"She was a cattleman's daughter, but all the horse men knew her."
Lately, my husband has lured me into a weekend hobby that is giving the Internet a run for its money. A hobby so compelling that it has me looking at horses with a whole new level of respect.
What's involved here are six plots of land in our community garden: two are ours in perpetuity and then I'm exercising squatters' rights on the other four for the purpose of growing pumpkins. (Being a slightly later season crop, this was an ideal use for the plots left unclaimed after mid-April.) I have one main field of jacks and sugar-pies, complete with a fierce "Road Warrior" style scarecrow, a left-over prop from a college production of Macbeth, and a sign proclaiming it The Great Pumpkin Patch. Nasturtiums and purple bush bean plants here and there for the color (and as an open invitation to ever-helpful bees.)
Spilling over from this thriving metropolis of autumn delights is the run-down suburb of transplants and stragglers. Over to the right from that, a new community of sugar-pies planted too late for All Hallow's Eve but sufficient for turkey and football a month later.
But far in the back, in the field we used to dump our rocks and dead soil, is a solemn triad of hills, each only holding two plants a piece. These are the monster pumpkins. We've lost one of the six, and we'll be lucky to bring the five remaining plants -- each allowed only one fruit -- to harvest. These are the pumpkins that can weigh as much as 100 pounds a piece. These are the pumpkins who taught me that horses are a farmer's best friend.
A neighbor, looking at the seed packet as we planted, said "You'll want some manure tea for these."
And so it was that we were shown the large plastic bucket in her patch where she brewed her daily batch of mineral-rich water for plants with "tea-bags" courtesy of her horse in a West Marin stable.
Yesterday, she brought in a fresh round of 'leaves' and gave them to me. It was the coolest gift I'd had in a long time! (I'd made tentative arrangements with my hair-dresser, who also has a horse, to go out to the stable where she kept it and get myself started there. But this is even better: one horse, lovingly fed on the best.)
Today, we brought in our own pots and cozies (buckets from the paint store, the feedbag cut in two and bungee cords.) I divided up the goods and wetted them down. There was an immediate buzz in the vicinity as all the flies sensed the opening of a high-end four star restaurant in the neighborhood (organic too!) so we hustled on the feedbags and left our buckets to brew in the hot summer sun.
Now I can turn my attention to the gophers...