Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

What’s it worth to you?

Posted on | June 5, 2012 | 7 Comments

Everything has a value.  Which isn’t necessarily what something costs in the store.  After all, the seeds for these newly sprouted annuals and perennials were only $1 per pack.

But by the time I used the hoe to remove all the weeds from the new flower bed, Middle carried over buckets of compost to amend the soil, Pretty gradually worked her way down the row pressing in the endless packs of seeds, and Little pushed in 80 feet of border fencing to protect everything from being trampled by the guineas, those seeds were a bit more valuable.  Certainly valuable enough that we didn’t want to let them wither and die when the rains from Beryl dried up.

Besides, I had high hopes for all those little seeds.  I was hoping for them to be a source of beautiful cut flowers for years to come.  And I was trying to make up for that disaster with the dahlias.  See, after the depressing onslaught of animal deaths this spring, the pet graveyard grew in leaps and bounds.  We felt it needed a bit more than the simple boulder we’ve used to mark the place in the past.  So Pretty made a lovely decorative stone to put in the graveyard.

And I planted some bare root dahlias at the base of the boulder.  I imagined it would be wonderful to see bright cheerful dahlias blooming in that corner of the yard year after year.  Reminding us of the joyful times we had with the pets who had gone on before us.  It was a great idea.  It just went horribly wrong.  Oh, the dahlias sprouted just fine, despite the heavy clay soil.  And as their strong stalks reached for the sun, we anxiously awaited those glorious blooms.  One day as we walked up the driveway, we spotted the first spiky bloom and rushed over.  And stood there, gasping, in shock and dismay.

Because in lieu of bold, buoyant colors, the dahlias were a deep dark red.  Almost blood red on the edge of the petals with a black sheen towards the center.  Somewhere on the color scale between creepy and obscene.

All we could do was cover our eyes and rush away before we gagged.  All things considered, not one of my gardening triumphs.  And one that I will be reminded of, year after year.  Awesome.

So I was determined to compensate for that mistake with a brightly colored cutting garden and I wasn’t going to let those new seedlings dry out.  Luckily, we’ve got a wonderful new water hydrant in the garden.

So it was just a matter of choosing a sprinkler and getting a hose from the old system of hoses that ran through the woods to the garden.  Most of those hoses had already been taken apart and attached to the hydrant and soaker hoses for the raised beds of veggies.

But there was one hose left.  One hose, weaving through the treeline, tucked between rocks, buried under leaf debris.  Somewhere in there:


I took off my usual gardening flip flops and put on my barn boots.  I didn’t fancy walking through that underbrush with unprotected toes.  Because intact toes are pretty valuable.  And although I consider the ease of wearing flip flops in the barn worth the risk of stepping in some mud from Papa’s wallow or having Julia leave a hoof print on my instep in her rush to get on the milk stand, I don’t want to risk my bare toes against whatever is living in those woods.

Also, I should start choosing other footwear for my daily chores.  Because I noticed I have a bit of a farmer’s tan.  A farmer that wears flip flops tan.

How embarrassing.  As if having Flintstone feet wasn’t bad enough.

With my feet properly protected, I put on my gardening gloves.  Because wearing gloves is the first step in proper hand care.  I believe the second step is a bit of lotion to cut down on the elephant wrinkles by your knuckles.  Perhaps the third step is some cuticle cream.  And there must be a fourth step that involves getting your nails to grow to all the same length.  Obviously, I have never gotten past step one.

But there’s no need to add to the damage with pustulous poison ivy or bloody bramble scratches.  Having people chuckle at your farmer’s tan is one thing.  Having people recoil in horror at the sight of your hands when you go to hand over your money in the check out line is another.

So I finally stood at the edge of the wilderness, contemplating the use of my Walkman.  Yes, I mean my Walkman.

I do not have an iPod or MP3 player or an android with music apps or anything else that only my children would know how to use.  I have a Sony Walkman.  That only plays radio stations.  But it does have some fancy preset buttons.  And a weather band.  In case I need to know what the weather will be.  While I am working outside.  In the weather.  Observing it with my own eyes.  I guess it never hurts to have a second opinion.

But the use of a Walkman is not a simple decision.  On one hand, listening to your favorite music (or at the least the DJ at the local radio station’s favorite music) is an excellent way to distract yourself from the dangerous hazards of yellow jackets, copperheads, beetles with alarmingly large pinchers, brightly colored millipedes (I’m pretty sure a bright color indicates an insect is poisonous.  Or an insect’s attempt to make predators think it is poisonous.  And, really, who wants to find out for sure?), spider webs, and spiders.  Spider webs and spiders are two separate hazards.  Everyone knows walking through the spiderweb and not knowing where the spider is can be just as bad as seeing a spider race past and not seeing exactly where it’s gone to hide.  Basically, it’s better to be singing along to to What Doesn’t Kill You than focusing on all those potential death threats.  Wait, maybe Don’t Worry, Be Happy is a better music choice.

On the other hand, it could be helpful to hear the rustle of leaves the copperhead makes before it strikes at you.  Or the angry buzz of the first yellow jacket before the entire hive descends upon you.  Or even the sound of your children calling, “Mom”, 10 times before they finally tap you on the shoulder to get your attention and, startled, you fall headfirst into a patch of poison oak.

I decided to listen to my Walkman.  Because if I was the type of person to opt for the safe choice I wouldn’t have 30 hens, 20 chicks, 11 goats, 8 guineas, 4 ducks, 3 dogs, 2 lambs, a pony, a barn cat, and a pig.  Obviously.

