and hoped that she’d take off a pound or two. Before going to the garden, we reminded Mamie that the failure of our crops would give us less work to do in the kitchen. She was so pleased that we were able to see something good in what she was worrying over, as if she had caused the skies to remain dry.
Both Jack and Mamie have told us that old-time farmers use dirt as mulch for their plants’ roots. Jack says that, during a drought, the old-timers used to plow dirt onto their rows every other day. It was clearly time to bring out the hoe. While Richard hoed, I watered, thinking about how careful I had to be in telling our city friends about Richard “hoeing” while I watched. “Ho” means a whole different thing in city circles that “hoe” does in the country. This realization should be good for a giggle from Mamie next time I see her.
While we may not be so lucky in many things — As soon as we dug our pond, we had the worst drought in Tennessee history, and as soon as we planted our garden the skies refused to supply rain—we’re blessed by with the gift of laughter and friends with whom we can laugh.