The View from Mattie’s Pillow

What the Thunder Said

Summer is slipping by here in the Interior. Spring came early so that we itched to have our gardens planted before it was mid-May, even knowing that the last frost could still hit by the first of June. But it didn’t and we got our usual bright June weather in May, our hot July temperatures in June, and now, mid-July, August’s rain. Even our short summer seems to be speeding by so fast we don’t know how to keep up. There are blueberries for the picking on some hills; they’re green on others. Some gardens have zucchini, some only flowers. We’ve had days of rain between glorious dry heat—haying weather, if it lasts long enough.

Last weekend, we were out at Quists’ again, picking up three pickup loads of first cutting hay from the field. This hay was dry and bright and we only got enough to stack two layers in the hay barn so that each layer had one side exposed to air and could finish drying thoroughly. It rained fitfully after we finished loading the hay, but we grilled sausages and ate a salad from the garden sitting out on the deck while Mattie and Sam munched their new hay below us in the corral. At night, we could smell the sweet grass smell of the hay drying in the barn.

This weekend we were supposed to get more hay from the Mayos’ field, near the farm where Trish and I ride on Thursdays. By Thursday, however, the clouds had thickened, and by the start of the lesson we were spattered with warm rain that lasted the whole hour. I have been planning to ride in a small show next weekend with the Horsemasters and hoped to ride Sam this afternoon to start ramping up for the weekend. But, as I was raking manure from the corral, the clouds blew in and the rain rattled through the trees. Ira and Mike headed for the house, but I stayed behind, gathering up the tools and putting things away that might get wet.

I headed for the greenhouse. I’m still doing triage transplanting of tomatoes into larger pots, trying to get all the ones I can fit and can’t give away into kitty litter containers with holes drilled in the bottoms. The rest, I at least want to get into pots one size larger so that they thrive till I can find them homes. I never give up on plants I’ve started from seed. I had plenty to do while I waited out the rain.

I stayed in the greenhouse for a few hours, mixing manure and a purchased garden mix of peat and sand. I added fish bone meal and dolomite lime and mixed it all together with some of last year’s dirt to put in the pots. As I worked, up to my elbows in dirt, the rain stopped and the sun came out and sparkled on the tomato leaves where I had sprayed them with the hose. At one point, I stepped out to check the sky and the corral to see if I might still ride Sam on good footing. As I looked up at the ridge behind the house, I saw a bank of gray cloud sliding across the sky, dimming the light. Below the dark cloud were wisps of white cloud like a mist rising—except falling below the deeper gray. They were moving quickly, curling back on themselves, fraying apart, and skimming the top of the trees. There was a sound like falling gravel from up the hill; the leaves on the willows began to shiver; then the rain hit.

At first it was just hard enough to drive me back into the greenhouse. Then the rattle became harder and tiny bits of hail fell with the water. Then pebbles of white ice, fast and thick, the sound like a train clattering across the greenhouse roof. I leaned out the door to check some plants I had staged there, and I grabbed a small Sungold tomato to bring back inside. Sam stood in front of his shed, sideways to it, as close as he could get to shelter without being right under the racket. Mattie huddled back against the back wall of her side of the shed.

Lightning cracked the air. Thunder shook the ground. I stood in the doorway worried about my lettuce, peas, beans, shouting, “No fair! No fair!”

It went on for an hour or so, loud then soft then loud again. I planted all the heirloom tomatoes my friend Cindy gave me and a few of the Chianti Rose slicers—all in their square buckets for the rest of summer now. Then I went back to triage transplanting more Romas and Chiantis.

Then the sun broke through. The corral was deep in water and mud. The tall spruces on the hill dripped, and the air felt thick with moisture. The day was over by then; the opportunity to ride, gone. The horses came out and stood facing south, downhill, heads down. The storm had exhausted us, thrilled us, left us to rest up for tomorrow.

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