Monday, April 9:
Did you ever transplant several hundred row feet of onion seedlings? Not the onion seedlings you find at the grocery store in the springtime, bundled like scallions and fastened together with rubber bands. Here in Ohio, and in Texas and Oklahoma when we were young, these and the larger onion sets, small bulbs like cocktail onions, always appeared in the produce section of the grocery store in early spring, a strange throwback to when America grew its own vegetables, and we don’t mean just a tomato or two. For a few weeks in spring the grocer’s produce shelves held hands across the decades with our parents’ and grandparents’ youths, and we wouldn’t have been surprised to see a pair of bib overalls come in the door, or an old-fashioned Schwinn with a bell on the handlebars leaning against the wall outside. In our rural area they still show up in some stores, reminders that there are still a few who till the soil.
This evening we finished setting out the onion seedlings we started three weeks ago in the green house. The package of copra seeds we received with our order from Territorial held a scant two teaspoons or so of shiny black seeds, tiny and three-sided like beechnuts. Scattered thinly over sterile starting mix in six four-inch pots and covered thinly, they soon produced about six hundred tiny green shoots like ambitious hairs, each with a short white base sprouting maybe three roots. We employed as many evenings in setting them out in the big garden, three rows to a bed, four inches between plants, and when we finished it looked like exactly nothing. With a magnifying glass and a powerful squint you could maybe see about half of the feeble things. And yet our experience tells us that these moribund threads will in all likelihood rally and produce a hundred pounds of yellow storage onions, round and hard and pungent. All from a handful of green threads.
Nature just wants to feed us.
And maybe laugh at us just a little.