This morning I was making my rounds. I went to check on Pulani. Not in labor, of course. Just fatter.
I gave her breakfast, a cookie and a scolding. Then I hung Dali up in the barn so that when his mate does finally give birth to his offspring, he will be looking on in spirit. Perhaps this is a twisted romantic view, but it seemed appropriate to me, but for all I know, this scull will scar the new baby for life and give Pulani the creeps. Ah well.
Fed everyone else. Went to check on some other animal issues.
This season I’ve learned just how sneaky poultry can be. After my great duck caper, Romer knew better than to try to lay her eggs in the barn. Not only did I try to slip her some baby ducks that weren’t hers, but now there was a llama in her stall. The nerve! So she found a more secluded place to lay a bunch of dormant, unfertilized eggs that she would spend months sitting on. She laid a dozen eggs in my compost tumbler. I’d left the door open and I guess the shavings, manure and garden scraps seemed prime nesting materials. It’s no doubt stinky in there, but always warm and dark in the metal bin, which would be great for fertilized eggs. Luckily I discovered her before covering her up with more manure or closing the lid. So for about 6 weeks she has been diligently sitting on eggs in the dumpster. They are overdue, so nothing is going to hatch, sad to say. When I visit, she hisses and acts all indignant. I can’t wait for her to give up and return to cool lazy days on the pond. I want my composter back.
My spring chicks are full grown and laying now, but lord knows where. I get about eight eggs a day in the chicken house, but the rest are found in the hay trough in the barn, or in bushes. I keep seeing the chickens sneak up to the top of the hayloft where I could never follow. I bet there are two dozen eggs up there. They will either hatch and a bunch of baby chicks will come tumbling down from the sky, or they will rot and smell, only to be discovered frozen this winter when I work my way through the hay. As winter comes, I’ll close the birds in the pen and they will get use to using the chicken house. I moved a fancy garden shed to the area, filled it with roosts and shavings and had fencing added to attach it to the current pen. This was to provide more housing for the new birds, but they haven’t gone inside yet. Picky poultry.
This spring I took my prize pumpkin (the only one I grew last fall, and so I kept it for nine months) and smashed it on a hill by the barn. I was hoping it might take root, and it did. I have a nice pumpkin plant up there, and several pumpkins got a good start. But a day or two later, I’d notice the little globs were gone, the flowers attached demolished. Finally, a larger pumpkin started to grow. I was delighted. Then one day I noticed it didn’t look too good, and upon closer inspection I see that the chickens had been pecking away at it. They think my planting around the barn was designed to provide them with a smorgasbord. Oh no you don’t! So I put the top of some unused cages over the new flowers and sure enough, I am now growing a few pumpkins under security wire. The bees still go in and pollinate, but the resulting fruit can’t be scavenged. I will not be thwarted by poultry!
I have not been quite so lucky keeping them out of my bucket garden. The chickens began hanging around to eat the bugs, which was helpful, but when they accidently pecked a plant and discovered just how yummy the veggies are, they started enjoying my harvest long before I had a chance to.
I can’t complain. I’ve already reaped tons of zucchini and peppers out there, but all my tomatoes were blightly and only a few cucumbers were good. It is winding down now, and I’m ready to put closure on the gardening in a bucket project. My beans ended up mostly as special treats for the rabbits, and everything else looked slightly undernourished despite my feeding the plants daily and providing the best soil you can buy. I think the limitations of their situation make them sad. OK, so I’m not in favor of gardening in buckets anymore. Nice try. Lesson learned. I also know now NOT to plan next year’s garden anywhere near the barn. I may have water resources in that area, but I have sneaky feathered thieves too. Chalk another one up to the learning curve.
I next went to see how my bee frames fared. Sure enough, they had been picked cleaned by ravenous bees.
I thought I should put them back and tried to open the hive (no veil or suit or smoker.) Big mistake. Everyone inside was still pissed at me. I quickly closed the lid and suited up. I returned with the smoker and easily put the frames back. Then I decided it might be nice to check the lower boxes to see how the queen and brood are faring. I haven’t done that all season. Another mistake. The bees got instantly agitated and swarmed me, out for vengeance for my honey robbing, I guess. I got stung through the suit on the elbow. That’s a first. It was only a small annoyance, but then I noticed a buzzing on my ear and around my face and I thought one of the bees had climbed into my helmet. That’s a problem. Can’t have them stinging you in the eyeball. So, I walked away shooing the millions of bees off my suit so I could take off my helmet. Instantly a bee dive bombed my face and stung me on the lip. Bitch! I cleared my helmet, went back and put the hive back in order. First I tried to take a picture of myself stung. Didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t wearing make-up or would have that startled expression- forgive me if this gives you nightmares. Anwya, I figured if the bees are in that kind of mood, I’ll skip poking around for one day.
Now, my mouth is numb. I feel like a dentist shot me with nova cane. Ouch. I’m going to fix myself a hot tea with HONEY from that stink’in bee. That will make us even.
MY bluebery bush is loaded and lots of fruit is ready for picking again. When Neva comes home from school, we’ll go to work. Untill then, I’ll sit at the computer and try to convince myself I can be creative …. With a numb mouth, I really want to just go out on my porch and read. I’m enjoying a terrific book called “Five quarters of the Orange” by Joanne Harris (same woman who wrote Chocolat) which will be discussed at my book club this month. It’s engaging, so if I dare start, I’ll waste the entire day reading. Can’t have that.
Tomorrow, Kathy is graduating from two years of drug court. The ceremony is in Jasper at the Appalachian Technical College where I hope to be teaching soon. She is excited, because this means her life is her own again and she is truly clean. I’ve written an article for the local newspaper about how she overcame addiction, learned to read and started giving back to the community. I’ll take pictures at the ceremony and then drop my packet off at the news office. I am pretty confident they will publish the piece as a special interest story. I’m going to include my résumé and an introduction and tell them if they ever want a contributing editor or are looking for someone to fill a staff writing position, I’d be interested. Mostly, I wrote the article as a gift for Kathy and the literacy program. She deserves recognition for her hard work and diligent efforts, and she is an inspiration for others.
We took some time off this summer, but we’re meeting twice a week again. Yesterday, I took her some honey, some homemade blueberry jam, and we spent the entire lesson doing an interview. Even after 2 ½ years of working together, I learned things about her I didn’t know. Interesting.
Kathy has never been on the internet. I explained that I blog and that I’ve written about her on occasion. I would never want her to feel I was exploiting her by sharing our journey in a public way, so I explained that it was mostly friends who tuned in, people who knew me and were interested in my adventures in Georgia. I write about her occasionally because she is an important part of my journey. I explained that as result, she had a nice fan club rooting for her from far and wide.
“Everyone will be thrilled when I post pictures of your graduation,” I said. “They have followed your progress and they want you to succeed.”
She blushed and said she was sure glad she hadn’t disappointed everyone. I told her each life touches others in subtle ways and when people read about how she is overcoming adversity it reminds them to be grateful for their blessings. It might even inspire them to take action to make their lives more successful, or to reach out to help those less fortunate. This brought us back to the article at hand. She said, “You should add a before and after picture of me. That says it all.” Not a bad idea.
The fact is, working with Kathy has been about so much more than reading and writing. It’s been about personal connection, the human spirit and sharing a friendship without personal judgment or social status interfering. I wish everyone a Kathy in their lives at least once.