Mrs. Porcupine's Garden

Part IV

A New Plan

Cleanup didn’t take long. Soon, Petunia was in the kitchen preparing dinner. With a few changes, the lunch she made earlier could be used. Meanwhile, Finn sat on the back porch and stared at the mud hole. He wondered what he could have done differently.

Around 6 bongs, Bartholomew flew over the cottage, circled, and landed near the garden.

He walked over to Finn. “Hello, Finn. I heard you had a setback with your water project. I’m sorry. However, I don’t think I have ever seen a project that didn’t require some changes after it started. Your idea to bring water to the garden from the pond was brilliant.”

Finn looked up and said, “ Do you really think so, sir?”

“Absolutely,” said Bartholomew. “The plan just needs some modifying.”

Finn smiled. “Thank you, sir. “What can we do?”

He was starting to feel a little better.

“First, let’s go have dinner, and we can talk about it,” Bartholomew said.

Bartholomew put his wing around Finn, and they walked inside together. After they sat down for dinner, Finn apologised to Petunia.

“Mrs. Porcupine, I’m sorry for the trouble I’ve caused you,” he said.

“Thank you, Finn. Things don’t always happen the way we plan. I know your intentions were good,” she responded graciously.

“Finn had a good idea,” said Bartholomew. “Correction! He had two good ideas. I believe, if we combine them with some modifications, you will have water flowing to your garden. With your permission, of course.”

Petunia had a lot of confidence in Bartholomew and said, “That would be wonderful, thank you.”

“Finn’s first idea was to dig a trench, and his second idea was to dig a tunnel. A tunnel is just a covered trench. I will explain. First, we can dig a narrow trench about two feet deep from the pond to the garden. Then, we will mount a hand-pump on your trough. A small pipe can be run in the trench from the pump to the pond. After everything is connected and tested, the trench can be covered. Then, you will be able to pump water from the pond into the trough,” Bartholomew explained.

“That plan sounds better and easier than mine, but where will we get the pipe and pump?” asked Finn.

“I will ask the swans to locate the equipment, although I don’t know how long it will take them. I’ll visit on my way home this evening,” said Bartholomew. “You should continue to supervise the construction. It’s still your project.”

Finn was pleased with the new plan and happy that he would still play an important role.

They finished dinner and walked out to the pond. The sun was setting, and it was a beautiful evening. Petunia felt much better now that Bartholomew was involved.

“How’s the boat project coming along?” she enquired.

“Very well, thank you. We are on schedule, and there have been no major problems, but a lot remains to be done,” he answered.

“Well, I must leave and visit the swans. It was nice seeing you again Petunia.”

After everyone said goodbye, Bartholomew flew across the pond to meet with the swans. Finn began to walk home, and Petunia returned to her cottage. She placed more sesame seeds for the ants and settled down with some knitting in the parlour.

The swans lived in a medium-sized cottage in middle of the island. They had cleared a large area around the cottage so that they had plenty of landing and takeoff room for their frequent flights. This was also the location of the island weather flag pole.

At the risk of repeating myself, the swans’ main responsibilities were to locate items needed in Ballymore by the residents. They have found special foods, cloth, tools, and more. The list was practically endless. Sometimes they flew as far as fifty miles to obtain what was needed. It was not known exactly how they got these various items. Most of what they brought back was not new, so perhaps they visited dumps frequently. The food, of course, was fresh. Only Bartholomew knew some of the details of their trips.

Over the years, the swans have helped Bartholomew with a number of community projects. They have become close friends and would be pleased with his unexpected visit.

Stoddard was in the front yard, modifying a halter, when the owl landed near him.

“Hi, Bart, good to see you again. What brings you here this grand evening?” asked Stoddard.

“Good to see you also,” replied Bartholomew. “I came to talk with you and Sean about an interesting procurement project.”

Stoddard laughed and said, “All of your procurement projects are interesting. Sean has gone on a quick egg hunt. At least, I hope it’s quick. What’s your project about?”

“We are building a water distribution system at Petunia’s cottage. We need about two hundred feet of one-inch diameter pipe. Each section of pipe can be as long as you can carry, but one section should be two feet long. We need connectors for each section and four elbows. We also need a small hand-pump to which the pipe will connect. With those parts, we can build a system to pump water from the pond to Petunia’s garden. It could be a difficult hunt, but I have a couple of ideas that should make your search easier.” (If you are wondering, the swans are able to count.)

“Very interesting,” said Stoddard. “We can start looking tomorrow morning.”

“That would be wonderful,” said Bartholomew, and he told Stoddard his ideas about where to locate everything.

“I’m sorry, but I must be going now,” said Bartholomew after they had discussed all of the details.

“The boat is taking most of my time, and there is still a lot to do. Please say hello to Sean for me. I’m sorry I missed him. Oh, when you get the parts, please deliver them to Petunia’s cottage, and send me a message. I really appreciate your help, as always.”

