Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Peep and Rudy were both in the garden, gently poking at the leaves of the turnip plant. It had been more than the time the package had said, and still there were no turnips. “I don’t get it, Peep,” said Rudy. The tomatoes and eggplants and everything else in this garden grew just fine this year, but all these stupid plants did was have leaves, and some sorry excuses for flowers! No turnips, not even tiny ones. How can we keep Mommy home if we can’t grow our own turnips?”

Peep looked mournfully at the plants. “I don’t know, Rudy. We made sure they were watered, and believe me, that wasn’t easy when Daddy stopped watering the tomatoes. We weeded around them to make sure that they didn’t get choked by weeds. Almost all of them survived, even the ones we hid on the edge of the lawn and mixed in with the flowers, but not a single turnip! It’s not like we don’t know what we’re looking for. The package had a beautiful picture of a turnip on it, so it’s not like we missed any. These plants are good for nothing.” Peep kicked at a clump of dirt in frustration.

“Maybe there is something we didn’t know about for turnips. I’ll look them up on the internet when Daddy goes to work today. I’ll bet there are articles on growing turnips all over the internet. I’ll have to sift through dozens, and I’ll find just what we need.” Rudy began to feel better. She hated not being in control of a situation, and these turnips were far beyond her control. The leaves looked beautiful still, but good grief, she was expecting at least four inch turnips out of this deal. Tomato plants could produce dozens of tomatoes – was it too much to expect a silly turnip plant to grow at least three or four?

When Jay finally left, Rudy and Peep ran into the house. “Phew – it still smells like that Junior in here, doesn’t it? There’s nothing worse than the stench of dog.” Rudy had truly disliked Junior invading the house, and hadn’t found got to know him at all, as Peep had.

“Oh, he was just a miserable and lonely dog, Rudy. He’d had too much pain in his life, and thought he was abandoned, yet again. He wasn’t that bad, and I also heard the Mommy say that he was sick too by the time he got home. That’s not to say that I like dogs, it’s just that he had his own problems that made him so disagreeable.” Peep knew she wouldn’t convince Rudy, but felt she needed to defend Junior, knowing what she did about him.

Rudy jumped up onto the chair and found that Jay had left the computer on. He almost never did that, but he’d received an emergency call and had run out quickly. Rudy grabbed the mouse and opened the internet browser. “Turnips, turnips. Hmmm. If I put in ‘grow turnips’ let’s see what comes up. Ah! Here’s a site from the University of Illinois Extension, whatever that is. Uh-oh.” Rudy turned and looked at Peep. “I think our turnips may be just fine, Peep. Look at this picture.”

Jumping up onto the desk, Peep skidded into the keyboard and scattered papers before she got her footing. She settled herself, trying to look as though her acrobatic recovery was intended all along, but Rudy wasn’t even looking. Rudy stared at the screen with her mouth wide open. Peep followed her gaze, and her jaw dropped too. “The turnips are UNDERGROUND? What are they doing down there? How could you ever tell they were ready to be picked, or dug up or whatever you do to get them out of the ground?”

Rudy had the answer for that. “It says here that we should harvest fall turnips in early autumn, and that’s what it is now. We can start with one and see if it looks done, and if it is we can dig more up. What a gyp, though. Each plant only has one lousy turnip at the bottom. What’s with that? Even the eggplants grow more than that!”

The cats jumped down and headed out to their turnip patch. They inspected each plant, loosening the soil around the base of the stalks to see which ones looked the largest. They all looked about the same, so Rudy and Peep carefully dug the dirt out around the round white roots of one plant. When it was mostly exposed, Rudy tried taking the stalks in her mouth to pull it out. “Eeeeeww! This tastes terrible! It tastes as bad as dogs smell. Ick, ick, ick. I’m not putting that in my mouth again. These darn things can rot in the ground for all I care.” Rudy sat down and began to groom herself to get the taste out of her mouth.

Examining the plant, Peep dug a little more and tried rocking the turnip. It definitely was moving, but didn’t seem ready to roll up out of its hole. “Maybe if we dug a little more and then used our claws to drag it out the rest of the way it would work. It’s not like we are trying to move a car – it’s only a turnip.”

So, the two cats dug and pulled, and then dug and pulled some more. Finally the turnip popped loose with a tearing sound and both cats went flying, followed by a white turnip. Rudy announced, “that’s a lot of work for an ugly vegetable. It better keep Mommy from running off to those turnips in Virginia. She can do whatever she wants to this turnip, because I’m leaving this one be.”

“We’re not done yet, Rudy. Let’s get a few more, and then we’ll put them on Mommy’s desk where she’ll see them as soon as she comes in. I don’t think we should put them in the kitchen. Daddy might just cut them up and cook them, and since we never did figure out what Mommy actually does with the turnips, I think they should be just as they are when we pull them up. That way she can make satellites out of them, or cook them or write papers about them.” As Peep talked she worked the soil loose around a second turnip.

It took them a good hour to get four turnips out of the ground. They laid them all in a row and took a bit of a rest. Then it was time to get them inside. Rudy flatly refused to pick up the turnips in her mouth, and Peep didn’t want to carry them all in by herself. They compromised with Rudy rolling the turnips to the deck, and then Peep carried each in through the cat door and deposited them, one at a time, on Mommy’s desk. She had to back through the cat door since the turnip leaves were so large, and they did taste pretty horrible, but if the Mommy liked them, it was worth it. Exhausted, Peep curled up on the bed when it was all done, and was asleep within minutes.

When Mary Rose got home she found the turnips on her desk, along with a trail of dirty paw prints. She’d actually followed the dirty paw prints from where they crossed the kitchen in to the office, wondering what, exactly, the cats had gotten into. She sat down on the chair with a thump. What in the world was going on? Had Jay left them on the desk, and the cats come to investigate? That made little sense – he’d put them in the kitchen, not on her desk, and he didn’t even like turnips, anyway. But where would the cats get turnips, and more to the point, why would they give them to her? Was this their way of getting back to her for letting Junior come over? No, they looked more like a gift.

Mary Rose turned her in her chair and saw Miss Rudy and Peep both staring intently at her. Peep peeped and Miss Rudy cocked her head as though to say, “Well?”

“Ah, thank you very much for these turnips, ladies, if you were the ones who gave them to me.” That seemed to go over very well. Rudy’s tail and ears perked up, and Peep trilled delightedly. “They’re, um, just what I needed. I really needed some turnips, and, ah, didn’t know where I’d have to go to find some. You’re the answer to my prayers.” She reached down and stroked Peep, who rubbed up against her leg, and then smoothed Rudy’s long luxurious fur. Both stayed with her for loving for a few minutes and then headed back to their interrupted naps.

When Jay came in for dinner he asked Mary Rose if she’d been digging in the garden. There seemed to be a number of holes in the garden that hadn’t been there when he left for an emergency call late in the morning. Mary Rose shook her head and just said that it must have been the cats, harvesting the fall turnip crop. Jay, thinking that she was being sarcastic didn’t answer until she put a bowl of mashed turnips on the table and said, “And here they are, courtesy of Miss Rudy and the Peep.”

Photo courtesy of Coleman and Caroline -

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