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Irons in the fire: A light on the greenhouse

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattle Published on 25 January 2021

My wife loves to garden. As a matter of fact, she is a dang fine gardener, and she works irrationally hard at it and gladly shares the bounty of her hard work and harvest.

Though ESPN is pretty much forbidden in our house (at least that’s how I understand the rules), she spends her leisure time on long winter nights watching YouTube gardening videos and studying the Gurneys seed catalog as if she were planning a trip to a bull sale. She really likes her garden.

I do not love to garden. I am a darn (you could insert a stronger adjective here) poor gardener. Gardening is related to farming and, as one might surmise upon inspection of my 160-acre gopher mound interspersed with a few invading alfalfa sprigs, I am a darn poor farmer. I think gardening may be even worse on my ego than farming because its failures, as well as its rewards, are so up-close and personal.

Seeing and understanding the deficiencies in my agronomic abilities on a whole-farm or field level is like an Ole Miss fan understanding the toll of the Mississippi State cowbells. He gets the fact that 60,000 opposing fans loathe him and the team he loves, but it’s not really personal. A failure in the garden, though, is more like when the neighbor kicks your dog when you’re sorting cows. It’s hard not to feel that kind of roundhouse punch to the side of your head. It’s personal, and it sticks with you like that spray foam insulation stuff when you get it on your hands.

Anyway, as I was saying … the gardener in our house has long wished for some sort of greenhouse so she can, on both ends of the growing season, prolong the odd joy she gets from the act of gardening. I don’t really get it, so as you might imagine, I’ve kind of dragged my feet on helping her forge her dream into reality. Nevertheless, despite my laggardly procrastination, we’ve somehow managed to start work on a high-tunnel greenhouse. It was supposed to be up and running by November, but it was the middle of January before it started to resemble anything more than a pile of lumber and plastic stacked behind the house. By next fall, I fully expect to be partaking of the fruits of my wife’s green-thumb labors. I’ve been threatened with eviction from the house if it’s not done by the time we start calving, so I’d be well served to finish the project so I’ll have a place to stay should the eviction take place for whatever reason.

Our neighbors from a mile up the road also undertook a greenhouse project. We actually undertook the whole greenhouse deal as a tandem project. Once finished, both greenhouses will essentially be the same. Terry, our neighbor, is quite handy and has pretty much been the straw boss on the project. He’s done all of the tough figuring-out stuff and has directed my steps and missteps at every corner. He’s loaned me his expertise, his time and his tools. Without my asking, he’s shown up at the door to roust me out of my apathetic state to help me and drag me through the project. Without his patience and perseverance, my greenhouse project would have dragged on like the building of the pyramids, sans the Israelite labor.

Terry recently had shoulder replacement surgery. In the days leading up to and since the surgery, I assured him I’d help him with whatever he and his family needed. And my offer was sincere. I fully intended to help him feed the horses and keep a pile of wood split and stacked by the door.

To view the results of my neighborliness and greenhouse building from the outside, one might assume I might be a prime candidate for spouse and neighbor of the month. The truth in the details, however, reveals a slightly different tale. While my intentions have been mostly unassailable, and the ultimate results favorable, the trail hasn’t been exactly a straight line from A to B. You see, much like my wife’s unselfishness in sharing her garden bounty, Terry always offered his help and his means before I ever asked. I, on the other hand, would usually show up to split wood or pull the shoes off his horses only after Terry would reluctantly call and ask for my help. Now, who do you suppose is really the neighbor of the month? If the selection committee does much digging, I’m afraid I may not win the award.

Yes, it’s good to do the right thing when you’re asked, and it’s OK to be recognized for it. ’Tis far nobler, I think, to do it for the right reason, with no expectation of reward. I like to think my tiny candle may occasionally flicker in the flats. If you can’t see my little flashlight in the bushes though, look up on the top of the hill where the beacons of the really good ones shine. end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter, or email Paul Marchant.

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