This early in the year, their garden wasn’t much. A clear rectangle of soil, surrounded by a border of snow. Peachy had cleared it off one moon ago, after the last heavy snow of the season had fallen, and gotten to work planting.
Carrots, beets, kale—those could all survive the chill if she kept their leaves warm at night, so she patiently covered them with straw every evening and then brushed it off in the morning, letting the leaves receive a little sun.
Red spent his time out in the barn, preparing their tools and implements for spring. The teeth on the spring harrow needed sharpening, all the gears and axles needed to be lubricated, and their muck wagon badly needed to be re-decked, although that was a project that could wait until later if it had to.
Satisfied that all was well, that the few cold-hearty weeds had been dealt with, Peachy nosed the straw back in place and walked to their house to begin dinner.
She scraped her hooves clean on the mat, grabbed a couple of split logs with her teeth and balanced them on her back as she crossed the threshold into their house. The kitchen stove stayed burning all day in the wintertime to supplement the heat given off by the fireplace.
After dinner, Peachy banked the fire in the stove while Red washed up. She nuzzled his cheek, he booped her nose with a soapy hoof, and the pair retired to the main room of the house.
They had a coffee table that had been covered for much of the winter in sketches of their fields, scraps of paper labeled with seed varieties, seed catalogs which had come in the mail, and a dog-eared weather almanac. A farmer’s puzzle: which crops to plant, in which order, in order to take best advantage of the soil, the sun and the rain.
Now that the seeds were ordered and there was nothing to do but wait for Winter Wrap-Up.
“Got us something.” Red tugged open the credenza drawer. “When I was in Ponyville last market day, Spilsberry had a fretsaw painting for sale.”
He nodded. “It’s a map of all of Equestria, but all cut up and mixed up.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just buy a map that wasn’t cut up?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” He pulled the box out with his teeth and carried it over to the table, then dumped it out. “All the settlements is labeled.”
Peachy looked at the pieces, scattered around the table. “Sure is a lot of desert, I didn’t think there was that much desert in all of Equestria.”
“Them are upside down.” Red turned it over, revealing a dissected swamp.
Neither of them had ever assembled a puzzle before, and the two debated strategy. Both quickly found the pieces for Ponyville and Canterlot and assembled that small region of Equestria, but then were at a loss. Neither of them knew where Las Pegasus was, nor Seattle, nor Horseshoe Bay.
Peachy decided that since the border pieces were distinctive, it would be easiest to build them first and work in from there, while Red preferred working out from Ponyville.
Winter Wrap-Up morning dawned bright and clear, and neither of them had time to add a few more pieces to the puzzle before getting ready to work. She checked the garden while he went into the barn and got their plows and harnesses squared away.
Both ponies were more than familiar with the tasks at hoof; they barely paid attention as Mayor Mare gave her annual pep-talk, or as Twilight and Amethyst Star gave out assignments.
By noon, Ponyville was clear, the snow all dumped on the banks of the reservoir. Now country ponies returned to their fields, accompanied by the townponies. Fields were plowed off, soil was turned and prepared for planting, Luna’s moon illuminating as they worked into the night.
Red and Peachy shrugged their harnesses off in the barn and trudged back to the house, scraping their hooves before crossing the threshold. Red covered a yawn, and Peachy pulled the door shut behind them.
“Rain’s scheduled.” Red tilted his muzzle skyward. “Don’t like it, been talking to some of the other farmers, nopony likes it. It’s a new idea from Cloudsdale, they say. Rain’ll melt off the last of the snow that got forgotten.”
“The ground’s still half-frozen, and what’s not frozen is saturated with snowmelt!”
“Gonna be a lot of angry ponies in a couple days,” Red said. “Somepony might get herself tarred and de-feathered.”
There wasn’t much she could do to protect her garden. As the rains started, Peachy harvested the beets and carrots which were mature, and a few day’s worth of kale—there was no point in taking more, it would wilt before it could be eaten. She thought about making sandbags with the burlap sacks that they had in the barn, but knew that her plants could survive a few days underwater if they had to.
“Stay strong,” she told her plants. “It will only be for a few days.”
She’d just finished making dinner when Red came trudging in. “Water’s at the top of the dam, and—”
“Did you scrape your hooves on the way in?”
“Red Hyslop Apple, you know better than that. You weren’t raised in a barn.”
He thought about saying that when the farm inevitably flooded, muddy hoofprints on the floor would be the least of their problems, but his father had always said ‘happy wife, happy life.’
“Applejack’s already making a stink about it,” he said, when he sat down at the dinner table. “And I ran into your friend Lavender on her way to complain to the mayor, I guess some of the low-lying areas have already started to flood, and that’s without the dam overtopping.”
Peachy rolled her eyes. “Lavender’s fields flood every spring, that’s why her soil’s so good. If I thought floodwater’d uproot all the rocks in the south field, I’d be hoping we did, too.”
“Her field might flood, but her shed usually doesn’t.”
“It’s that bad?”
Red nodded. “I heard the pegasi are stopping the rain, but they’re too late, they’ve already passed the threshold, water’s still running into the reservoir and snow’s still melting and there’s already a trickle over the top. Some of the ponies in low-lying areas have already left their houses to stay with friends or family. I’m going to take the wagon back, load it up with burlap sacks, and we’ll try and get a little more freeboard.”
“You want some help?”
“You stay here. Worst happens, use your best judgment on what you can move, what you can get above the water. We’re high enough we should be okay.”
Peachy leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you.”
She’d moved all that she could, she’d gone to the garden and given it another pep-talk, and she’d seen the moonlight reflecting off low spots in the forest and fields as the water crept in. Slowly, stealthy, like a thief in the night, inevitable and unstoppable.
Peachy knew the farmhouse and could navigate it on the darkest night, but tonight she wanted the comfort of a hurricane lamp.
When Red got home, he’d be hungry. Soup was warm and filling, soup could simmer on the stove for hours more yet. Soup didn’t occupy her attention nearly enough.
She watched out the window as the rising water inundated her garden, and for a while it was still visible by the plants sticking up above the water and then they were gone, too.
As the water crept across the threshold, Peachy nosed another puzzle piece into place, finally completing the Unicorn Range. The front door was open—there was little point in closing it; it wouldn’t keep the water out—and she could see torches and lanterns and lit windows in the distance, all across Ponyville and the surrounding fields. A few pegasi zipped around the skies, but most of them were gone and she could hardly blame them.
Out in the fields, a silhouette of a bulky stallion, wagon behind. She could see the ripples around him as he pulled, like a boat in the water. He waved, and she waved back, then waded across their porch and down into the floodwater. Her hooves were wet anyway.
She caught up to Red at the barn, and after he’d backed the wagon into its spot, helped him unhitch and unharness.
“Dam failed,” he said simply. “Hole opened, ate up all the sandbags and rocks we tossed in. Pepperstep’s house is gone, it was right in the path and didn’t stand a chance. Smashed to flinders.”
“Always said she was a fool for building there.” The two of them started wading back to the house. “Mayor ought to make the weatherpony who thought of the rain go and find every board. You want some soup? I made a pot.”
He paused at the threshold and rubbed his hooves across the mat before stepping inside. Peachy stuck her tongue out at him.