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50 Acres, Ba Humbug

Yesterday, I had a silent temper tantrum. I stomped into the house and plopped on the living room chair and sighed dramatically.


Mark has been very hard at work setting up his new vocation as a full time real estate agent with Century 21 in the Mountains.  He is working on the computer about ten hours a day and we don’t see much of each other. Meanwhile, it’s spring and there are a million things to do now or forever hold your peace. Such as, if I don’t take advantage of the spring rains and spread grass seed now, I will have to endure another year debilitating mud around the barn. Frankly, I can’t bear the thought.  If I don’t do any planting now, I miss the boat and we go an entire year without any fresh produce. I know homegrown produce isn’t really a high propriety, yet it feels important to me because what the heck is the point of owning and struggling to pay for 50 acres if you don’t use it to provide a more wholesome, natural lifestyle? Every year I put off working to fix my pastures, they grow more overcome with weeds, more useless to the animals and more unattractive. Last year we paid for several tons of lime so the time is ripe.  I’m frantically spreading weed killer, grass seed, fertilizer, lime, trying to fix the situation even though I have no clue what I’m doing. I’ve even kept the horses out of one side, which is difficult because they now have nothing to eat and I can’t buy any hay for a few more weeks – an entirely different problem.
 
I’m knocking myself out trying my best to handle this raw, undeveloped land to make it work for us, but my lack of experience makes me more than slightly inefficient. Sometimes it feels like I am just wasting money, energy and hope. And it gets frustrating.


For example, Mark is unavailable to help me clear and turn over an area of ground with the tractor. If the house is going up for sale, Mark doesn’t think we should have a big garden in the area where we planted last year– new owners might not want the responsibility. We have tons of space on the opposite side of the 50 acres, but there is no water to be had over there as of yet, so nothing will grow. I found an area near the barn that could work for a garden, (though my chickens might cause mayhem with it) but I would need Mark to remove a few stumps and help me till the red clay soil, and for all that he would love to help, he just doesn’t have time this month. Next month will be too late because timing is very important when it comes to growing seasonal produce. That makes me a gal with a huge amount of land and no place  to put a dinky garden. Ain’t that just like life. 


But I can be resourceful when I want something. So, I decided to do container gardening by the barn this year. I planted a lovely bunch of herbs in half barrels, thinking that since they are perennials, I could move the containers to a new house or garden next season. The plants that are only good for one season I planted in big plastic tubs we had from moving. I’ll simply toss them into the compost at the end of the summer, and I can save the soil for a garden next year. I was quite proud of my efforts, but  I made the mistake of showing off to Mark.


He gently said, “Um. . . I hate to mention this, but herbs need bad soil. You must mix that nice black soil with sand and make it grainy for drainage. Herbs in that rich, feed-based soil won’t do well.”
He looked at my furrowed brow and said, “Of course, I might be wrong. You can just wait and see how they do. And the tomatoes do look good.”
Of course, we both know he is going to be right and the herbs won’t thrive .
It seems everything I do, I have to re-do. It is part of the learning process, and although I do love learning, sometimes it is a big, fat drag.
Meanwhile, I am watching huge weeds grow in the pasture. They are monsters and I can’t kill them with a little sprinkle of weed killer. I haven’t learned to run the tractor, so I can’t mow them down. I know they will reseed and create a bigger problem later. We don’t have a lawn mower, or I could mow myself. I just have to watch them grow strong and spread with the lovely spring rains and there is nothing I can do about it. I can mention it to Mark, but then he feels I’m nagging and mowing a pasture is simply way down on his priority list (though keeping his wife happy does help move it up a notch on the chores-I –don’t want-to-do list)


Anyway, all these things are making me testy this month. I guess my bad attitude was powerful enough that my silence wafted up the stairs to Mark’s office and he could feel my discontent.  He stopped what he was doing and asked if I was OK.


