It’s June in Carding, Vermont and the clink of gardening tools is heard across the land as the town’s plant people tie up their new tomatoes, struggle to harvest the lettuce they put in a month ago (how many salads can one eat?), and join the annual battle of the weeds.
A beautiful garden represents a LOT of work, as Edie Wolfe knows but is finding out anew.
Let’s join her trowel-side, shall we?
It’s been a difficult start to the gardening season for Edie Wolfe this year. The troubles began with a slip-and-slide on late winter ice that wrenched her left ankle, an accident that required ice in a bag applied every hour.
Then the time she spent at her sewing machine making masks for family, friends, and the folks who kept Cooper’s General Store open came to an end when her rotary cutter skittered across her index finger.
“Never, never, never cut when you’re tired,” her friend Ruth Goodwin lectured as she bandaged Edie up. “This is a nasty one, Edie. You’re on the verge of needing stitches so be mindful about how you take care of this. Keep it clean and keep it wrapped.”
Edie obeyed because the thought of stitches demanded it. And of course, the finger healed but it seemed to take forever. So you can imagine her burst of pent-up enthusiasm when it was finally time to put her tomato starts into the ground…along with her beans, her lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, and squash.
Then just as she was straightening up from three days of planting, a weather warning pinged on her cell phone.
“Windy and quite chilly. Late frost warning throughout Vermont,” it read. “Cover tender plants.”
So after a full day of vigorous gardening, Edie found herself dashing madly about to cover her just-in-the-ground basil and tomatoes.
That night, her throbbing right arm and shoulder woke her up again and again with pain that no anti-inflammatory medication could touch.
“Rotator cuff stress,” Ruth concluded as she watched Edie struggle to raise a full tea mug to her lips. Then she reached across the table to press her thumb lightly on the top of Edie’s shoulder and run it down to the outside of her elbow.
Edie hissed with pain.
“You need ice on that and you need to take aspirin,” Ruth said, “and no gardening for a couple of days.”
“But it’s June,” Edie wailed. “Have you seen the weeds in the back part of my yard? You can’t see Nearly when he wanders out there. And the coltsfoot has just gone to seed and you know that will spread everywhere.”
Ruth raised her eloquent eyebrows in mild admonishment. “And the coltsfoot will still be there after you rest that arm. Catch up on your reading.”
After Ruth left, Edie grumbled and scowled around the house, picking up one book after another but finding none of them of interest.
“Well, at least I can go outside and look, make a few plans,” she said as she opened the back door. Her cocker spaniel, Nearly, sped out at her heels in hot pursuit of a chipmunk.
Like all gardeners, Edie enjoyed admiring her work. She smiled at the sight of lettuces happy in the sun and new radishes, sprouting beans, and morning glory seedlings.
Then she plucked a couple of damaged leaves off her tomatoes and pulled a tiny weed.
“Well, maybe I can deadhead the coltsfoot so at least its seeds won’t spread,” she told herself, heading to the garage for her favorite weed bucket.
She hummed while snipping off the fluffy seedheads, glad to be doing something in her garden while not making her shoulder worse. The aspirin had helped a lot.
Bending over, she swept back leaves from her yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) only to find that the ground underneath boasted a half-dozen split acorns sporting the top leaves of tiny oak trees. They were the result of an acorn harvest that had boosted the chipmunk population to overwhelming proportions, a headache for every gardener in the Corvus Valley.
With a loud groan, Edie marched back to her garage for a trowel to dig the wannabe trees out of the dirt. Then she retrieved her snips to trim the archangel out of the path.
An hour later, her weed bucket was full and her shoulder was, once again, very painful.
“What can I say,” she told Nearly as he romped beside her on the way to the weed pile. “I came. I saw. I weeded. It’s what any gardener would do.”
Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.
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