It's good to have friends who have big dreams. Even huge crazy dreams. This is why I spent most of Saturday planting a chunk of a 1/2 acre with saffron bulbs.
I have a history of being carried along on crazy quests. And here's the thing -- they almost always turn out to be a ton of fun and give me something else to think about for a while. So when Noah & Elisabeth invited me to help plant saffron bulbs at the rented farm, I said sure, why not?
In case you didn't know (and I'm not even going to pretend that I didn't just look up the wikipedia entry), saffron comes from a species of crocus. I knew the spice came from part of the flower and I spent the day making flower penis jokes because I'm super mature when I'm semi-delirious with heat stroke, but the joke's on me because it's actually the stigmas and styles (aka, the "female" part of the flower) and not the stamen (the "male" part).
The farm is in the middle of a suburb in West Sacramento, so I drove out there early in the morning (ahem, because I'm such a good friend!). The dirt had been tilled (or whatever is done with dirt to loosen it up and hey, I wasn't the one planning this whole thing so don't make fun of my lack of farming knowledge) and there were rows of mounds about a yard wide with furrows in between. There were eighteen rows that were about fifty feet long.
We had ten people there at various points during the day which should tell you what wonderful people Noah and Elisabeth are, because they know a bunch of people who are willing to spend a Saturday planting bulbs for fun.
Noah had built this clever contraption that would drop six bulbs across at intervals as the thing was pulled through the dirt. Pulled through the dirt by people. In action looked a bit like we were trying to plow using people instead of oxen. I'm kind of surprised the neighbors weren't lined up on the street taking pictures. I wouldn't be shocked if it showed up online somewhere.
So five people were working with the human-powered bulb-o-matic and the rest of us were hand planting. Noah carefully explained that we were aiming for 6 inches deep, with 6 bulbs across the width of each row and four inches (center to center) between the ones on each side. We had yard sticks. We had markings on trowels. I think there may have been just the tiniest discrepancy between the plan and the reality.
Anyhow we grabbed one of the boxes of bulbs, and with Jen on one side of our row and me on the other, we dug down with a trowel, shifted the dirt out of the way long enough to shove a bulb down -- hairy side up, just like a troll doll -- three times, then moved over four inches and repeated the process.
We did this for about an hour before we took a water break and I looked around and realized that we were only a couple feet from the beginning of the row and we couldn't see the end. The bulb-o-matic had its own problems -- the tubes kept clogging I think -- so they weren't too much farther ahead in their row. Then I realized there were twice as many boxes of bulbs as I'd thought there was. The delirium set in.
A really old guy tottered by with his Chihuahua. He didn't speak English, but my two years of Duolingo Spanish were enough for me to tell him that no, it is not onion, it is... (here I had to look up the word for saffron)... azafrán. (And yes, that was in present tense because I don't take my lessons very seriously so I have not progressed to any other tense.) He didn't seem to understand what azafrán meant, but I give it equal odds that my pronunciation was terrible or he just didn't know what saffron was.
It got hotter. Jen and I discussed a variety of things as we moved along, including our plans for NaNoWriMo, and the fact that we would starve to death if we had to depend on our planting skills to eat. The hotter it got, the lower the threshold for jokes. By the end of the afternoon we finally got through our entire box of bulbs and I went to steal some from another box. I used the front of my t-shirt to hold them, then we almost died laughing when I told Jen I didn't need a box to hold them because I was going to use my "shirt bucket". At the time I said it I was completely serious about "shirt bucket" being a real thing.
Anyhow, I think at least one or two of the many, many bulbs I planted were at the correct depth.
As a group we finished four rows, so if you, too, want a saffron planting experience in the next week or so I can hook you up.