Thursday, May 9:

   The sore backs in this house are of various provenance; but nearly everyone has one.

   Raymond’s is sunburn.  Tramping down to the big garden this afternoon he announced that the shirt thief had moved into our valley permanently, offering as evidence the fact that he, Raymond, had been baring his chest to the strong sun all day.  The little blush of pink, however, dates to yesterday when the boys took him creek-jumping in WV and didn’t put any sunblock on him.

   Shawn, and all the big boys who were home today, has the sore back of the ditch digger.  Swinging a pick is something they do very little during the school year, and now they are digging the footer for the saw mill shed, using pick and mattock to break up the packed slag and clay accumulated at the foot of the lane, hauling it by the lawn-cart load behind the small tractor up the steep slope to the garage, unhitching where one slip of a foot would mean the cart went plunging back down the hill and anyone in the way would be pulped, and by main force tipping the cart up to empty it into the gullies that crease the lane and make it, in rainy weather, into white water rapids.  Often, in an operation like ours, sheer muscle replaces expensive, and usually specialized, limited-use equipment, like the skid-steer-backhoe-bulldozer S-4 kept suggesting we go out and rent.

   And all the girls have sore backs of some degree or other – Mom, being old and beginning to stiffen, complains the most – from hours and hours of gardening today, mostly of the crouch-and-wish-you-had-a-magnifying-glass-and-a-pair-of-tweezers variety, pulling tens of thousands of tiny weeds from around hundreds of even tinier onion seedlings, carrot seedlings, adolescent snap pea vines, and middle-aged garlic plants.

    Much was accomplished, much is yet to be done, but a beginning has been made.  The saw mill shed is now a square hole in the ground and not just a drawing on graph paper; the garden, with only four beds of spring seeds planted. and three beds of winter greens – spinach, buttercrunch, mizuna, and claytonia – thinking seriously of going to seed, while we eat spinach by the bale and rub our hands in anxiety thinking of even one leaf going to waste – needs weeding and composting and tilling and someone to plant all those indispensable summer vegs.