March 13, 2006

This lovely weekend was highlighted by visits with special friends. A longtime best friend brought his third-grade daughter along, which always means watching a child have a few great experiences. She may seem a typical young girl on the outside, who loves her pink clothes and Barbie. But I see in her a little seed of a future nature lover, and who knows, maybe someone who will want her own life in the country someday. But back to the pink…little “girly girls” are everywhere in this world and I tend to think of them as not liking dirty hands. But this gal loves to get down to working outside! I had a big, messy and not entirely fun chore this weekend, shovelling tractor-bucketsful of compost onto the asparagus bed, and then anchoring it with some truly rotten hay. In addition to mastering the art of assisted tractor driving, she dove right into that tractor bucket to fix any compost problems. She took out every stick and broke up every clod with her bare hands, and discovered the assorted compost worms and grubs that live in such places. Things that were not earthworms she delivered dutifully to the nearest hungry chicken. Later on she helped process the fresh eggs, and we had philosophical conversations about the nuances of medium versus large versus jumbo eggs. Not all children take to rural activities, but when one does, it’s a joy to see their minds wrap around How Things Are Done. And, to expereince their creativity. We spent some time reviewing gourd varieties when she discovered our last season’s gourds drying next to the sofa. In minutes she had assembled a gourd family out of spinning gourds, with names for each one. Let’s say it hasn’t occurred to me to play with gourds in that way, ever, and it’s fun to see someone who does.

Other activities for the weekend were planting fava beans, more roses, more asparagus, cleaning the chicken coop, cooking piles of berry scones, weeding, planting flower seeds, planting trumpetvine roots, all in the blustery weather. Ken repaired the roof of the turkey house, which the overly hefty toms have managed to partially collapse. Saturday a frost occurred in the early morning, in which the temperature went down to 28 degrees at our house. The local farmers call helicopter pilots to overfly the orchards when this occurs; under the right conditions, the rotors can mix in warmer air aloft and raise the air temperature. The few degrees of difference can stave off damage to the almond crop.

I created a huge chore for myself by not controlling some unwanted berry vines in the late fall, so I spent a lot of time digging out vines that have rooted everywhere. Some of the vines rooted in the white yarrow, a pretty wildflower. However when I dug these, the root system of the yarrow proved almost impenetrable….like piles of tough spaghetti in the ground. Timing is everything when one grows plants, and if I had done my job four months ago I’d be saving a lot of time right now. That and, maybe I need to think about curbing the amount of white yarrow running loose!

Speaking of invasive plants, I even created a probable nightmare for us in the future….I have become obsessed with unusual bamboo plants. I have now placed not one but two running bamboos in my poultry pen. One is black bamboo, very pretty. The other is Moso, the timber bamboo of Asia. It’s supposed to get up to 70 feet tall. Years from now I will doubtless remember this day and say “WHY did I do that??”  However a garden should include adventure, not certainty and safety (not to mention a supply of free poles). I’ll just hope this particular adventure won’t require a backhoe and gallons of undiluted Roundup to rectify.

Our turkeys are all in various stages of flirting with reproduction. Many are halfheartedly nesting. We almost have a mind to take this batch of eggs away, since the weather is really too cold for chicks yet. We are not eager to repeat the scenario of last year in which some chicks died in these cool weather conditions. Still, it’s good news to have all the turkey hens laying eggs and thinking about incubation.

Lastly on the speical friend front, we had a lovely visit with our farm neighbor. Everyone else’s junk is my treasure, and this gentleman has some of the best junk I’ve ever seen. Wonderful miscellaneous metal objects were brought over for creative use, and I didn’t even have to jump in a dumpster. Now we just need to find the spare time needed to churn these objects into yard art!

I feel too that everything seems easier lately. The work goes on unabated, but being able to confer with a (very patient) professional farmer about all the little questions and problems we face has removed a lot of stress. I worry less lately about how matters will turn out or how we will get everything done on time. Ken doesn’t worry about anything, but he loves having someone knowledgeable to converse with as well. Either way, it frees my mental space up for what I love the most, dinking with plants. Our heirloom tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are germinating now in the house. I love fussing over the little pots, and marvelling at how each little half inch plant holds the promise of a summer filled with delicious, unique vegetables. Yes, it looks to be a great season ahead!

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