potatoes and onions

Monday, April 9:

Two little girls with switches are driving the cows back down the lane to the barnyard.  The wind has picked up and the temperature is dropping.  Chickens, with whatever sense God gives a chicken, seem to know something is coming, for suddenly they are being drawn as though on threads from every corner of the pasture and hillside, back to the safety of the hen house.  The rain for which we have been praying for the last week may be about to fall.  Someone runs out back to pull the laundry off the line.

Rain now would be especially good as we have just finished putting in the potatoes and the onion sets.  One hundred twenty pounds of seed potatoes, and six pounds of sets, in about a thousand square feet of garden; in a good year that will yield a ton of potatoes, and enough onions even for our onion-loving family, plus what the monastery will use.   We can only plant those vegetables here which the local deer don’t usually bother; this garden is not patrolled by dogs or people as the home gardens are.

Half the ground has been in cultivation for two years already; the other half was turned over from sod last fall with a two-bottom plow behind a tractor.  All of it was turned again about three weeks ago, and rototilled at least once before being planted.  So much mechanical cultivation is not our normal protocol, but this hilltop has not been gardened for years, and the sod is persistent.  The garden is too large for the weeds to be controlled by mulch alone, so for the first few years we will use plow and tiller to bring the soil into cultivation.  Our experience in other gardens tells us that eventually the soil will become more open and fertile and we will be able to work it primarily with our hand tools.  In the large garden below the house, for example, the tiller was used to incorporate compost into the top layer of soil, then with rakes and hoes we made the thirty-inch beds which are being planted now to spring onions.

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