Mrs. Porcupine's Garden

Part II

Finn's Project

It would have been very tempting to nap after such a wonderful large lunch, but Finn’s excitement about HIS project eliminated that option. Everyone but Sofie went out to the garden.

Finn explained his idea in detail to the moles and Mrs. Porcupine. “We can dig a hole here,” he explained.

He was standing at the edge of the garden near the cottage.

“It would be about five feet deep and one foot wide. About four feet down, there would be a small tunnel that runs to the pond. After the tunnel is dug, water from the pond would flow into it. The water would fill the hole to the same level as the pond. Mrs. Porcupine, then you could raise water from the hole with your bucket.”

Finn was quite pleased with himself, but the group thought of some comments and questions.

“We would have to make sure that the tunnel runs straight to the pond. Tunnel directioning can be tricky,” said Merwin.

“If I put the bucket in the hole, it will float and not fill with water. I’ll have to push it down with a stick,” said Petunia.

“If we dig the tunnel to the pond, the water will come in and flood us while we’re digging,” added Melrose.

Finn didn’t want to admit that he hadn’t considered these points, and he thought quickly.

“Mrs. Porcupine, you’re right, but it’s still a lot easier than carrying water from the pond,” he said.

“Very true,” she agreed.

He looked at Melrose and said, “We won’t dig the tunnel all the way to the pond. We’ll stop when we get close. The hole can be finished from the pond side by Birch. He has no problem with water,” Finn said.

Birch is a beaver, whom we will meet shortly.

Finn didn’t have a good answer for Merwin’s tunnel direction comment. Happily, for him, Merwin supplied the answer.

“If the tunnel isn’t too deep, our father puts rods down into the ground and uses them to line up our digging,” he said.

“Great,” Finn said. “Does anyone have any more comments or questions?”

No one did.

“We could start tomorrow if it’s okay with you, Mrs. Porcupine?” asked Finn.

Petunia was not 100% convinced, but it sounded like a pretty good plan, and she agreed to proceed.

“Hurrah!” said Finn. “Hurrah! Hurrah!” said Merwin and Melrose in unison.

The next morning, Petunia rushed to the back porch as soon as she was dressed. The seeds she left for the ants were gone, and the dish was turned right-side up. There were no ants in the kitchen. There were no ants anywhere. That was very interesting. Had they accepted her offer? It seemed that they had. She would leave more seeds tonight.

Finn awoke early and went to the moles’ cottage. Melrose and Merwin were already up and had gathered the rods they needed to keep the tunnel running straight. The group left for the project site and arrived at 10 bongs.

Mrs. Porcupine welcomed them with fresh donuts and tea. After that treat they were ready to begin.

She selected a location for the vertical hole, and the digging commenced. As the moles dug, Finn moved the dirt out of the way. The soil was soft, so they made good progress. Within two hours the vertical hole was finished.

Now, Melrose took the rods and carefully pushed them into the ground. He made sure that they formed a straight line all of the way to the pond. The row of rods was very professional looking. The first rod was at the edge of the hole and extended about four feet down. Merwin started digging at that point and headed in the direction of the second rod, which was only two feet away. He had no trouble locating it and continued.

The moles dug dirt, and Finn moved dirt. Dig/move. Dig/move. Dig/move. They worked hard, and time passed quickly. Lunchtime came and went. Before they knew it, Mrs. Porcupine was calling them for dinner.

I don’t think you’ll ever see dirtier animals. Well, maybe. Mrs. Porcupine made it clear that they could not enter the cottage until they cleaned up. Down to the pond they went. Into the pond they went. After ten minutes they were pretty clean and felt refreshed.

Petunia served a casual dinner of potato salad, vegetable lasagna, hot bread, and butterscotch custard. They loved it. As they were eating, Mrs. Porcupine asked Finn how the project was going.

“Excellent,” answered Finn. “We’re ahead of schedule.”

Except that there was no schedule, which was just as well.

“We are more than half done with the tunnel. There will be water flowing tomorrow,” he proclaimed confidently.

Petunia was pleased and said so.

The team decided that it would be more convenient to sleep at the project site rather than go home. Using the bluebirds’ messenger service, they informed their parents of their plans. After dinner Finn and the moles walked through the garden to Old Seth. The sun had set a while ago, and the day’s colors were fading to shades of grey. There was no wind, and it was silent in the woods and fields around Ballymore. Mrs. Porcupine gave each of them a large blanket that they spread on the grass under the tree. They lay down and wrapped themselves in the soft warmth. Stars were just beginning to fill the night sky.

