My Garden is Done for the Season
What harvest there was, is in. My Chickens are hot, the cheapie blow up pool is clean and cool. The iced tea is green, I'm more tan than is wise, and ready to rest. Until September.
It is the end of June, the harvest is in. Most crops worked, some didn't. The success of the "Potato and Onion Patch" earned those venerable veggies their very own 8x24 patch next year.
I'm already putting the chicken tractor out in the early morning (with Eyes of Brown, Barack and Blondie), and in the late evening (with Biatchie, Biden, and Ugly Betty). Using them to eat the green weeds, remove the buglies, and poo to their hearts content.
I'll not do corn again. Water intensive and complex when you don't use genetically modified seed. I'll leave THAT to the real farmers.
Had lots of 3 kinds of beans (Roma, Tenderpick, Yellow Wax) to eat, give to the neighbors, and snack on whilst weeding 'em.
Only had one pitiful zucchini, but that is really my fault. Shortly after they started blooming I found out you could eat the blossoms. SautÚed in butter or breaded and fried. I suppose that's why there was only the one.
Strawberries are pointless. Don't ask.
The yellow squash graced our salad and steamed up for 3 months. The small pickle sized cucumbers were so good, I started carrying a salt shaker in my apron pocket. Just a rinse with the hose, and nibble, nibble, nibble. Those rabbits got nothing on me!
The rest ended up in salads and foo foo sandwiches. But YUM. A smear of cream cheese, a bit of horseradish, a thin (so thin) slice of the cuke, on bread with the crusts cut off. Sure wish there had been some company to share them with. Well, no, not really, they were so good I didn't WANT to share.
Must have eaten most of my garden for lunch before the veggies EVER got to the dinner table.
The Tea Herb Garden was a small bit of a disappointment. The heat kept everything really short. Although there is quite a lot of the chamomile for tea. Lemon Balm did well (I like to put it in my bosoms).
The Borage was spectacular. But unfortunately I could never figure out just what the heck there was to do with it. The Anise is still going strong.And unexpectedly several 3 year old gladiolus decided they would grow. I must have missed the bulbs when the garden was dug up. The cut flowers added to my pleasure. Bought a good dehydrator (let me know if you are interested in those details) had two harvests of my kitchen herbs, which are now dehydrated and in Ziploc bags each in their own glass jars. I saved those damn jars for two years, so they would all be the same size and shape (OCD much?).
My daughter was thrilled to learn to cook with fresh from the garden herbs. She made her first fresh dill dip. Couldn't believe the difference from the store bought kind.
The Fruit trees (sticks) mostly survived (except for one pomegranate and an apple tree). They are flourishing. It's still going to be 2 more years before there is anything that can be called real production. But hey, nothing but time on my hands. And fruit trees are an investment in my anti-depression battle. Really, how could I possibly think about ending this life before tasting my own figs and nectarines, peaches, pears, apples, oranges, persimmons? It would be an affront to the universe to miss out on that.
Hubby, seeing my sorrow at losing the pomegranate, went to the Feed and Seed and bought a Melrose Mandarin Orange. Planted it whilst I was napping, and hectored me into watering the "orchard" until it was noticed. Citrus kind of scared me, they can be problematic, but my Hubby and Wild Iris folk encouraged me.
Then there are the "Chicken Girls"
It is really really hard to be morose when there is a chicken bwacking at your feet, jumping at your weed bucket and generally adoring you (as long as you have treats).
I have learned about "broody" hens, well, sort of... I think it's hormonal, and I can relate. Chicken by chicken they are taking turns stubbornly sitting on empty nests or other chicken's eggs. SQUAWK when physically moved to the food and water. Bursting-fluffed out feathers, indignant cries, flapping wings, and a vicious peck or two when they are shifted.
But hey, back in the day when PMS was a problem for me, I acted the same way.
I lost Brandy (She's a Fine One) a Rhode Island Red, to something called Gapeworm. When we had those two plus weeks of rain, the white grubs surfed the wet up to the surface. Chickens LOVE those grubs. Poor ol' Brandy got a baaaad grub.
These small bright pink parasites attach themselves to a chicken's esophagus and slowly strangle them. I got some good advice from a chicken Yahoo group and treated her as best I could.
By the second week, she was not only gasping for air, but she had stopped eating, drinking, or roosting. I had to do what any good farmer does.... Although I lied a bit and said she died on her own. Sorry for a newbie deception.
