A Bucket Brigade

A Bucket Brigade July 9, 2024

a stream of water falling on garden soil
image via Pixabay


It’s not a good summer for the zucchini.

It’s not a good summer for anything just now. It’s been unbearably hot, and it hasn’t rained nearly enough. My gut has been sick from the Augmentin I took to cure the other sick for the last three weeks: more than a month of sick all together. The car has been sick for three weeks. Jimmy will get to it just as soon as he has the time, so we can go swimming again. And then there’s the zucchini. It’s shriveling on the bush before the blossoms even drop off. This is what happens when it doesn’t rain.

Today I slept until after noon, then sulked in my room for longer. My room has a window air conditioner right by the bed. I can keep it refrigerated easily. But there’s no air conditioner in the bathroom, where I went next. The shower was an exercise in self-flagellation.

I went back to the air conditioner and basked in the cool air like a vain lady tanning under a lamp.

Finally, I stumbled out to the garden.

About half the sunflowers are blooming: almost all bright yellow or yellow with red stripes, but I’ve got one with flowers that look black when they bud and deep burgundy when they open. A scarlet cardinal was enjoying the center of one flower. A butterfly was browsing on the tallest of the flowers. Bees were everywhere. That is why I plant sunflowers: to court the pollinators, and to direct the birds away from the other food. I love birds, but I don’t love it when they peck at my strawberries and tomatoes. They don’t go after the strawberries and tomatoes when there are abundant seeds to eat. The flowers serve as a bird feeder, and mean that I get the fruit and vegetables for myself.

I inspected the tomatoes, which are just barely beginning to turn gold. Tomatoes stay green for an agonizingly long time, then start to go white, and then show their true colors. I’d found and devoured a lone ripe Stripey last night, but the rest wouldn’t be ready for days yet.

The leaves at the bottoms of the tomato plants were also yellow.

That volunteer pumpkin that grew out of the compost was covered in white spots all over the leaves.

The cucumbers were looking as sick as the zucchini.

Things had gotten out of hand.

My first thought was to ask to borrow the friendly neighbors’ hose. We don’t have an outside hose hookup, but they do, and it’s right by my side door. Last year they let me water the garden with their water whenever I needed. But the neighbors’ car wasn’t in front of their house. That meant it was time for a bucket brigade.

I went and got Michael, who started filling  pitchers and the big plastic bin we keep rice in. He kept running the water out to me and taking back whatever vessel I handed him. I poured the water on the garden, again and again and again. Three lemonade pitchers on the feet of each tomato plant. The whole contents of the rice keeper on the crook-neck squash. Two of that great big plastic pitcher I use to brew cold brew coffee, on the bush watermelon. I kept grabbing another vessel and carrying it into the patch, slopping water all over myself, so that I was as soaked as the soil was becoming. My t-shirt stuck to my skin. The ground went from light tan concrete to dark brown mud, bit by bit by bit. You have to be careful not to overwater containers, but it’s very hard to overwater the earth. The earth soaks up a lot of water. If you thoroughly drench the feet of your plants, the earth will hold onto the excess water and keep them healthy for longer. I drenched, and I drenched, and I drenched.

I can’t make my car as it ought to be,  and I can’t make my body as it ought to be, and I certainly can’t make the climate as it ought to be, but I can make the garden the Eden it ought to be or die trying.

By the time I got inside, I was beet red and out of breath.

When I went back out, the cucumber was already perked up and blossoming. The squash looked a little better; time will tell if I saved them.

Birds were singing in the lilac bush, and the bees were everywhere.

Sometimes things work out.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.


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