By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Solomon Nassim El-Charif grunted as he pushed the heavy wheelbarrow down the garden path. Again! He was getting really tired of this wheelbarrow!

Still, this was an exciting day. Today he had begun his very own garden. Mother had told him clear back at the beginning of the Great Garden Project, as Susannah called it, that he could have a little garden of his own. But he had been so busy helping in the main garden that he was just now beginning his own.

He and Susannah and Matt had dug up all the grass and weeds and put them in the wheelbarrow. Solly was taking them to the compost pile.

Next they dug up every inch of dirt and loosened it up. Papa had offered to dig up Solly’s garden with the big tiller. But the garden was small, and Solly wanted to do it all himself—with the help of his friends, that is, but no grown-ups. So Susannah hacked away with a sharp hoe, and Solly swung a mattock (far away from the other two), and Matt jumped on the garden fork with both feet to make it go deep into the rich, brown dirt. Solly loved the smell and the dirt on his hands and the worms and the birds that came to eat the worms. He decided he liked everything about gardening, even the sweat! Even the wheelbarrow!

“Ouch!” He rubbed his palm. Maybe not the blisters.

“Oof!” Matt grunted. “Help me get this root!”

All three took a firm grip on the root and tugged. Part of it came up.

“This thing goes on forever!” Matt exclaimed.

They tugged until they fell over backwards and lay on the ground panting. “I think,” Susannah said breathlessly, “there are kids in China pulling on the other end of this root!”

They laughed.

“Let’s cut it,” Solly decided, reaching for the mattock.

“Careful,” Susannah warned. “When that thing suddenly lets go, the kids in China will fly backwards!”

Hours and hours later, or maybe only one or two, they smoothed the surface of the garden with a rake. Now for the really fun part!

Susannah pushed sticks into the ground at the end of each row. Matt tied strings to the sticks to mark long, straight lines. Solly carefully dragged the tip of a trowel along under the strings, making shallow furrows as straight as the strings. He looked back. Almost as straight as the strings.

Then he sat on the ground and got out all his seed packets. He had picked them based on what he liked to eat. There were packets of green beans, corn, pumpkins, miniature lettuce, and spaghetti squash. He didn’t know what that was, but it sounded cool. He also had packets of flowers and a little tray of tomato plants. Carefully, following the directions on each packet (and depending on Susannah’s garden experience), they got everything planted.

Now it was time to water. While he held the hose, Solly admired his tidy, brown garden. He could just imagine how it would look all green and lush, with vegetables and flowers popping out everywhere.

It was a hot day, so more got soaked than just the garden. The squealing and shouting brought the rest of Susannah’s brothers over from next door to join in the fun.

“Time to get washed for supper!” Mrs. Moore called.

“I’m already clean!” Solly called back, squishing his way to the door.

Mrs. Moore eyed him. “Shower,” was all she said.

Solly waved Goodbye to the Farmer children and went inside.

The next day after school, Solly rushed to check on his garden. Still brown. Well, he knew it took time. Look at Mother’s garden!

The next day was the last day of school. Solly came home rejoicing and ran to look at his garden. Still brown. And the next day.

Solly spent a lot of his time next door at the Farmer’s. He rode the Farmer’s horses and showed them how English-style riding was done. He and Sara had both had riding lessons for years. Now that they lived in the country, they would soon get their own horses.

Susannah and Matt had never seen such a funny little saddle except at a distance at the fair. They rode western style, in great big saddles.

Solly’s garden was still brown.

He played with Daisy’s kids. They were getting big. They looked so funny running around in circles and bouncing up in the air as if their legs were made of rubber. There was a new litter of kittens in the barn too. Solly’s parents said he could have one! He picked out a black and white one and named it Sinbad.

It rained and his garden turned to mud. The kitten thought it made a great litter box! Solly shouted “No, Sinbad!” so loudly that Sinbad was frightened and ran back to the farm. Solly had to go get him. “How long does it take for stuff to come up?” he asked Susannah.

She counted on her fingers the days since they had planted Solly’s garden. “Any day now. And remember,” she added teasingly, “people in God’s family wait patiently together!”

“Well, I guess He is the One making my garden grow, isn’t He?” Solly smiled, trying to feel patient.

The next day was Sabbath, and there was a potluck. Kenya’s family asked Papa, Mr. Patterson, and Aunt Rose a lot of questions about the Sabbath, so Solly didn’t get home until late in the afternoon.

Still brown.

Sunday came. Solly was so busy helping everyone work in the big garden that he forgot to check his own until afternoon. Then he set up such a racket of whooping and yelling that Mother came running in a panic, with everyone else behind her.

“It’s green! Look!” Solly shouted, dancing around the edges of his garden.

“You scared me to death!” Mother scolded in Arabic.

“What’s green?” Matt asked.

“There! Look closer!” Solly pointed.

They looked down at the brown garden. There, under one of the strings, was a tidy row of tiny green leaves.

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