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Saturday, February 16, 2008

The kind of a talk

A photo on Flickr [posted by risa]

Having slept for a good many hours, as we do on Friday night, we awoke by turns and slept some more ... I came to, abruptly, to the smell of coffee and saw that a fire was going in the wood stove. There was a cup already poured for me.

"Thanks, wow, great. Been out to the birds yet?"

"No, and they're giving me heck for it even as we speak."

I wouldn't know. I'm deaf in the left ear and more than half deaf in the right, or I would know, because the geese are not shy about their feelings.

We settled upon separate-but-equal breakfasts, and Beloved went to attend to her frantic charges while I cracked a couple of duck eggs over chopped pok choi and red bell peppers in a hot skillet.

There was a lot of frost, but it would burn off and we would be over 50 degrees F. most of the day.

Beloved came back for her second cup.

"The little swimming pools have both cracked but the ducks get so-o-o-o much clay in them that they hold water for a good while. So everyone is swimming that wants a swim."

"S'good. Wouldya want to see where I thought about putting the pear trees?"

"I'm going for a walk, would you believe it, but I can stop and see the spots with you on my way out."

I went to clear away the grape prunings and string wire. Beloved appeared, approved the tree spots, and then went for her walk, down to the park by the river and back, a little over two miles round trip. She always finds something of interest -- once it was a herd of elk that had come across the river from the mountains, to see what they could see.

The cedar posts in the grape arbor had rotted through and the overgrown grapevines were doing all the hard work. So a couple of weeks ago, in less decent weather but good enough for farm work, I took off all the grapes at knee height and pulled the posts, replacing them with iron tee posts in pairs marching up the slope toward the house. Today I spent a couple of hours fishing the heavy-gauge arbor wire out of the prunings and straightening it, sunk pipes in the ground at either end of the arbor and strung back and forth till I ran out of wire, then twisted sticks into the guy wires that ran down to the pipes to pull all the slack out of the structure.

Then I dug the holes for the pear trees, which I would set and water in, later in the day.

In all this activity I only whacked myself in the head twice, and ruined only one fingernail.

I could see Beloved from about a quarter of a mile away, coming up from the river along the road with her unmistakable long general-of-all-I-survey stride. She stopped by the "orchard" and made appreciative noises.

I straightened up -- slowly, joints creaking -- gathered my tools, and walked up to the barn with her.

The poultry have pretty much obliterated their pasture, and if we want to keep advertising their eggs as free range, we have got to expand their territory. We've, as shut-ins, talked about this all winter, and today was our first, hey really first, real opportunity to look things over.

"'Kay," said Beloved, "where are we going to fence?"

"Well ... I want to come right over to the bridge here, and move that gate to here, then over to the southwest house corner. No farther, 'cuz we don't want to let them get too close to the well."

"Mmm-hmm."

"The take off from this corner here and over to the southeast corner. And we can use the existing gate that way for barn access."

"That's all?"

Well, are you adding birds this year?"

"No, not till next year."

"Kay, so that's this year's expansion, which will almost double their grass. Then next year, 'God willing and the crick don't rise,' we might get some help and go all the way round."

"Where's that?"

"I'd get the neighbor's say-so, pull the cedar posts down the boundary, put in t-posts, and go woven-wire all the way to the corner -- and lazy-gate there for truck access -- across to behind the mailbox, turn there and come up to the powerline pole ..."

"Okay." She walked with me as I gestured and pointed.

" ... and then here by the beds I'm not sure about."

"I do want to keep the beds, and only let them in there in the winter time."

"So, we could go straight up from the mailbox, behind this bed, turn right here, and either cut across right in front of the front porch, or if we want more room for ourselves, almost over to the other fence, and that makes this part just a little highway for them. Oh, and we'd need a gate in this corner so's to get down to the garden."

"That's a lot of fence."

"That's why I'm willing to wait a year if you are. But it would be a whole world for the birdsies."

"Yes. Yes, it would, and I like it."

We stood in the sunshine and found ourselves leaning back into each other, she looking into the barnyard full of clucking hens, I looking down through the little orchard to the already dilapidated deer fence round the circle garden.

Nothing was said for a few minutes.

Beloved turned round and looked down into my eyes. (Well, she is taller than I, and was uphill from me at that.)

"This," she said, emphatically, "is the kind of a talk I like to have."

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