But ya see, I'm NEW at this. I really LIKED that bird. But I needed to know just what it was that forced me to "cull" her. So, ahem, so, um, well...I looked up chicken necropsy. It was astounding that there were multiple links, with step by step images, videos (eweeeuw). Amazing. So... sigh, I did it. On the back porch, with 17 printed out pages. In a butchers apron, with a hose near by. Step by step. An Exacto knife with a new blade.
By doing this awful thing, I learned.
Gapeworms are pink, an almost florescent pink. Not like blood, or bile, or anything else. Almost neon pink. I had squished them when Brandy was.. Ahem... "culled" but the color was all I really needed to see.
I swallowed hard, and took a deep breath, and did a dissection, layer by layer, organ by organ, just like in high school. And real, true farm knowledge was added to my life, my FARM life.
Brandy (She's a Fine One) had the most beautiful russet feathers. I plucked a few and put them into my Farm Journal. I really wanted to save a whole wing, flight feathers and all. But this is not a hobby. I'm a farmer now. Sentiment must be pushed firmly aside. Then I went to the feed store and bought myself a chick.
Holy Crap! She was noisy! Cheep-Cheep-Cheep! All day Cheep-Cheep-Cheep-, all night, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep. I almost choked her the first night. Don't even ask about our "road trip" to the Grands. The only thing I'll say is that my truck radio does not go to 11.
NOTE TO SELF: Don't buy just ONE chick!!!! They get looooonleeeeeyyyyy.
Doolittle the Dog (corgi/pit) was freakishly devoted. For two full months this dog slavered, stared, woofed softly at this wee chick. Really, No, Really!
Doooo sat sentinel outside the closet door where I was DRIVEN to keep her shut away. Do came and "got" me when the water was low, or when the chick feeder was empty. This dog LOVES that chicken.
Hours. I tell you HOURS Dooo crouched, nose pressed against the crate. Panting, love stricken.
Hubby thought Doolittle was just waiting for a meal. NO WAY! Doooo was ready to herd, defend, protect this silly little chick. Cheep - Beep - Cheep - Beep. I wanted to KILL it.
For the dogs sake I had to let it live.
Nah, that is a lie. That wee chick had me by hello, a cheap, cheap, hello.
When it escaped? Doooo put a gentle paw on a small chicken foot until I got there.
When it ran? A soft woof, stopped it and the chick was still (frozen) waiting for me. It cannot be more strongly worded than...
This DOG loved this CHICKEN!
When "Beep" was finally allowed a try at free range, Doooo gently "mouthed" her neck (I was Freakin'), brought her to the pen door and held her until the gate was opened and "Beep" hopped inside.
Doooooo then took up his guard position, half crouched, tail erect, and drooling all over her.Go Figure!
Oh, should mention "Lady Dog". She is a Springer Spaniel. Lady was of the opinion that this small thing needed to be somewhere safe. Lady would "corner" Beep, pick her up in her soft mouth and drop her at my feet. Her expression was... "DO something with this thing, WOULD YOU PLEASE?" And poor wee Beep, saliva coated, heart racing, would fairly LEAP onto my shoulder, then my hat. Wee chick talons clenched in the woven straw.
How much happier does a person have a right to be?
Then, there's the foot bath with the ice cooler block. And the sun shade for the afternoon blaze, then the cracked corn, and the oyster shell feeder, and the pine shavings, and the Diatomous (sp) Earth, and the finely chopped cabbage, and, and, and....
A deep satisfying joy. A happiness that I have never known. A satisfaction far beyond career, child rearing, money earning, consumer goods buying, or big home owning.
I'm only 53 (soon to be 54), crippled from 30 years of stupid, senseless, pointless work, politically disappointed. And here I stand (um.... sit) happier than I have ever been. More full, better able to share my joy than ever before in my life.
Had a privileged suburban Chicago childhood, an exciting 20 something in Europe, a 30's of self discovery and divorce, the 40's of acquisition, new cars, big house, and here? Now...
The sound of the wind in the tops of the trees before I can feel it on my face. , the ALERT of the Redtailed Hawk circling the chicken pen, looking for a snack, a hummingbird moment at my studio window. The Blue Jays, Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, the bats, the Mourning Doves, a deep satisfying breath, pulled down deep into my compromised smokers lungs, my body, my mind.
What more could anyone wish?
Come the end, the last breath, the final rattle of life. I'll not be asking for more.
Tomorrow, I'll rise before the sun. Read a few chapters of my latest library book. Feed the doggies, refresh their water bowl, watch the chickens scratch a bit while my coffee brews.
Then start the day anew. A day like yesterday, and the day before. And a tomorrow that is sure to come.
But if my tomorrow doesn't come, who could possibly be shitty enough to be sad about how I lived?
Carr Casa Pollo
June, 2009 Gainesville Florida