Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A secret worth keeping

Hey, Ma, how are things down on Lucky Farm?
Well... let me tell you!

You know that big old fence project that corralled all my time this spring?  Well, there was this big cow leaning on part of it.  So I went over to that diva Hendrika and I pushed on her head.  Tried to push her back in to the pasture... like trying to push a baby back up the birth canal!  She stepped forward, out through the fence as if she were a ghost or the fence was a ghost and I was a ghost.  And Sukey came later.  In the process, they pulled down the chicken fence so the cows and chickens were all out at once.  And Coyote was on the front porch yelling for a drink of water 'cuz he still can't reach the faucet. 

I think the cows love this game of tag.  I run around.  They run around.  We all run around.  It turns out that you can read this and that tome and magazine and still, everything you know about herding cattle goes out the window when you see them tearing through your irises.  There's this zig zaggy thing you're supposed to do, all the while cooing softly and signing lullabies.  And now I think perhaps the lullabies are for yourself and not necessarily the cows because good herding (and I've done it once!) requires that you completely stifle your rage.  And they know, much like my kids always do, when you're trying to herd them away from something special.  They break off at a trot in the small space you're arms can't reach.  In order to make myself bigger and span the entire space I want them to move away from, I picked up a kids snow shovel and a Montessori broom one day.  And now these are my tools.  They are bright red and I hold them out like a snow man's arms.  And if they still don't move in the right direction, I swat them with the broom.  AND IF THEY STILL don't move, I hit them with the shovel.  Don't worry.  Their hides are tough, the shovel is plastic, and I'm swatting like a dainty Victorian.  Usually.

But on this particular day... the cows entered my garden.  It's ironic that I call it a garden, which implies an area under guard, a walled off paradise.  Hardly the case.  I have yet to put a fence around my garden.  And when the cows strolled through, tasting this and that as if they were trotting through the Nordstroms perfume aisles, hoity-toitily sampling the spritzed offerings of fashion-plate-victim spritzy ladies.   As if it was offered!  Freely.  As if it was all just misty molecules hanging in the air for anyone to absorb.  My corn!  My kale!  My onions!  At this point, I didn't give a pattootie about the grazers infinite memory, about harming my relationship with my cows, about permanent fear.  I WANTED permanent fear! 

Warcry.  That is now my name.

And I ran after them with sticks, beating their hides, baring my teeth, pounding my hooves, thrashing, rising up on my hind legs and snarling and gnashing and spewing flames and smoke and lighting and screaming out falcons and wasps from my nose and mouth and ears.  I was a roiling fury.

And that is when I decided that the next "herding" game we play will involved a .22.  I don't know how or where to get one, or how to use it, much less use it safely.  But the next time those girls get out, they won't be going back in.

And then I had to track chickens.  And catch chickens.  And throw them in to their new pen.  After all the repairs were done.  Which is exactly what everyone wants to do on the day they get back from vacation.

I may not know where or how to get a big, enormous, shoulder mounted cannon with which to obliterate my pets, but I did figure out how to line our acreage with concertina wire and industrial strength voltage.  It involved a lot of heavy labor from me and a little electrical wiring know-how from Huck.  One little whiff of those ions and the cows have not come near my fence.  I've had the crapola shocked out of me twice, however.  My hair is getting very frizzy. 

I'm not sure these guys qualify as pets anymore.  Prisoners of War, perhaps. 

They only nibbled and tasted a few of my goods.  I'm having corn on the cob for every meal... sometimes the only thing I have!  The escaped chickens ate all of my ripe tomatoes.  The kale and squash are seriously prolific.  And the onions are so fine, I eat them raw... like apples.  Hence, the Really bad gut cramps tonight! Yummy. 

I placed the garden along the little dead-end road of ours.  This road has 8 houses on it... three with huge vegetable gardens.  When one of the gardeners saw where I was putting it, she questioned whether or not I really wanted the whole neighborhood to drive by my weeds everyday.  Weeds!  Yes!  Most of them are edible anyway!  The other gardeners have their vegetable plots tucked away behind their houses.  No one can see them. 

And out here, in front, on stage, exposed, is where this interesting thing happens.  The neighbors drive by and wave and I wave.  I don't know which houses most of these people live in, but they seem to feel that they know me... out there every morning and evening weeding, watering, picking.  And then they start stopping by to chat.  I've met more and more of them, both from our lane and all around Paradise Prairie.  Ladies on mopeds and bicycles and in cars, wanting to discuss a shared passion for gardening.  Vegetable gardeners, all of them.  They've loved the progress over the past year.  They want to confer about methods and harvests. 

You don't get this when your garden is properly tucked behind your house. 

I truly need a wind hedge.  The wind is strong out here and took out more corn than my cows did.  But such a break would hide my garden from "the public".  I'm really liking the public.  They see my weeds and everything else.  They want to buy my cow poop.  They told me when my corn was ready and how to harvest onions.  They encourage me.  I may feel a little over-exposed out there in my mini-gardening skirt, knee pads, and flip-flops, with the whirlwinds pulling up stakes and tossing chairs, but there are upsides... and so far, if there's gossip about my over-growth and wild green tango of weeds and squash... I haven't been affected.  Maybe vegetable growing isn't really a secret worth keeping.

Except from the cows.

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