And I really do feel like I made an impressive effort to recover that hose.  After all, it seemed silly to spend money on a new hose when there was a perfectly usable hose already located on the property.  I figured it would probably cost $20 for a new hose when digging out the old one just cost a little bit of time and energy.

With that in mind I flipped over this stump to find the connection end.

I cleared away downed branches to get to this section.

I untangled this part from the field fencing.

I dug through the mud to unearth the repaired section that still leaks a bit.

With some finagling, I managed to free this part that was looped around a leyland cypress tree.

I even manged to track the hose through some chicken wire to where it disappeared under this branch.

And that’s when I hit a stumbling block.  Or, I should say, a stumbling tree.  Because that “branch” was actually part of this 10′ long downed tree.

That’s when time and effort became a relative a term.  Because a $20 hose wasn’t worth all the time and effort it would take to get out the chainsaw.  The chainsaw that hadn’t been run since last fall.  And probably needed a sharper chain, some fresh gas and oil mixture, and a new spark plug.  Not to mention it needed The Other Half to run it.

So I changed into my “going out in public clothes” and headed off to the home improvement store.  I felt bad about not getting that hose out of the woods.  Spending the whole day digging through the woods just to end up buying a hose anyway was a terrible waste of time.  Plus it was a stupid waste of money to buy something we already had on hand.  If I hadn’t discovered the store had $20 hoses on sale for only $10 I might have been pissed off upset for the rest of the day.  I still might have been pissed off disgruntled if it wasn’t for the 44oz diet Coke I picked up on my way home.  Because all that time and effort was certainly worth a $1.47 soft drink.  And when I got home, I watered those seedlings into soft, damp soil happiness and tried to make myself feel better by pondering all the bright and beautiful colors of their future blooms.

I finally came in when The Other Half got home and called down to tell me the water flow was slowing down in the house.  I shut off the sprinkler and waited for the water pressure to recover.  When it didn’t, I went out to the barn and shut off all the automatic waterers and waited for the water pressure to recover.  When it didn’t, The Other Half checked all the toilets and the outside spigots and waited for the water pressure to recover.  When it didn’t, we turned off the circuit to the well pump and waited for the water pressure to recover.  It didn’t recover.  Not at all.  There was no more water.

And while we lay, unwashed, in our beds that night….and the dishes lay dirty and piled up in the sink….and the toilets sat, filled and unflushed………….it rained.  So the seedlings didn’t even need all that watering for which I sacrificed my personal hygiene.  I suppose I should have been listening to the weather band on my Walkman after all.

This all just goes to show, you should never sweat the small stuff.  Because compared to a $10 hose, getting the well pump fixed and losing a half day’s pay while waiting for the plumber to show up was a whole lot more expensive.

By the way, if those flowers come up in any colors other than bright, beautiful, and uplifting, I will personally pull them out by the roots and shred their petals into 1,000,000 little bitty pieces.  I’m just sayin’.


7 Responses to “What’s it worth to you?”

  1. lin
    June 5th, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    I’ll take dark flowers over no flowers at this point. After spending all that money on flowers for the yard, half of them are dead…the other half are dying. It’s either too hot or too cold. Too dry or too wet. Sigh.

  2. Carolynn
    June 5th, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

    I have the exact same tan line on my feet AND I have to change into my Going Out In Public Clothes whenever I have to run even the shortest errand. I’m not gutsy enough to wear my red flannel pajama bottoms to the bank…yet. My, you do have the wildest adventures in your own backyard.

  3. Jane In Hawaii
    June 6th, 2012 @ 12:08 am

    I agree with you about those unfortunate dahlias. I have an unknown colored one just sprouting now and I too am hoping for bright and uplifting.
    On another note though, did you notice that the same color that is creepy and gloomy on your dahlia looks just fine on your toes? Just Saying….

    Love your blog!

  4. Lisa D
    June 6th, 2012 @ 9:39 am

    A few more words of wisdom for you: After that well pump is repaired and you are so excited to have running water again, DO NOT rush to do a load of laundry. The sand/silt which has gotten into the lines will clog your washing machine intake filter and lead to another day of waiting for a different repair truck. Just sayin…..

  5. Lynda
    June 6th, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    When we moved into our home we had no idea that the plumbing was plastic pipe, mostly… there were also copper and galvanized bits here and there, but mostly plastic. One night I couldn’t sleep and went into the kitchen for camomile tea. I stopped in the middle of the floor and listened. What was that noise? It sounded like water running, but it was coming from under the kitchen floor…

    One of the pipes had developed a very tiny slow leak that had been going on for over a month (So that’s what that ugly smell was that I noticed coming from under the house) but now the leak was a gusher and I had to go out to the road to turn of the water. When the plumber came and looked under the house EVERYTHING was sweaty, dripping and WET. We had him plug the leak, but then saved so he could come back and replace all the old plumbing under the house. BTW, did you know that if you have galvanized and copper plumbing running in the same line that the galvanized will leach a chemical that will corrode your copper? Yup, the copper was corroded big time.
    It is always something, huh?

  6. Kim
    June 7th, 2012 @ 5:23 am

    Apart from the Going Out In Public clothes, I have to address Able To Go Out in Public Hair. Its short but is prone to waviness (better known as a bush) and looks like I have been sweeping out the garage with it. Shopping has to be carefully planned so as not to frighten the villagers :o) if I havent washed it that day.
    Larger photo of the pet graveyard needed please – bless them x

  7. Gary D
    June 7th, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

    Well misery loves company. Sadly your luck and mine seem to be running a parallel course. I used to take days like that in stride as part of my “Black Irish Luck”, but anymore they seem to be running into the normal day so often that they are now the normal day.

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