August 29, 2010

A Handkerchief in a Hurricane

It is Sunday morning, and Joe, Lisa, Wilson and I have just finished burying Lily. Joe and I found her late last night as we were returning home from a family dinner at my parent's house. She was laying dead on the edge of our road, a stone's throw from our own driveway. We assume she was hit by a car. That makes her one of five out of the seven dogs I've had in my life that have gotten hit by cars, three of which were fatal encounters.

After loading Lily's body into the car, we drove back to our house to find Wilson in the midst of a serious seizure. Whether he was a witness to the accident or not, he was obviously dealing with it in his own way. When the grave had been dug and Lily's blanket wrapped body placed in it, Wilson slowly circled the edge of the hole, leaning in to sniff a long while at Lily's head. He also spent a long moment smelling Lisa's hands, which had supported Lily's head as she was carried to the grave. He then curled up a few feet away in the grass and repeated the somber sniffing again when the grave was covered.

As we sat by the grave swapping tears and stories, Lisa shared her favorite memory of Lily. Recently, she and her friend Mark interrupted a project they were working on to stop and watch Lily fly through the field in a solitary, joyous pursuit of who knows what. "Wow, she looks like a handkerchief in a hurricane" was Mark's description. I can't think of a better way to capture the exuberant celebration of life that was Lily's existence on this earth. She was with us only 18 months, but she filled her time here with such energy and enthusiasm. She will definitely be missed.

August 20, 2010

I'm a little bit wary of making announcements on here because it seems to be the pattern lately that once I enthusiastically announce something to the world at large, the opposite will happen, and I am left to print a less enthusiastic retraction. So…I won't print any news, but I will tell you I'm planning on buying that lottery ticket as soon as I get off work. ;)

In OTHER good news (Jenny, pay attention), we have had the most beautiful, long, earth soaking rains of late. My garden, my lawn and all of the local weeds are literally finding a reason to live again. It has given me a renewed optimism for the prospects of a fall garden. I went out to take advantage of the cloudy skies and softened soil to plant some fall lettuce when I discovered the job had already been done for me! We allowed our spring lettuce to go to seed, and boy did it ever! I have thousands of little lettuce plants coming up in the shadow of the dried-up trunks of the spring lettuce forest.

This has really made me rethink the whole volunteer phenomenon. I pulled up hundreds of volunteer tomatoes this year and in their place I planted my carefully selected and tended tomato plants. Now that the summer is almost over, my hand grown tomato plants have produced a stellar crop of mostly worthless, blossom-end rotted tomatoes, (except for the sun golds of course, which are always amazing) while the one volunteer tomato plant I allowed to run its course has almost single handedly produced my entire lot of canning tomatoes this year. Likewise, the mystery squash enveloping my whole compost pile has been unaffected by any type of squash destroying insect and wasn't watered a single time during the weeks of dry weather. Hmmm…am I maybe barking up the wrong gardening tree?? Don't get me wrong, I'll always have my hand picked plants (they're so much fun to grow), but next year I think I might let a few more of those volunteers strut their stuff.

I'll leave you with a garden snapshot. I wish I could say this was from my own garden, but it's actually the latest harvest from my boss' garden - the one I get paid to tend. Funny how it always seems to get more attention than my own...

August 16, 2010

Unsolved Mysteries

I have really got to be more careful what I wish for (or I've got to starting buying lottery tickets and wishing for different things)!! Several weeks ago, when we had 6 adult guineas and a combined total of 17 keets (see my last post if you're confused) I was imagining a future where you couldn't turn around without tripping over a guinea. I was actually hoping for some "natural causes" to step in and thin out the rasp (again, see last post) to a more reasonable number. Well…I take it back!!!!! I don't mean it anymore!! Last Sunday, I had 6 adults and 15 keets. This morning I have 3 adults and 5 keets (one less than yesterday). Something has discovered my yard and turned it into a nightly meal ticket, stealthily taking as much as 4 or 5 guineas in a night without a sound or a trace.

The carnage started last Tuesday night, when both Joe and I were away. I'd locked the chickens in the pen with plenty of food and water, taken Wilson with me, and left Lily and Foxy in the care of Joe's mom to run free and hold down the fort. When I returned the following afternoon, I found a headless baby guinea in the dog pen and a quick head count of the guineas revealed that we had five fewer keets than when I'd left. Given the strong circumstantial evidence, Lily got the blame. I didn't know what to be sadder about, the lost guineas or the notion of Lily on a killing spree. I wasn't entirely comfortable with blaming Lily as something about the scene didn't fit what I would imagine a Lily killing spree to look like. Namely, there were no other bodies, the guineas all seemed comfortable around Lily, and Lily had no signs of blood on her. Still, the only smart thing to do seemed to be to treat her as guilty until proven innocent, so we started keeping her tied up when we were gone and only let her loose when we were there to keep an eye on things. Despite the precautions, guineas continued to disappear, always overnight, picked out of the treetops where they roost.

Lily has since been fully acquitted of all charges. Between being tied up and the fact that she is incapable of climbing trees, she had a rock solid alibi for the most recent disappearances. Even the headless guinea can be explained away. About a week ago, I had found a dead keet while weedeating around the chicken pen. I was too lazy to bury it, so I had just walked into the woods a ways and thrown it as far as I could. Lily was guilty not of murder but of simple "grave" robbing and carcass munching.

While we are relieved that the murderer is not one of our own, if this keeps up we will be out of the guinea business entirely in less than a week. I even tried locking the guineas up in the chicken pen at night with the chickens to keep them protected, but the urge to roost high in the trees was strong enough that at least half of the guineas found their way through holes in the chicken pen roof and roosted in the surrounding trees. It looks like all we can do at this point is hold our breath and hope for the best…which I am doing. Did you hear that?? I AM OFFICIALLY HOPING THAT NO MORE OF MY GUINEAS GET EATEN AND THAT I WIN THE LOTTERY!

P.S. Jenny, I'm sorry to be posting more bad news, but I did get my fall broccoli planted and am optimistic about the results. I've checked every leaf for worms or eggs, protected the stems against cutworms and covered them all with row cover to keep the cabbage moths away.

P.S.S. Jenny, at least I didn't even post about contracting Lyme's disease! :)

August 11, 2010

Well, the vigorous pumpkins I was talking about so happily in the last post have succumbed to squash vine borers and almost overnight have turned into a patch of droopy vines with half ripe pumpkins on them. :( Little by little I'm trying to let go of all expectations for this year's garden. I'm thankful for every bit of delicious food I get out of it and thankful as well for the grocery stores and farmer's markets that keep me fed when my garden luck has let me down. :)

The bad garden luck must have spread past the fence and infected the chickens. About a week ago, Reynaldo, our rooster of several years, got snatched in the night. I think it must have been his bad rooster karma (for recent attacks on my young niece) catching up with him. For some reason one night he was being stubborn and wouldn't come into the pen. Usually he is the first one in, but I got tired of waiting for him, so I figured a night outside would teach him to be more prompt the next time. The following morning there was no crowing and only a pile of feathers beside the pen. It was sad to see him go, but at least we don't have to worry about his recent aggressive streak growing and spreading to other victims. I'm hoping that Chickadena will step up and fill the role of head rooster, but I haven't heard him crow a single time since Reynaldo disappeared.

Meanwhile, another one of our guinea hens hatched out a bunch of keets (I just learned via wikipedia that this is what a baby guinea is called) a week or so ago. There have been several losses of baby guineas. The original batch is now down to 10 and the new batch is down to 7, last I counted. I also just learned that a group of guineas is called a rasp. I guess this means my flock is getting raspier?