Apprentices

We’re fortunate that our friend Jerome Lang has adopted us as a pet project. There’s enough else going on around here that I’m easily tempted to put off doing preparatory work for this year’s garden, particularly in the dead of winter. But Jerome knows how important it is to do certain things now, and he is apparently determined that we will succeed at gardening this year.

When Chris had finished his first pass at a garden plan Jerome came over one Thursday morning and spent a couple of hours reviewing it with us, helping us to clean it up and to understand the implications of this choice versus that one. He also gave us a copy of the book he is writing—actually, the first of three small volumes on what he thinks are the keys to organic growing. As we talked I found out that he was almost done with this volume, and was planning to send it to a fellow in Pennsylvania to turn it into a book. I told him that I knew how to do just that, and that the help he was giving us was more than worth any work it would take me to do so. He was delighted to hear that, since the major obstacle for him in getting the book printed was the up-front cost of editing and typesetting it, requiring a significant amount of precious cash.

I hadn’t seen him arrive, so afterwards we went outside and he showed us the farm truck he had brought, a 1972 Ford F-150 pickup that is showing its age but still runs well. He claims to have about $350 invested in it, which impressed me enough to ask him to put out the word that we’d like a truck of that nature—there are more and more jobs that crop up which require hauling capability, but I’m only about $350 interested in solving the problem, i.e. anything beyond pure function is wasted on me. Meanwhile, Jerome told us the truck mostly sits doing nothing, so we were welcome to borrow it when we needed.

In the bed of the pickup there was a huge pile of white powder, which turned out to be ground limestone. Jerome had stopped by the quarry on the way to our house and bought one tone of lime for $7. He had also brought three shovels, so after he drove the truck down to the garden plot he and Chris and I spent about twenty minutes shoveling the lime onto the plot. The plot is 50×100 feet, or 1/8 acre, so that made for an 8 ton/acre application, or about 1/3 of what we’d like to have.

After that we went back to the house for lunch, and spent an hour or so playing music before he had to head home. At church the next Sunday Jerome waved me over, and proudly produced two sheets of paper from his pocket which turned out to be our personalized garden plan for the first two months of the year. He asked me if I had read his book yet, since the plan wouldn’t make much sense until I had; I confessed that even though Debbie and Chris had read it through, I hadn’t had time to read more than the first few pages. But that night I did start reading in earnest, and found it to be not only very helpful but also very engaging; Jerome writes just like he talks, which is an important quality that is hard to teach, so I figure the editing will go well.

Tuesday he called to ask if I had read the book yet, and I was glad to be able to say that I was mostly done. He also asked when I was planning to borrow the truck to get more lime—I had said the week before that it would be a good project for me and Chris to do on our own—and although I hadn’t thought about it since, I decided that it was time to commit, so I said we’d be by the next day and try to get a couple of loads done.

On Wednesday things got underway a bit more slowly than I had hoped. We finally made it to Jerome’s place, and got a good look at the present state of his greenhouse, which was filled with sprouting kale and cabbage and lettuce and spinach and all sorts of good things. We took enough time to stop in his office and hear a song on his computer that he thought would be good for us (he was right), and then we were finally on the road.

I had planned to pick up a load, drive home, spread the load, eat lunch, and then drive back to the quarry for another load. Everything took a bit longer than I thought, and by the time we arrived home it was clear that there would only be time for one load, especially because I had to leave time at the end of the day to drive into town before close of business and pick up a couple of hundred pounds of freshly slaughtered hog. So we ate our lunch, spread the lime, took the truck to gas it up, and then returned it just in time for me to zoom off, drop Chris at home, and get to the meat processing plant with a few minutes to spare.

Since then it has snowed a couple of times, so I’m not sure when we’ll finish the job. But the plan is to get a total of three tons on this plot, plus another three tons on a second plot the same size. So there are four more trips to the quarry on our schedule sometime next week.

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