Wednesday, April 28, 2010

farewell to the ladies

For the first time since we've lived in this house, there are no chickens in the backyard.
I keep looking back there to see what they're up to.  But the straw is silent; nothing's up.  We lost our last lady two nights ago.
She was strewn about the run, devoured and destroyed; there were feathers in the house, even, so that clever raccoon probably got her just after she went in at night, or just before she came out in the morning, timing his (or her, I know) kill for the moment when the door slid open at daybreak.  The last of the four - no, five - barred rocks went the same way just last week.  We are besieged.  Or, rather, they were.  Poor girls.
They were busy, and wily, and they took long, leisurely dust baths on sunny days.  They served us well with eggs and food scrap elimination and fertilized mulch and, mostly, they were themselves and they liked their lives.
I don't claim any long mourning, or any deep spiritual bond.  We never named them, and we likely won't name the girls who come next.  But we learned from these birds - including, hopefully, how to keep the next round alive a little longer - and I saw some of them grow up wild at their mama's heels.  I loved the honor they gave to my leftovers, loved their independence and their companionship.   There is something so endlessly soothing about sharing your life with someone not human - a completely different way to take and use a day.  I don't think I made a bit of sense to them, but we were still friends.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

All by themselves

This is one my most favorite things.  The year we moved into this house, I planted some cilantro in the southwest corner at the base of the brand new fuji tree.  It went to seed, and now I can tell when to plant cilantro when these babies start coming up.  Their wheel turns completely around, on the force of the wind and the rain alone.  It is so good to be redundant.  

I feel bad

I feel bad about my starts. I thought it was a mark of seriousness to do starts. A way of having more control, of being cheaper, more involved in the process. That's the word I love so much in all this growing: involved. I feel like I am participating.

But the light system in my basement? The heat pad? How is that helping me to be involved? Down there, there is no day or night, no season, no rhythm. There is just achievement. I am doing it; I am ahead; I will get tomatoes in June; I will beat the already-approaching fall nights and ripen melons. Just will and achievement.

So I push these little seeds to sprout and grow by providing conditions I can't sustain; eventually, I have to break the news to them that it isn't really seventy degrees and sunny. I mean, some days it is. But some days it's fifty and pouring. It's early April in Portland. In some ways it makes me think of the most dangerous kind of parenting: weak roots. If we're too protected, we think we're tougher than we are, and we don't have the habit of reaching into ourselves for those reserves of strength . . .

The rest of this post was written several weeks ago, before we went on a trip, and before the sacred last frost day. I was just starting to plant things out; repotting, realizing. Now, those sunflowers that lived under glass for weeks are toast. The one that I just let weather the storm is strong and stocky. All those sprouting broccoli starts bit the dirt within days of being planted out - but one! Which is glossy and growing. I've put the tomatoes out, which is a whole other post, and the rest of the sunflowers, the cosmos, some of the zinnias, the hollyhocks, the basil, chives, yarrow. Some of the peppers are at the window, adjusting. The melons (what am I thinking?) are in the basement, as confused as ever.  We'll see how everyone does.  I am learning, I can feel it.