“No.” I answered. “I’m finished. I’m done with living on 50 acres. Done with animals. Done with little creatures dying on me. Done with mud and wrestling with tools. I’m done with killing myself to do a job and it all being for nothing because I’ve done it wrong. I’m done.”
“What happened?”
“My four wheeler is stuck in the middle of the pasture, and nothing I do will get it out. I was out there trying to spread seed to fix that mud hole, but I just sank as if I was getting sucked into hell by the devil. The spreader wasn’t working anyway, of course, so I was stuck doing all the spreading by hand. Why is it nothing works around here?
For your information, fifty acres is too much for one practically 50 year old woman to handle alone. I feel inadequate because I don’t have the muscle, the wherewithal, or the strength to keep up on all this by myself. It would be different if I could operate the tractor, but I can’t. You never taught me.
My horses have to be let out everyday because there is no hay to be bought, but they almost broke the chicken coup because they thought it would be fun to eat the scratch – which isn’t good for them, by the way. They knocked over the trash and stomped through my new grape vines. They are a nuisance when released. You’d think if they were so hungry, they’d eat the long lush grass in the field so we wouldn’t have to cut it, but no, they keep eating the new grass by the barn. Dumb beasts – don’t they know I’m trying to make that area nice for them?
For the record, I had to go to seven stores to find those stupid shipping peanuts you told me to put in the bottom of my container gardens and ended up having to grovel to buy a couple of bags from a company that uses them for mailing their own products. And now, you tell me I have to change out the soil? You know what a mess that will make if dump out the contents with those peanuts at the bottom? Am I supposed to pick every one of those stupid dirty peanuts out of the soil, then mix the sand, then return it all? Gee, that sounds like fun. ”


(As I said, I was having a tantrum and while I know Mark is doing what he is supposed to be doing and he is working diligently to provide a living for the family, I’m still feeling as if he had this bright idea of buying a huge chunk of land then lost interest and plunked it in my lap. When he found this land he talked about gardens and homegrown eggs and living close to the land, but from the beginning it has felt as if I was the only one interested and all he does is make gentle criticisms like a big fat know-it-all when he should be out there teaching me this stuff since he is the garden guy and the tool guy and the guy that was inspired by friends who did these country things back in Massachusetts in the first place. You see, tantrums have a way of exaggerating truth in a person’s mind and making you feel all self righteous and indignant and abused. I was on a roll.)
“We can sell this place and move if you like,” Mark said.
“Not on your life, Buster. I’m also done with living unsettled and in transition. I’m not going to work this hard and take off before I see the result of my efforts. We are going to make this work.”


Mark offered to change his clothes, get on the tractor and pull my mule out of the mud. But we had to do it now, because he was supposed to go into the office and he would have to quickly change back into decent clothes and get going. He apologized for not being more available to help me. Told me we could talk about this whole country thing and if it is right for us.


Now, even in my most ornery state, I’m not so selfish that I don’t see reason. And deep down I am very appreciative and impressed with my husband’s hard work and his commitment to supporting the family. Not like he is having fun. The last thing he deserves is a complaining wife. And honestly, I love having a chunk of land. It is my choice to have animals and a garden and to put efforts into developing the land to be more agriculturally sound. There was no way I was going to have him stop his work to go muck in the mud to appease me just because I am spoiled and in a bad temper. I told him that we could get the mule out another time, and that I wanted him to take care of his own priority list. Really, he needed to ignore me. I was just having a bad day and I would get over it.  Nothing I was up to was really important in the big scheme anyway. I took a shower and read something, and that helped.


A few hours later, I was walking to the barn to feed the horses when Kent drove home
from his band practice. He paused the car and said, “Wassup, Mom-o. Why are you walking?”
I explained that the mule was stuck in the pasture and I was having a bad day.
He said, “I’ll get it out for you.”
“You can’t. No one can. I’ve tried everything. Dad will get it out tomorrow. Or the next day. He’s busy.”   
“I’ll get it out for you..”
“You can’t.”
“Watch me.”
I knew he wouldn’t be able to free the mule, because the dang thing was two feet sunk, thanks to my tantrum. I just sat in my seat cussing and gunning the tires for about ten minutes when I got mad. I have a very intelligent way of handling my frustration, you see.


I pointed out that he was wearing decent shoes and that it was a god awful mess out in the pasture, which was why I was out there trying to plant grass seed in the first place. Just so happens I destroyed yet another pair of good running shoes just this morning.


He said, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t own a decent pair of shoes at the moment.”


“Well, if you can get my mule out, I’ll buy you TWO pairs of shoes, ” I said.


I should have known, that was the ticket to assure my son would wedge that mule out of the deepest hole or die trying.


