July 16, 2010

Piggy Hamlette Had a Farm

Prompt: On a prehistoric planet…there was a very modern…pig…who grew potatoes and squash…and had a pet dragon. Hamlette grunted, then rolled over and crawled out of bed. He stretched, then drowsily fixed his breakfast. By the time he was finished eating the luscious preserved vegetables he’d harvested last fall, he was wide awake and ready to jump hooves first into a new day. Kissing his mate goodbye, he closed the front door, and crept to the natural looking outer opening to his home cave. Hamlette cautiously poked his snout out of the cave, and took a deep, long smell of the outside world. Satisfied with the information returned to him through his sense of smell, he picked up a handful of small stones from a pile kept hear the cavern’s mouth for just this purpose, and tossed them out into the underbrush. When there was no response to the rattling stones, Hamlette dared to crawl out of the cave opening, cautiously creeping through the bushes until he was a goodly way from his home, then trotting openly yet carefully though the forest. Within a very short time he had reached the first of his farm fields, a beautiful meadow with a stream meandering through it. Near the stream, Hamlette had dug a few irrigation ditches to divert some of the stream’s water to his plantation, then return the excess to the main channel of the brook. He used his stone hoe to scrape some weeds from his irrigation system. The weeds loved the water as much as his crop plants did, and he was always having to clear his ditches of them when they threatened to choke off his water supply. The squash, beans, and corn that were planted every which way all mixed in together. Hamlette had discovered through experimentation that if you mixed all three plants together in the same plot, each of them would grow bigger and yield more fruit than if they were planted separately. He had no idea why this was so, but had come to the conclusion that the three plants simply liked growing in each other’s company. Hamlette uprooted a few weeds from among his crop plants and checked the downstream side of his irrigation system, weeding as he went. This plantation was doing well, and he moved on to the next. A few minutes at a fast trot took him to another plantation in the same meadow, this one with a much larger and more complicated irrigation system. The grain Hamlette grew here didn’t like soggy roots, but liked to be watered, then to dry its feet in between. The grain was planted above the level of the stream, and Hamlette had constructed a long tube with a specially carved twisted piece that nested in the tube, fitting perfectly. Hamlette tested the soil; it was dry enough to water the plants. He grabbed the crank handle and began turning it, allowing the screw at the other end of the tube to lift water from the stream and transport it through the tube where it spilled out into his small irrigation ditches. It took a long while to use the screw to lift enough water for all of his grain plants, but as he only had to do so once or twice in a week, it was well worth the effort, in light of the fine grains he grew. Some of the other pigs wondered how Hamlette had achieved such wondrous grains and fruit, but when he tried to explain his methods, and the careful observations behind them, everyone just scoffed at him and told him he was crazed. Hamlette shrugged to himself; he had plenty of food, not only to feed his family through all the months when things couldn’t be grown, but also to trade with the other pigs. So what if they thought he was a bit touched in the head? He was both well taken care of and wealthy, and his numerous children were bigger and smarter than the other piglets in the community, because of Hamlette’s careful observations and experimentations in agriculture. Once the grain was watered, Hamlette moved on. Because of the way he allowed the grain’s soil to dry, it would be much easier to take care of the weeds tomorrow while the soil was still soft from today’s irrigation. He made a note of the fact in his mind, that the grain should be weeded tomorrow. Hamlette’s next stop was a small portion of the next meadow over where the long green vines of his potatoes tangled together. He carefully rooted out the weeds here, and saw that they had the water they needed, and performed the same services for his hills of cucumbers and squashes. He next visited the small cave at the end of the valley, where the dragon lived. “Draco, my friend, how is it with you?” Hamlette always spoke respectfully and politely to the dragon, because dragons were well known for liking roast pig for their supper. “Hamlette, it has been a while since I have seen you. I do well, and the hunting is good in the valleys and mountains beyond your range.” “Is there anything I can provide for you, my friend?” “I have no needs at this time. You might want to know that I saw a few small dinosaurs in your lower meadow three days ago.” “I’ll have to do something about that. I don’t want my crops trampled.” “No need to worry, they were delicious.” “I am pleased that you have fared so well.” “I am grateful you have given me this cave for a home, and do not try to drive me out.” Hamlette shrugged. “We help each other. You keep predators from my land, so my crops can prosper, and I give you a place to live in peace. Truly, I feel that I have the better end of our agreement.” “I feel the same way, which makes it well for both of us.” “I will take my leave of you then. Fare well, until we meet again.” “And you also, my pig friend.” Hamlette turned and left the cave, returning toward his home though the waning light of the summer afternoon. He foraged among the roots of the trees for mushrooms, and checked the berries for their ripeness as he went. Burdened by a carry sack full of mushrooms, he returned to his home, passed through the outer cave, and then through the door into the very pleasant home his mate cared for. He handed her the mushrooms, and retired to the chamber deep within the mountain where there was water for washing. First he drew several large jars of water that would be clean, for drinking and cooking, and then he cleansed himself of the dirt he’d picked up in his honest day’s toil. He knew that some of today’s mushrooms would turn up in his diner tonight, and the rest of them would be dried and preserved against the winter months. Life was good.