Driven Back to Eden by Edward Payson Roe
Chapter XXVIII. Corn, Color, and Music
In early May the grass was growing lush and strong, and Brindle was driven down the lane to the meadow, full of thickets, which bordered on the creek. Here she could supply herself with food and water until the late autumn.
With the first days of the month we planted, on a part of the garden slope, where the soil was dry and warm, very early, dwarf sweet corn, a second early variety, Burr's Mammoth, and Stowell's Evergreen.
"These several kinds," I said, "will give us a succession of boiling ears for weeks together. When this planting is up a few inches high, we will make another, for, by so doing, my garden book says we may have this delicious vegetable till frost comes."
After reading and some inquiry during the winter I had decided to buy only McLean's Gem peas for seed. This low-growing kind required no brush and, therefore, far less labor. By putting in a row every ten days till the last of June, we should enjoy green peas of the sweet, wrinkled sort till tired, if that were possible. We also planted early dwarf wax-beans, covering the seed, as directed, only two inches deep. It was my ambition to raise a large crop of Lima beans, having read that few vegetables yield more food to a small area than they. So, armed with an axe and a hatchet, Merton and I went into some young growth on the edge of our wood lot and cut thirty poles, lopping off the branches so as to leave little crotches on which the vines could rest for support. Having sharpened these poles we set them firmly in the garden, four feet apart each way, then dug in some very fine and decayed manure around each pole, and left the soil for a day or two to grow warm and light. My book said that, if the earth was cold, wet, or heavy the beans would decay instead of coming up. The 10th of the month being fine and promising, I pressed the eye or germ side of the beans into the soil and covered them only one inch deep. In the evening we set out our cabbage and cauliflower plants where they should be allowed to mature. The tomato plants, being more tender than their companions started in the kitchen window, were set about four inches apart in a sheltered place. We could thus cover them at night and protect them a little from the midday sun for a week or two longer.
Nor were Mousie's flowering plants forgotten. She had watched over them from the seed with tireless care, and now we made a bed and helped the happy child to put her little nurslings in the open ground where they were to bloom. The apple-trees made the air fragrant, and some of the delicate pink of their blossoms was in Mousie's cheeks.
"Truly," I thought, as I looked into her sparkling eyes, "if we can but barely live in the country, I am glad we came."
The next morning Merton and I began our great undertaking--the planting of the other acre of ground, next to the potatoes, with field corn. Mr. Jones had harrowed it comparatively smooth, I had a light plow with which to mark out the furrows four feet apart each way. At the intersection of these furrows the seed was to be dropped. I found I could not drive our old bay straight across the field to save my life, and neighbor Jones laughed till his sides ached at the curves and crooks I first left behind me.
"Here, Merton," I cried, nothing daunted, "we must work together again. Get a pole and stand it on the farther side of the plot four feet in from the edge of the sod. That's right. Now come here; take old Bay by the head, and, with your eyes fixed on the pole, lead him steadily toward it."
A furrow was now made of which Mr. Jones himself need not have been ashamed; and he laughed as he said, at parting "You'll do. I see you've got enough Yankee in you to try more ways than one."
We kept at work manfully, although the day was warm, and by noon the plot was furrowed one way. After dinner we took an hour's partial rest in shelling our corn and then resumed our work, and in the same manner began furrowing at right angles with the first rows. The hills were thus about four feet apart each way. Merton dropped the corn after we had run half a dozen furrows.
"Drop five kernels," I said; for Mr. Jones had told us that four stalks were enough and that three would do, but had added: "I plant five kernels, for some don't come up, and the crows and other vermints take others. If all of 'em grow, it's easier to pull up one stalk at the first hoeing than to plant over again."
We found that putting in the corn was a lighter task than planting the potatoes even though we did our own furrowing; and by the middle of May we were complacent over the fact that we had succeeded with our general spring work far better than we had hoped, remembering that we were novices who had to take so much counsel from books and from our kind, practical neighbor.
The foliage of the trees was now out in all its delicately shaded greenery, and midday often gave us a foretaste of summer heat. The slight blaze kindled in the old fireplace, after supper, was more for the sake of good cheer than for needed warmth, and at last it was dispensed with. Thrushes and other birds of richer and fuller song had come, and morning and evening we left the door open that we might enjoy the varied melody.
Our first plantings of potatoes and early vegetables were now up and looked promising. So a new phase of labor--that of cultivation-- began. New broods of chickens were coming off, and Winnie had many families to look after. Nevertheless, although there was much to attend to, the season was bringing a short breathing-spell, and I resolved to take advantage of it. So I said one Friday evening: "If to-morrow is fair, we'll take a vacation. What do you say to a day's fishing and sailing on the river?"
A jubilant shout greeted this proposal, and when it had subsided, Mousie asked, "Can't Junior go with us?"
"Certainly," I replied; "I'll go over right after supper, and make sure that his father consents."
Mr. Jones said, "Yes," and Merton and Junior were soon busy with their preparations, which were continued until the long twilight deepened into dusk.