Finn was very pleased with the progress that had been made on HIS project. The tunnel was more than half finished. He wished it were morning so that they could get back to work. He drifted off to sleep as he listened to Melrose and Merwin talk about the stars.

As Merwin watched the sky, more stars appeared. Only five minutes ago he had seen only a few. Now, there were a lot more.

“There are more stars in the sky now, Melrose,” said Merwin. “Where were they hiding?”

“They weren’t hiding. They were always there, but you couldn’t see them because the sky was too bright. Now, that the sun has set, they have appeared.”

“I don’t understand,” said Merwin.

Melrose thought a while. “A few minutes ago you could see the daisies in the grass over there,” and Melrose pointed.

“Yes,” said Merwin.

“You can’t see them now because there isn’t enough light shining on them, but they are still there. You can walk over and touch them. With the stars it is just the opposite. The sun makes the sky and everything on Earth so bright that we can’t see the stars in the daytime. The stars themselves aren’t that bright compared to the sun that is much closer to the Earth than the stars. Light is very important. That’s what Bartholomew has told me,” said Melrose.

Merwin was beginning to understand. He looked at the sky again. “A few minutes ago, that bright star above us was next to the first branch of the oak tree. Now, it’s next to the second branch. It must be moving,” he said.

Melrose laughed. “Yes, it looks like the star is moving, but it’s us who are moving.”

“I’m not moving,” Merwin protested.

“We are on the surface of the Earth. The Earth is like a giant ball that is turning around to our left when we face south. When we look at the stars at night, they seem to be moving to the right,” said Melrose.

“That doesn’t make sense. Are you sure? I do see the stars moving to the right, but I don’t see me moving,” again Merwin protested.

“This is what Bartholomew has learned by studying his books. When we think we see the stars moving, it is an illusion. The same is true of the sun and moon. Bartholomew calls it PERSPECTIVE. He gave me an example of perspective. When you or I look at a blade of grass, it looks fairly small. When an ant looks at the same blade of grass, it looks large to the ant. I hope that Bartholomew teaches me more about perspective one day.”

Melrose paused and then said, “You can’t always believe what you see.”

They didn’t talk for a while, and Merwin continued to study the sky.

“Where did the stars come from, Melrose?” asked Merwin.

“The Creator of the universe made them. The Creator made everything. Now, go to sleep. It’s getting late,” answered Melrose.

Both moles eventually fell asleep and Merwin dreamed of seeing stars being created by someone.

Melrose was awakened in the middle of the night by rustling sounds. About fifty feet away, his bleary eyes saw two long dark shapes slinking through the bushes and headed towards the garden. He rubbed his eyes and jostled the others.

“Wake up. Something’s going on,” he said.

They awoke, rubbed their eyes also and peered in the direction of the bushes. The dark shapes were moving away and continuing towards the garden.

“Let’s follow them. Be quiet,” Melrose whispered.

The creatures did go to the garden. Melrose, Merwin, and Finn crept along at a distance. Distinct munching and slurping sounds were then heard. A full-moon was up but was covered by a cloud, so there wasn’t much light. Then, the cloud cleared the moon, and the crime scene was illuminated. Caught in the sudden moonlight were Wilde and Wilder Weasel. They were enjoying strawberries from Petunia’s garden and the sweet juice was dripping from their mouths.

The weasels lived just to the south of Petunia’s cottage. They spent most nights roaming around and checking on things as part of their guard duties. Tonight, it seems, they were checking on strawberries.

Melrose jumped up and said, “Caught you. Drop those strawberries.”

Everyone was startled including Melrose. The weasels dropped the strawberries and stood there looking sheepish. However, they quickly regained their composure when they realised who had caught them.

“We are on our rounds and stopped for a couple of strawberries. I don’t see any harm in that,” Wilde said.

“Do you have Mrs. Porcupine’s permission to eat her berries?” asked Melrose.

“Not exactly,” answered Wilder.

“Well, we must be going. We have a schedule to maintain,” said Wilde. Off they scampered.

Finn and the moles chuckled to each other as they walked back to their blankets. They wondered who was protecting whom and from what. The rest of the night passed uneventfully.