Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

And again….

Posted on | January 29, 2017 | 1 Comment

I knew it was coming.  It always does.  The kids were excited.  The Other Half got the generator running.  My dad reminded me that if we ran the generator every month like we were supposed it wouldn’t always be broken when we needed it.  Although he is beginning to give this lecture to Big because he has given up on my generation.

I filled water pitchers in the kitchen for drinking and a water trough outside for toilet water.  Perhaps you associate ‘toilet water’ with eau de toilette or the old fashioned name of perfume.  Nope.  ’Toilet water’ has to do with living in the country with a well pump.  A well pump that only works when the electricity is working.  Figure it out.

Then I filled the woodpile next to the house.  With the little pieces for during the day on one side and the big pieces for at night on the other.  So that you wouldn’t have to pull the whole pile apart to get what you need.  See, there is some hope for my generation.

Then the snow arrived as promised and I spent the next few days, snowbound, and reading, watching the birds at the birdfeeder, and doing a puzzle.  Because apparently I am a 70 year old woman living inside in a 44 year old woman’s body.  (Also, because those things keep my mind off the piles of wet clothes by the woodstove and the trails of slush tracked all through the house.)

But all that wasn’t what I knew was coming.  It was the aftermath.  The mud.

Mud season is tough for me.  Perhaps you get Seasonal Affective Disorder from lack of sunshine.  We get enough sunshine here, but in the country the snow, ice, and winter rain is followed by the kind of mud that tries to steal my soul.  During mud season I hate my yard and my barn because I am forced to wear boots or feel mud oozing between my toes in flip flops.  My feet feel like they are being tortured or even worse, like they live up north, when I have to wear something other flip flips.  I hate my children and my pets because they insist on bringing all that mud inside.  Constantly.  I mean, they will traipse right past me with muddy shoes on when I am standing with the mop in my hand.  And I really, really, really hate my driveway.

The only safe place is, ironically, the garden.  Oh there’s plenty of dirt in the garden.  But it sits on a slight south-facing slope so the water drains away and the sun shines in.  Also, there’s always something growing in the garden–even if it’s just chickweed—and sucking up the water.  So it’s generally a mud-free zone.

But it’s not a work-free zone.  I always leave my plants up after the last frost.  Because I don’t have an HOA that makes me tear that mess down.  And because I know at some point during the mud season, I need a chance to get away from the muddy floors in my house, the muck in the barn, and feel solid ground under my feet.  Because I might need to think about something other than the crack across my entire windshield which absolutely did not, could not, certainly did not happen when the kids were scraping my window for me after the snow storm.  Impossible.

When the sun finally broke out and the temps were in the  60’s I set out to the garden to see what needed to be done.  The 60’s feel amazing after snow and ice.  It’s hard to even watch where you’re walking when you’re taking in the bright blue skies.

Even the koi came out to get a peek.

Some of the garden was OK.  My rows covers will protect veggies down to 20 degrees.  But quite a few veggies actually survived the snow and temps down to 0 degrees.

I almost pulled up the mushy remains of broccoli but I spotted mini-brocoli heads trying to regrow.  Well, let’s be honest.  I pulled up a bunch of broccoli plants before I noticed the mini-broccoli heads. So I left the ones in place that I hadn’t already murdered by yanking them up and throwing them in the scraps pile.

The cabbage was a loss.

But the catmint was flourishing without any protection at all.  In a cool range of hues and an invigorating scent every time you brushed against it.

The rest of the garden was a shambles.

I originally left the remaining peppers in place in the hopes that they would dry on the plants.  And because Little already complains about the “rotting veggies” hanging in the kitchen window.  Drying peppers inside isn’t aesthetically pleasing to him.  Aw.  Poor thing.

I also left the peppers in the garden because I couldn’t pick one more pepper.  Not.  One.  More.  But my plan didn’t work out.  The peppers didn’t look nice and dried out as much as wilted and mushy.

So they came up with the rest of the frost-killed plants.  The tomatoes, the eggplants, the melon and squash vines, the sunflower stalks.  Even the okra.  Although the okra had some nice dried seeds in the pods which I saved for next year.  So you can dry okra seeds right on the plants.

Everything went into a burn pile outside of the garden gate for Big.

Then I went back to to get the millions of twine snippets attached to the cattle panel.  Trellising tomatoes to cattle panels is a great idea and the twine is free from the hay rolls in the barn.  But eventually the twine frays, falls off the panels onto the ground, and tries to assassinate the lawn mower.  So I have to cut off the twine and toss it in the brush pile for burning.  It’s a lot of little pieces.

A lot of a lot.

Sometimes there’s nothing to do but get to doing.  So I worked my way down the rows, cutting off the snippets, dropping the twine into the wheelbarrow, listening to my walkman, and basking in the sun on my face.  Eventually I accidentally cut the cords to my ear buds.  Which would have been upsetting except it happens regularly in the garden.  That’s why I only use dollar store ear buds when I’m working in the garden with scissors.  Know thy weaknesses, people.  Know thy weaknesses.

