Just another Wednesday

Some days give one a quiet sense of things accomplished, small steps taken in the right direction. I’ve had a few of those just lately, and it feels good! No huge achievements or startling epiphanies – just life lived quietly, one day at a time.

Like … sitting down now to write my second blog post in a week – thanks mainly to inspiration by the inimitable Aussa. (Yes, okay, go and look, click “follow”, but mind you come back, okay?)

For the first time in months, maybe years, writing is not a struggle. I don’t feel I have to prove anything to anybody, including myself. I could work on any of a number of ideas I’ve lined up among my drafts, but instead I’m just going to record today – because really good days make memories, and really bad days leave wounds, but days like today get lived, and that’s worth noting.

Had to interrupt this for a quick errand of mercy. It is HOT – 106F, and I just saw one of our swallows on the veranda outside the window that I’m facing. (We have a pair that comes every year to raise a family or two under the veranda roof. I would like a whole colony; the poop is a bit of a pain, but it’s worth it to have NO FLIES on that side of the house, despite being close to the corral.) The poor creature was all fluffed up and panting. The river is only a quarter mile away, but I wouldn’t want to have to go that far in this heat. So anyway, I’ve put a bowl of water on the table outside, with a stone in it for perching on, and two guinea fowl all the way from South Africa, because all the best restaurants have exotic decor.

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And … now I have company. Himself and I share an office, and sometimes that’s a lot of togetherness. I do have my own (incipient) office, aka the Ivory Tower, upstairs … except that we don’t actually have stairs to get up to it. The room was inserted under the roof as an afterthought while the house was being built, and we have yet to figure out where the stairs should go. So for now, Himself and I share, and I should mention that he is unleashing his muse. Alackaday!

He is creating a video, complete with a carefully selected theme tune, that he filmed this morning, while I was playing with the tractor. The farrier is coming tomorrow to give Vos and Lizzy their monthly manicure, and I think we’re overfeeding them because the amount of poop they had generated was enough to make you go DUNGGGGGG. Jim scraped it all up into a tidy heap, which he was about to push off to the side of the corral, but then it occurred to me that I should probably learn to do tractor work myself because, you know, he’s getting old and all, and occasionally cranky, and anyway I’m fed up with being ineffectual around machinery. So I poked around a bit between reverse and first gear and – WHOOPS – up onto the dunghill, and making the scraper thingy go up and down, and you have no idea how big a gouge it makes when you rev and those huge tractor tires spin in the dirt! Eventually the heap was artistically untidy again and I had enough dust behind my contact lenses to feel that honor had been satisfied, so I let him get on with it.

No, I am not going to share the video. I was wearing shorts. My knees are visible. They have dimples. Nobody without the questionable benefit of a marriage license needs to see that. You’re welcome.

Anyway, driving the tractor was only one of the interesting things that happened today. The fun started shortly after sunrise, when I reminded Himself of various outdoor chores we had to do before the heat became unbearable. So the first task of the day was to persuade four reluctant and exceedingly stupid steers to move from one pasture to another. This involved much slow stomping through tussocky grass waving long whips, while they basically ignored me. Not for the first time I fantasized about just hopping up onto Vos driving them – I know for darn sure he was a cowhorse in a previous life – but that is probably not going to happen any time soon. This is why…

Vos Rearing

Then it was time to clean up the corral before Himself got going with his tractor. While I was picking up the random bits of junk that had somehow ended up in there (willow branches that Vos and Lizzie have done chewing on, and random toys and bits of wood that the wind or the dogs have brought in), I noticed that we’d grown ourselves a new crop of rocks. Yes, indeed, here in Eastern Washington we grow rocks. A scientifically inclined friend once tried to blame it on tectonic plates, but I’m pretty sure it’s trolls. Anyway, I wandered off to the veggie garden in search of a wheelbarrow so that I could cart them off somewhere useful. Himself said it was next to the grape arbor, but…

07-16 Weeds are winning

… I couldn’t find it.

