Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.


Posted on | November 4, 2018 | 3 Comments

This is National Novel Writing Month which means I pledged to write every single day this month.  It also means I am doing everything except rewriting the 198 pages of the novel.  Not editing, rewriting.  Because I decided it was way too descriptive and I also wanted to change it up to start each chapter with an action scene.  It’s okay, I can face making the change.  I just need to do everything else in the world before facing it.  Since I can practically spit clean (that’ s a real thing, by the way, and science backs it up) my house in all of 15 minutes I had to venture out into the garden.  The fall garden needed a lot of fall cleaning.  A lot.

I decided I would move forward with my plan to shorten the rows to leave an open area for a bonfire pit as well as large spaces for herbs.  Now that my kids are so busy they only eat at home about 3 times a week I don’t need as many veggies.  But I do need a bigger bonfire pit suitable for whisky drinking and s’mores (surprisingly good together).  Also I need to move the current bonfire pit away from the front engine of the RV–although using the headlights for light is convenient, it kind of makes my guests nervous.  I’ve assured them the gasoline tank is a solid 24 feet away from the engine but people are such nervous nellies about fire and gasoline.  Plus I should certainly start experimenting with a wider variety of herbs.  Homemade herbal tea goes well with living alone, having cats, and spending as much time reading in bed as possible. Also herbal infused or mulled whisky drinks are all the rage and seem so much classier than just sipping it out of the bottle between bites of s’mores.

Anyway, this meant taking down a lot of trellises, mowing down the brush that had grown up around their bases, and covering next year’s rows with tarps to kill off the winter weeds and grasses that creep into the beds.  I figured I could only get half the garden done in one afternoon, but I didn’t mind.  Because that meant I could put off working on the novel again tomorrow in order to finish the other half of the garden.  The garden gives and gives, even in the fallow season.

As an added bonus we are in the fourth quarter of the waning moon.  This makes it easier to pull out weeds (as well as T-posts), greenery slower to grow back, and a good time for me to divide and transplant perennials and herbs from my other beds.  You don’t have to believe this old farmer nonsense about gardening and moon phases but science is finally starting to believe it.  Feel free to move trellises during a waxing moon and pull as hard as you want on your T-posts.  My shoulders prefer my posts to slide out like butter.  Which reminds me there is a great technique for brown butter bourbon that you should know.  Because I think saturated fats are healthy again.  Plus, you know, whiskey.  And yes, all bourbon is whiskey; just not the other way around.

Where were we?…..

So I started off by taking down the string trellis hung around the garden.  Several years ago I found some nylon trellis netting in the discount bin at Wally World and I snatched it up.  I didn’t believe the packaging that promised it was long-lasting and capable of supporting heavy crops, but I figured if it lasted a single season it was worth the 50 cents.  Turns out it has lasted 5 or 6 years now.  It can support even a flourishing green bean crop and it hasn’t deteriorated even though I put it out in early spring and don’t usually bring it in until after frost.  Oh it’s a pain to keep from tangling.  It’s braided so that plants can climb it easily but that also means it catches on everything from the fabric of your gloves to every leaf or twig it touches.  Putting up or taking down the string trellises takes a lot of patience.  Or a lot of desire to avoid rewriting the novel.  Whichever.  I considered putting each trellis in its own sandwich bag but ended up piling them together.  It looked like a bad mistake as soon as I did it.  Best not to think about it too much.

With the string out of the way I detached the cattle panels from the T-posts.  I use everything from baling twine to zip ties to attach my posts so it’s a lot of clipping and scissoring.  Luckily, I keep a holey bucket in the garden for capturing all the little pieces as I cut them.  That keeps them from ending up wrapped around the lawnmower blades where they’re pretty tricky to remove.  I used to flip the lawnmower over to cut off any entwined strings but that always made the lawnmower stop working.  Apparently turning the lawnmower upside down is a big no-no.  And don’t think you can just tip it to the side either.  ‘Cause the side you’re supposed tip it on has something to do with the location of the sparkplug but I can never remember what.  It seems like this is a problem someone should have fixed by now but until they stop with the electronics and make it simpler to get twine off the lawnmower blade, I’ve settled for gathering it all in the holey bucket as I work.

I love the holey bucket.  Don’t you have any tools around the house or farm that are just a scrap piece of nothing, a throwaway, that work perfectly for a specific job? I had an old tent stake that was a perfect emergency bolt for closing the barn top door.  I kept it on a wire hook next to the door and I blamed the kids and screamed at them  wept when it went missing.  Because it was so absolutely perfect.  Likewise, the holey bucket can’t carry liquids but I use it all the time for other things in the garden.  It’s especially good at corralling the bits of twine and zipties as well as holding the scissors and wire cutters as I work my way around the trellises.  I can even leave stuff in it without covering it because if it rains the water drains right through.  Brilliant!

Once the cattle panels were out of the way I started sliding out the T-posts, garden stakes, and rebar that I had holding them up.  But when I went to stack them against the pole where I keep those sorts of items, I discovered it was all overgrown with weeds.  Which meant I had to stop what I was doing and weed that section of the garden, making a clear place to put the posts.

That’s the thing about the garden.  She’s got a bad case of ADHD and she doesn’t take her meds.  She dangles a million jobs in front of you and even if you are avoiding the novel it takes a bit of discipline to get anything accomplished at all.  I made a quick detour and weeded the fenceline from the posts to the start of the climbing roses.  Only about half the job but enough to keep moving forward while still leaving another half for tomorrow.  I’m not gonna lie.  The half that requires weeding around the thorny roses is not appealing.  The waning moon doesn’t do squat for thorns.  But now I had a nice clear place to pile my T-posts.