Next I went back to gather my tomato waterers.  The waterers were just milk jugs stuck upside down next to the tomato plants.  The jugs enabled me to deep water the tomatoes without splashing the leaves or spending hours running the hose.  I considered carefully rinsing them out but then I decided the winter rains could finish that job for me.  Winter rains should be good for something.  So I just hung them with a bungee cord to the fence for next season.

With the brush gone, the twine removed, and the waterers out of the way, I went back and raked out the rows.  Which were loaded with loose peppers; they were all over the garden.

I added them to the burn pile before it dawned on me.  Burning all those peppers was probably a homemade recipe for pepper spray.  I’m not exactly sure how to fix that dilemma.  Goggles?  Gas mask?  Light the burn pile and run away?  Why does everything get so complicated so quickly?

At least the newly cleaned and raked rows were enough to steal back huge chunks of my soul from the driveway mud.

It was like mopping the floors without watching anyone walk back over them in muddy shoes.  Right in front of you.

Looking at the rake marks was like my own personal zen garden.

With all the debris gone, I started laying out my garden tarps to cover the empty rows and protect the beds from the creeping invasion of chickweed.  I held the tarps in place with rocks from my rock pile.  The garden grows rocks just as well as veggies, sometimes even better.  All year long I pile them in the corner of the garden and then retrieve them as needed.  I keep my rock bucket next to them.  The rock bucket is a just an old bucket that has some holes so it can’t be used for water anymore.  But the bottom is not too rusted out to carry rocks.

It’s hard to describe how much I like the rock bucket.  It’s just so simple.  It’s not as heavy as a wheelbarrow full of rocks.  It makes a wonderful thunk sound when you drop rocks into it.  It has a delightful swing to it when you walk.  And that broken down bucket reminds me of a song my mother used to sing to me when I was a child called “Hole in the bucket.”

There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Eliza, dear Eliza! There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Eliza, A HOLE!

Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, FIX IT!

With what shall I fix it, dear Eliza, dear Eliza With what shall I fix it, dear Eliza, WITH WHAT!

With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, WITH STRAW!

The straw is too long, dear Eliza, dear Eliza The straw is too long, dear Eliza, TOO LONG!

Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, CUT IT!

With what shall I cut it, dear Eliza, dear Eliza With what shall I cut it, dear Eliza, WITH WHAT!

With a knife, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry With a knife, dear Henry, dear Henry, A KNIFE!

The knife is too dull, dear Eliza, dear Eliza The knife is too dull, dear Eliza, TOO DULL!

Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, SHARPEN IT!

With what shall I sharpen it, dear Eliza, dear Eliza With what shall I sharpen it, dear Eliza, WITH WHAT!

With a rock, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry With a rock, dear Henry, dear Henry, A ROCK!

The rock is too dry, dear Eliza, dear Eliza The rock is too dry, dear Eliza, TOO DRY!

Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, WET IT!

With what shall I wet it, dear Eliza, dear Eliza With what shall I wet it, dear Eliza, WITH WHAT!

With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, WAAATER!

With what shall I fetch it, dear Eliza, dear Eliza With what shall I fetch it, dear Eliza, WITH WHAT!

With a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry With a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, BUUUCKET!

BUT…There’s a hole in the bucket dear Eliza, dear Eliza There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Eliza, A HOLE! and then it repeats…

It’s a lovely little ditty that passes the time when you’ve cut the ear buds to your walkman and you’re hauling rocks around the garden.  Apparently I am a 4 year old preschooler inside a 44 year old woman’ s body.
Finally, I attached the climbing roses’ new growth to the garden fence.
Oh, there’s still a lot of work to be done.  I need to haul down tons of compost from the barn yard.  All I had was a tiny pile of chicken poop that I have been piling in the garden all winter.  It was only enough to cover my shortest row.  But, oh, it was glorious!
Whatever rows don’t get compost will need to be turned by shovel.  And after Big burns the brush pile (and the pepper spray  disperses) I need him to help me burn back weeds along the fence line and fruit trees.
But that’s OK.  There will probably be more snow.  There will definitely be more mud.  And, thank goodness,  there will be more sun.  So I’ll need more work days in the garden.  When  I gathered my sweatshirt and my walkman and my tools to go, I looked back at the garden.
I’ve seen this view times than I can remember.  With one season cleared away and another one about to begin.  I have done the same chores—-haul away debris, cut twine, rake, spread tarps—-again and again and again.  And the chores ahead of me are ones that I have done again and again and again.  But it is still so wonderfully new.  Every single time.  And it is still so full of possibilities.  Every single time.
The garden always lets me start fresh.  Which is why I garden.
Also, because during the next burst of cold weather, I get to stay inside ordering seed packets for the greenhouse.
Image result for seed packets
Which makes me a 44 year old gardener in a 44 year old woman’s body.  Just about right.

Comments

One Response to “And again….”

  1. Lisa D
    January 30th, 2017 @ 7:15 am

    “Listening to my walkman….” :)

    You have me rolling!

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