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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hours of amusement

The geese, ducks and chickens grow on apace. The first and rather skimping plum crop has been gathered and savored. Conditions are rather dry, so those plums which fell before we could get to them were found and commandeered immediately by ants. The rush to get at the plum juice was a bit of a risk for the ants, some of whom were trampled and drowned in the cracks on each dropped plum. We gather these separately, along with the bruised fallen apples, and toss them into the poultry yard, where they seem to afford hours of amusement, along with the thinned lettuce and such.

There should be free-range eggs in about three weeks. With this many birds there will need to be extra refrigeration for eggs, and Daughter has left her mini-fridge with us for the purpose.

Beloved's lush vegetable garden surpasses any we have ever had, showing her dad's wisdom in providing to us a homestead-sized compost tumbler, among the many things that have gone well. There are cucumber beetles and aphids, but almost everything looks healthy -- perhaps too much so. All the plants seem to be much more interested in foliage than fruiting. Shortage of bees? It would hardly seem there is too much nitrogen, as we don't apply commercial fertilizers.

Patty-pan squash is coming in, and is a big hit with us this year. Beloved slices these thin, radially, so that the result resembles slices of pear, and stir-fries them with her purple kale in a sauté of home-raised onions and garlic.

There are green and yellow zukes and straightneck summer squash as well, and great expanses of winter squash and pumpkin vines, though I don't see much besides the greenery at present. The brassicas mostly succumbed to the early hot spell but eggplant and peppers have recovered, and there will be crops. All the various beans look good, and the corn is spectacular, despite aphids in the silk. We will make a batch of very dilute soapy water and harass them a bit.

The cordwood is coming, and Beloved and I are stacking together when not doing other things. A delivered cord of firewood necessarily blocks the driveway and stacking cannot really be put off. A friend wanted me, or us if I could manage that, to come to a barbecue in town, and I had to say we were spoken for, which is true; we are more place-bound than most of our friends because of the high level of personal labor that goes into what we could call rural intentionality.

In rural intentionality, you do for yourself many of the things that, in convenience-oriented Western society, are handled by "labor-saving" (and often much more carbon-intensive) appliances. We hand-wash our dishes, sweep, use hand tools almost exclusively in our farm carpentering and maintenance projects, gather seeds, plant seeds in flats in the potting shed, "pot-on" our seedlings, transplant wild trees, hang clothes in the sun when we can -- all of which uses up precious time that could otherwise be spent sitting in front of a television.

And we like it better.

The downside will be that we don't see as much of people we like as maybe we'd like to do. However! Some of these will not want to "come over and help pull weeds." Some will think they'd like to do that but find out, in the process, that it's not really their thing. A few do find that this is a way they like to visit, yet we often discover we're a bit distracted and withdrawn while they're here; the fact is, we're something like hermits. We each want heaps of alone time, either working on our chores or having down time, or we want time together, as when stacking the wood. There has been so little of that, the doing of chores actually together, and we've really noticed of late that we're getting on in years.

I put on my gloves and take a chair down to the woodshed and begin laying a course of logs, perhaps sitting in the chair to avoid back strain. Then Beloved arrives with her own gloves and chair, and maybe a couple of glasses of homegrown mint tea, at about the time the row has reached knee height. She puts the tea and the chair in the shade and begins handing me the Douglas fir "sticks" -- each weighing five to fifteen pounds -- two at a time, which I place in the stack, with a rhythm which I once described to an acquaintance as "like playing Tetris." When we reach the ceiling of the woodshed and have tucked in the last bits on the top of the row, at about seven feet, we back out of the woodshed and the pile, remove our gloves, sit down side by side and drink the tea, murmuring over the profound work of art before us.

"Nice stack."


"Looks better than last year's."


"I love this stuff."

"Me too."

"We're only going to get to do this maybe twenty more times, though."

"If we're lucky."



Back in the house, later, the phone rings. It's my mom.

"Whatcha been doing?"

"Stacking wood."

"Oh, you poor things. Why don't you put in some gas, already?"


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