We trekked down together, and while we were walking I saw something huddled in the grass.
IT WAS MY FEMALE PEACOCK, PALATE!
I was shocked. She wasn’t dead after all. I went to check on her, and it seems she had a bum foot. Something must have tried to get her, thus the pile of feathers I found,  but she was resilient and got away. She has been laying low to heal. I can’t tell you how delighted was. And in one swift moment, I no longer felt sorry for myself or hated my life, or was filled with negativity. Peacocks have a way of dragging joy out of the deepest regions of your gut.


I was no longer alone in my misery. My peacock had risen from the dead, and  my son was around to cajole my spirits and add muscle to my pitiful efforts.


I climbed into the driver’s seat of the mule to show him just how stuck the machine was. Kent offered to push. I gunned it. He shouted. I turned around. There was my son looking like a negative of himself. He was covered in mud from head to toe, big chunky wads of goo that the wheels had churned up and tossed at him like a machine gun was dripping from his arms, shirt, jeans and forehead.
He tilted his head and a fist size wad of mud spilled out of his ear. “Thanks.”

I laughed so hard I almost fell out of the mule. Thus began our determined quest. We wedged sticks under the wheels. Next, we tried huge slabs of cardboard. We tried rocking it, pulling, pushing, etc.. Nothing could get that sucker out. I gave up and told mud boy I’d buy him the shoes for trying anyway and I went to finish spreading the grass seed by hand. Kent kept messing with the four wheeler, unwilling to accept our failure. About ten minutes later I heard a warrior’s yell, and sure enough, he was driving towards me. He had wadded up the cardboard and wedged it under the wheels and somehow driven out. I don’t think he was fueled by gas nearly as much as he was fueled by determination.


I love that about teens. They have a way of tackling the impossible simply because they don’t know what they can’t do.


We drove to the barn and hosed off about ten gallons of mud from both the four wheeler and Kent. He admired my container gardens, helped me put Palate into the chicken house to convalesce and we checked out the work we did last week together. Kent helped me plant six grape vines in a mini-vineyard (complete with stakes and wires to support them) on Mother’s day, and he bought me one of those funny resin gnomes (we named him Pino as in Pino Grigio) to watch over the plants. He is mighty proud of his contribution to Mom’s winemaking. It takes three years for wine vines to produce healthy fruit, so we made a date now for him to come home from college for the first bottle of Kent’s Pino Protected wine.


So, I got over my temper tantrum and went to the house to make a nice dinner for Mark to come home to. I decided to keep plugging away to fix the mud even if my attitude isn’t always rosy as I go about the task. I’m going to fix those pastures and start a pasture maintenance program to assure my horses have food when hay is scarce. I’m going to grow tomatoes and peppers and squash and cucumber and herbs in my containers and have a bumper crop and force feed my family all summer  with more produce than I might have grown in a traditional garden. Even if it kills me.


It’s been one of those icky months, but a few highlights include :
We found a home for the puppy.   
My peacock is alive!
I found a way to grow produce even if I can’t have a traditional garden this year.
I called and met with a local dance studio owner – I’m consulting with a studio owner in Singapore and plan to visit there in Sept. and I’m working on a dance studio management book – all subjects that deserve a different sort of blog. But they are interesting.
So, if I look past the mud and my agricultural failures, life isn’t so bad.

And even the agricultural pursuits are an adventure if I’ve a mind to keep a good attitude. 
The post master called this morning to kindly say, “You have a package of bees here. A few bees are on the outside of this hive. Um…. Can you come get them soon?”
It is raining, so that makes it a bad day for transporting bees to their new habitat, but what ya gonna do?  I must go pick up my package, scramble to set up my two new hives and figure out how to move the insects from the shipping crate into the hive (Last time, I hired someone to bring me bees, and he set up my hive and did the transfer for me – this time I’m on my own). It will be another challenge – but at least no mud is involved in this particular pursuit.


Last but not least, I’m going to a reading in Atlanta tonight (an official date with my recently absentee husband) to the history center to listen to an author discuss his historical novel. Just so happens this author is also my most favorite actor of all time. Gene Hackman! I’m so excited. Mark is accompanying me, not because he is all that interested in the book or the history center, but because he has to babysit me so I don’t embarrass myself as the out of control enamored groupie I have the potential to be in such a case.
Gee, I hope when I go to have my all time heartthrob sign my book, he doesn’t notice the dirt under my fingernails or a hitchhiking bee doesn’t climb out of my pant leg to sting him. At a fancy literary event in Atlanta, that would take some explaining.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

One response »

  1. As they say in the Navy Ginny. “Full Speed Ahead.”

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