After my previously described tractor-riding adventure, I came back inside and read a few chapters of Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings” (highly recommended). Then I channeled Dave Ramsey and updated our debt snowball for the first time in about eight months and discovered that our debts had shrunk by about one-third despite being completely ignored, thanks to nothing more complicated than scheduled bank payments and this:

Credit card cut into pieces
Picture from Dollar Photo Club

Yes, cutting up your credit cards really does work. Who knew?

And now here I am, watching the shadows stretch toward the river while the swallows swoop around the veranda. There are a couple of finches, too, panting and ruffled. I hope they notice their water bowl soon! I’m pleasantly achey from the morning’s exercise, and I feel good about what I’ve done with today. It’s quiet – Himself is done with his artistic endeavors, and is off reading somewhere. The dogs are sprawled on the floor, asleep. All is calm.

Ah. Spoke too soon.The baby wants his dinner…

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Argos

What are the ingredients of an ordinary but good day for you?

Reeking but undefeated

I think I’ve mentioned, once or twice before, that I’m a little obsessive about compost. So when I told Himself the other day that he could stop putting every bit of unwanted peel, core, leaf, or mysterious-squishy-thing-from-the-fridge-veggie-drawer into a special bucket next to the sink, for subsequent emptying onto the compost pile, that was a Big Deal.

Himself, as a believer in better living through chemistry who just doesn’t get the Magic Of Decomposition, was rendered exceedingly happy by this change in house rules. But for me it was an admission of defeat. The thing is, my meticulously planned and sweatily planted veggie garden has exploded. Every time I venture into it, I hear this theme song.

I took this three weeks ago. Those pretty yellow ones are now taller than I am.
I took this three weeks ago. Those pretty yellow ones are now taller than I am.

It’s not that there aren’t vegetables – they’re out there. Lurking. But fetching them in involves a machete, and a compass to find the way back to civilization, and one should probably be armed against lurking predators. (There’s a lot of lurking going on, and it scares me.) Meanwhile, that whole self-sufficiency trip just ain’t happening this year.

So anyway, recognizing that (a) the soil is apparently not in urgent need of anything to encourage stuff to grow, and (b) I can’t find the compost heap anyway, we now throw away kitchen waste instead of recycling it. And the only downside is that doing so makes me feel like a huge failure in Permaculture World.

Until the other day, when it dawned on me that, if I were to send all this vegetable matter down through the garbage disposal, it would end up underground, decaying peacefully in the septic tank and slowly seeping back into the soil. (I’m a little foggy regarding the design details of our septic system, but I’m reasonably sure seeping happens.) I was happy again! Plus, for the first time, I could see the sense in having a garbage disposal. I had never encountered one before moving to the US … In South Africa, kitchen waste goes on the compost heap. Or if you aren’t into compost, you can put it on the elephant table.

Okay, I’m kidding, outside of the zoo there aren’t actually elephants in Johannesburg. But if there were, you could totally feed them whatever green, crunchy stuff you didn’t want to eat yourself.

Getting back to the point of this story, this evening I got a chance to use our garbage disposal as a compost alternative on a grand scale, because I went to fry up some onions and every bloody onion in the pantry was nasty in its middle. (I didn’t grow these onions. The onions I planted appear to be experiencing jungle shock and are refusing to bulb out.)

As I chopped each one open and it oozed at me I shoved it into the garbage disposal, and listened to the chomping, roaring noises with a frankly savage satisfaction. Himself wandered into the kitchen, expressed a contrarian opinion, and was sent packing. Two minutes later, the chomping and roaring gave way to glutinous bubbling, a moaning noise came from the guts of the machine, and a greasy mix of chopped onion and brown water bubbled up into the sink. Basically, the garbage disposal reacted pretty much as I would have done if I’d crammed four icky onions down my own gullet.

There was NO WAY I was going to tuck my tail between my legs and ask His Engineership to rescue me, so I got myself under the sink and took apart as much of the plumbing as I dared. (I have been known to be handy under duress, even if I do have to mutter “lefty loosey, righty tighty” every time I have to twist something.)