Cattle panels came down next so I could mow over all the brush at their bases.  With them came the marigolds, tomato plants, and basil that were still lingering.  It’s hard to explain what that rush of marigold scent was like—the feel of summer sun on my shoulders, the buzz of the garden in full bloom. The tomato vines gave way and with each snapping stem they threw off waves of that distinct tomato-only scent, which transported me back to when they were just seedlings in the greenhouse and running a hand over their growing leaves released that amazing promise of summer.  And the basil, oh the basil-inspired whir of the blender and the taste of fresh pesto on everything from sandwiches to pasta to veggies themselves.  There is no substitute for real scents of life.  No candle or air freshener could ever compare to standing in the garden as those heady smells flood the senses.  Plus, the marigolds made an appealing addition to the burn pile in the new bonfire pit.  Very Day of the Dead-ish.  Because the garden may be scattered but she’s also very stylish.

Oh, also the other half of the garden still had its share of marigolds.  More than its fair share.  Plenty of marigolds to get us through the blahs of the first frost. I planted these marigolds around the watermelons to keep down squash bugs.  I think the marigolds ate the squash bugs and the melons.

With posts and panels out of the way I mowed everything I could chop up.  I didn’t pull up this reproduction of the tomatillo plant.  Apparently it reseeded itself and created this adorable plant with teeny tiny tomatillos with bitty blossoms and delicate husks.  It was just too cute for the burn pile so I left it climbing away in its cage and mowed around it.  It’s a simple joy to leave things be just because you enjoy their presence.  It made me smile when I looked at it.  And that means something.

Next up was the Tarp Pile of Death.  As I remove tarps in the spring I pile them neatly at the top of the garden.  There they remain, surrounded by a gradually thickening weed border, and providing a haven for all the snakes, spiders, ants, millipedes, wasps, yellow jackets, and other necessary creatures that are best left alone.  It’s only when the temperatures have dropped enough to kill or least slow down these bringers of pain and death that I consider disturbing the pile.   Still I do it carefully—just a couple fingers gradually dragging a tarp slowly away from the pile, so that it can release all of its dangers while still giving me a headstart on an escape.   I think this picture is blurry because my free hand was shaking so bad.  Scary, huh?

Even these tarps have memories for me.  The biggest one came from a friend after her home renovation.  The contractor used it to cover part of the roof as he worked on the dream house she had planned for years. I still have the tarp but she divorced her husband years ago and left him in that dream house as she went on her own way.  Another one of the tarps was used to cover the sawdust pile that I used as bedding when we had over 200 ducks on the property.  Ducks and ducklings and my kids eating cereal bars on the truck tailgate as we watched our hand-raised flock move down the conveyor belt to the stunning line.  Whose life was that?  Was it mine??  Another is simply the floor mat that came with the carrier system we had for our dogs before we even had kids.  Before we had kids.  It was supposed to keep our dogs in the back of the vehicle behind a set of bars, their muddy paws on the plastic lining.  I don’t think we even used it more than twice for the dogs, but it has been keeping garden beds weed-free for many years now.   Guess it’s true—to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.  And tarps are good for all of them.

With the sun getting lower and the time for picking up Middle from work and Little from a friend’s house approaching, the push was on.  I got the tarps laid out and turned over the the row I was going to use for transplanted herbs. And then a funny thing happened.  Instead of tarping the end of that row for next year I just kept on digging.  I decided I would go ahead and plant some winter crops.  Just some spinach and lettuce.  Maybe broccoli and brussels.  It’s late in the season but with a row cover they should do just fine.  So I finished turning over the entire row.  The earth was soft and easy to dig, the garden was encouraging as ever.  The garden believes all things are possible.  Go for it.  Start over.  It’s never too late.  Why not?  ADHD is so exhausting but it can be so much fun!

It really was beautiful sight.  All that rich compost revealed and waiting for planting.

I finished just as dusk fell.  The crickets and frogs started up, the moonflowers opened, and the solar twinkle lights on the garden entrance flickered on.  Those lights aren’t strong enough to provide any real light in the evenings.  I tripped over a cat once standing right in their glow.  But they make me smile when I look at them.  And that means something.

Oh, I still had half the garden left to do.  Yikes.

But the light was gone, the boys were home, and we all needed dinner and a shower.  Which is when I realized National Novel Writing Month’s dirty little trick.  Daylight savings time just ended this month.  So it was dark outside by 5:30pm—leaving no more time for working outside and lots of time left for writing inside.  Very sneaky.  I didn’t rewrite the novel at all.  But I wrote this blog post.  Which counts as writing every day.  For the most part.  It’s sort of halfsies.  But sometimes halfsies is just enough.


3 Responses to “Halfsies.”

  1. Cheryl Fillion
    November 5th, 2018 @ 7:28 am

    I seem to live my life in halfsies (halvsies?). Do you think that means I get to live twice as long? Thanks for making me smile, too. That does mean something.

  2. Tanya Lam
    November 5th, 2018 @ 5:18 pm

    I liked all of the references to ADHD. Miss U…

  3. Roanne
    November 6th, 2018 @ 3:33 pm

    Read your blog rather than PAPERWORK pertaining to having moved. Thank you. I remember growing up when the seasons ruled our lives. It wasn’t such a bad life after all.

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