“Yes. We’ll be most happy to. See you again soon, I hope,” Stoddard said.

After a quick hug Bartholomew flew off to his home. He spent the rest of the evening working on boat construction details.

When Petunia went to check on her sesame seeds the following morning, the result was the same. The ants had taken the seeds and left the dish turned right-side up. There was an arrangement, she believed.

Following breakfast and cleaning, today would be another day in the garden. There were a lot of strawberries ready to be picked. She didn’t know when the swans would find the pipe and pump, so she might as well continue her normal routine. Seely arrived to open the bakery counter, and Petunia went out to the garden. It seemed as if the strawberry plants had grown another two inches overnight. She hoped the residents would like strawberry pie this year.

She had been picking strawberries for about one-half hour when she thought she noticed some movement out of the corner of her right eye. She turned and looked but didn’t see anything immediately. Then, about ten feet away at the base of a strawberry plant, she noticed a large gathering of ants. That was curious, she thought and continued to watch.

The ant gathering broke into two smaller groups. The first group of about twenty-five began to climb the plant. Ants don’t eat strawberries. What are they up to? What are they up to, indeed?

Resting on the top leaf were two bugs enjoying their breakfast of strawberry leaves. As the ants climbed higher, the bugs quickly dropped breakfast and jumped off of the plant. The ants were now on every leaf. The second group of ants took over the next plant in the same way. More ants appeared, split into groups of about twenty-five, and each group climbed a plant. Any bugs, who were on a plant, quickly jumped for their lives or flew away. Petunia could not believe what she was seeing and was flabbergasted. It took a while, but eventually the ants were protecting about a hundred plants. After bugs were driven from a plant, most ants left that plant. Two remained as guards. She was watching a highly trained and effective army in action. If the weasels had been there, they would have been very impressed.

Petunia was amazed. She had a new weapon against the bugs. Apparently, it was the ants’ way of saying thank you for the sesame seeds. She wanted to hug each one of them, but that wasn’t possible. At least she would double the amount of seeds she left each evening. She would also be more careful where she stepped. This would be a day to remember, and it wasn’t over yet. After she retired, the swans delivered about twenty pieces of small pipe, fittings, elbows, and a pump. They set everything next to the trough.

Early the next day, Britt Bluebird flew to Bartholomew’s treehouse and informed him of the late-night delivery. He was delighted that the swans had been so successful, so quickly. He then sent messages to Finn, Melrose and Merwin asking them to meet him at Petunia’s at 10 bongs.

Everyone converged upon the cottage at the requested time. Finn brought with him Colin, Conner and Craig Chipmunk. They were also good diggers. Petunia was pleased to see everyone and served a light breakfast. She told them about the ants, and they were as amazed as she.

After breakfast, plan B of the water project began. Bartholomew marked a line from the pond to the trough. Finn had the moles and chipmunks begin digging the new two-foot deep trench. Finn, again, was the dirt mover. Digging the trench proved to be much easier than the tunnel. By late afternoon it was complete, and water from the pond ran up the trench about half way to the trough.

While the trench was being dug, Bartholomew worked on the water pump. It was old and rusty and needed attention. Happily, Petunia had a lot of odds and ends in her storage shed. Bartholomew used some sandpaper and oil to free up the pump’s moving parts. Then, he bolted it securely to the trough. Its spigot pointed inward. The pump was ready.

The next step was pipe assembly. The animals attached a short section of vertical pipe to the pump inlet. Then, they connected about eighty feet of pipe sections and rolled the finished piece into the trench. One end was joined to the pipe that came from the pump. They connected another eighty foot length of pipe and rolled it into the water-filled part of the trench. Where it entered the pond, it was two feet underwater. Finally, the two long pipes were joined together. Done!

The new water system was now ready for testing. Everyone gathered at the pump.

Bartholomew said, “Petunia, would you like the honour of turning on the first water distribution system in Ballymore?”

“Thank you, but I think Finn should have that honour,” she said.

The pump lever was too high for Finn to reach, so Bartholomew placed a short stool next to the pump. Finn smiled and jumped up onto it.

“Just keep pumping the lever up and down until water comes out. It might take a while,” said Bartholomew.

Finn began pumping the lever. Nothing happened for about thirty seconds. Then, some gurgling was heard. Then, some spurts of water shot from the spigot. Finally, a strong flow of cool water gloriously gushed from the spigot and splashed into the trough. Initially, there was some mud in the water, but it quickly cleared. The animals cheered. The mood was jubilant. The project was a wonderful success.

After a few minutes of congratulations, Bartholomew said that they needed to make sure there were no leaks. They found none, and the trench was quickly filled. Bartholomew placed some markers along it in case repairs were needed in the future.

Petunia invited everyone in for a celebration dinner. The satisfied animals left at sunset with full stomachs.

Before she went to bed, Petunia went back to the pump and filled the trough to overflowing. She laughed with glee. She felt like a child again as the fresh, clear water splashed over the edges.