Nothing happened. I googled it. Do you know, there’s a whole library of how-to-fix-your-garbage-disposal on Youtube! So clearly this is a universal problem. I am not alone! I watched half of one, which instructed me to press the red button, so I pressed it. Still nothing happened.

You know what happened, don’t you? In the end, Himself took apart the plumbing, which did vomit forth, and then I cleaned up. It was completely disgusting, and I still smell like onions.

What else could I do but share the story with the whole world?

Do you ever set goals, and then find that reality is a whole lot more complicated than you’ve planned for? 

Boys and their toys, or, Alas! My compost pile!

What is it about men and Things With Wheels???

Himself’s favorite toy is his tractor. (I am not supposed to refer to it as a toy. Tractoring is Seriously Manly Stuff. But … come on. It’s blue, for crying out loud! And it has really BIIIG wheels. But I digress…)

Being an exceptionally devoted wife, and also somewhat in touch with husbandly reality, I understand that the main point of having a five-acre farmlet is to be able to ride around it on a tractor. Often this is a good thing. You can attach a flat blade and shovel snow off the driveway … and all the way along the private road … and clear to the end of the nearest county road if you’re feeling exceptionally public spirited and haven’t run out of gas. You can attach a thing with lots of teeth and use it to break up the freeze-dried cow patties that accumulate in the pasture during the winter. You can even race down the driveway, sans any attachment at all, to open the gate for people who are confused by the (unbolted) chain that keeps it shut.

And year after year after year, for the seven years we have lived here, you can have a stand-up, no-holds-barred, screaming fight with the above-mentioned wife regarding whether or not to use the tractor to plow the vegetable patch before trying to grow anything in it. (This fight has been known to last until well into summer, by which time, of course, it’s too late to grow anything at all. But the tractor is still brought into action for weed control. I have yet to win a fight over the usefulness of weeds as a means of dust control.)

Reasons not to plow the veggie patch:
1. It compacts the soil, which in our area is prone to compacting anyway. (I don’t know when last I saw a wild earthworm in our veggie patch.)
2. It makes the ground rutted and lumpy and hard to walk on without falling down, even when one hasn’t had anything to drink.
3. It creates dust, which in our (windy) area is fine as talcum powder, only not at all soothing when it gets between eyeball and contact lens.

Reasons to plow the veggie patch:
1. Must … drive … the tractorrrr…..

So this year I put my foot down. No tractor in the veggie patch! Serious grumping ensued, and a renewed threat of Separate Garden Zones. And … I just did not feel like having a fight about it. Right now life is good, I actually believe I may in fact manage to (a) plant, (b) maintain and (c) harvest a whole assload of veggies, but I don’t want to have to do it alone. So we compromised. No plowing, but the tractor was allowed in with a blade to scrape up the weeds (HOW do they grow so fast? They come rocketing out of the ground before it’s properly thawed!) The advantages of blading – leveling out the ruts left by last year’s plowing, and pushing mounds of spare earth to places where they were needed – were acknowledged. Areas to be bladed were agreed upon.

Most importantly, the importance of not messing with my precious, hard-earned compost heap were discussed at length, along with the question of how to stop the chickens from scattering the heap far and wide, and some bragging about how nicely it was growing what with all the barrow-loads of weeds and horse poop I had been heaving around.

Tractoring commenced. I had to leave the area because of dust, noise and evil smells, but that was okay, because seeing Himself having fun just warms the cockles of my wifely heart.

And today I went outside to continue gardening and, yes, I admit it, to photograph the compost heap for yesterday’s blog. This is what I found…

Former site of compost heap. Yep, you got it. A whole fresh set of ruts. And the compost? Scattered to the far reaches of the patch.
Former site of compost heap. Yep, you got it. A whole fresh set of ruts. And the compost? Scattered to the far reaches of the patch.

Seriously, if he ever brings that tractor into the veggie garden again, I may have to kill him.