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Archive for August, 2017

The Zucchini Life

I don’t really understand how it happens. Oh, I sort of understand it. You plant the seed, it germinates with sunshine, warm soil and water, and a tiny plant emerges. With tomatoes, I start with plants, as our Minnesota Zone 3 growing season isn’t that long. When it comes to zucchini, I plant seeds. I watch and water them carefully, waiting for the first two leaves to emerge. Through June and July, I just wait. The tomato plants, healthy and robust, reached the gutters and I tied jute to their cages, attached to an S-hook on the gutter. The zucchini grew slowly but surely, with yellow flowers as big as my hand. Suddenly, and nothing short of a miracle in my humble opinion, the flowers turned to fruit. Some are dark green and smooth, while another Italian variety I tried for the first time is green with ridges and yellow stripes. I like my zucchini small, tender, and succulent, so I watched them carefully. I watched the tomatoes, also, and they are not doing as well. After their initial vigor, they have settled into what appears to be a rather mediocre year. I hear the same from other gardeners around here, too. I remember years with BUCKETS of tomatoes sitting in the breezeway and any with the slightest blemish unceremoneously tossed to the chickens, so I am hoping for a miracle. The zucchini were slow and steady, though, until last week. All of a sudden, the small tender zukes turned into monsters overnight. That’s what I don’t understand. How in the diggidy dang dickens do they grow so fast, and why don’t tomatoes do the same? Yesterday, in the cold drizzling rain that lasted all day, I checked on my plants and picked. By evening, I couldn’t help but look again and found two more of huge proportions that I SWEAR weren’t there earlier. Since the chickens are molting and don’t much care for cold drizzling rainy days, I actually got more zucchini than I did eggs yesterday, and I have 17 hens. Seventeen unproductive hens, at the moment. One tends to get a little philosophical while staring at a dozen rather large zucchini and figuring out just what in the heck to do with them. I quickly decided in that philosophical moment that I shouldn’t compare life with zucchini. Only a Crazy Woman would do that. Even though we all know that I talk to chickens and perhaps even tomatoes, I’m not there yet. By the way, the chickens told me they prefer their zucchini cooked with a bit of onion, so I’d better start chopping.

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Can you hear me now?

“If you’re wrong and you shut up, you’re wise. If you’re right and you shut up, you’re married.” ~ Unknown

HE and I, along with our canine tagalong Barney the Chihuahua, just returned from our 40th wedding anniversary trip in our vintage motorhome. We drove 2500 miles, saw six states, one provence, three Great Lakes, big cities and small towns, interstate highways, gravel roads, and a LOT of road construction. He did all the driving, of course, as I have no interest in driving that Big Girl and my navigational skills are limited to finding my way around the block as long as it isn’t raining or dark, as my eyesight isn’t that great. I’ve also been noticing for the last couple of years that my hearing is not as good as it used to be, either. His is just as bad, but HE won’t admit it. I have a harder time hearing when there is background noise, such as the wind blowing in my right ear (the large windows help it stay nice and cool in the motorhome without the a/c and saves a little on the dismal gas mileage) or continuous 1970’s rock music playing loudly in my left ear. (Loudly because HE can’t hear it, especially with the wind blowing in his left ear, but won’t admit it, even if you ask him.) Honestly, I learned to tune him out for a lot of the trip, because he would mumble something, I would ask “What did you say?” and HE would tell me he was either talking to himself or to the dog. It was just as well, as while travelling, I often have my nose in a good book or watch a movie on the DVR player. I had brought along several favorite movies, headphones, and earbuds. I had just settled in to watch one when I realized that the headphones didn’t take away the sound of the wind blowing in my right ear and the continuous 1970’s rock music playing in my left ear. I swiched to the ear buds and turned the volume up LOUD. Ah, that did it. HE was looking at me by then. I could see his lips moving, but due to the ear buds I could only hear muffled sounds coming from his mouth. “What?” I asked, pulling out the buds. HE wanted to carry on a conversation NOW? “What did you say?” Now he started speaking LOUDLY, and very slooowly, like I was not only deaf, but not very bright, either. I have a couple of small bits of advice here for all of you newlyweds. Take it from an old Farm Woman married 40 years: Sometimes it pays to keep your mouth shut, put your earbuds in, and turn the volume up. It saves on arguments. And later, when you are sitting in front of the campfire on your anniversary trip, he will look at you over the crackling flames and say, “I love you, Dear.” At least I think that’s what he said. Maybe it was “I’d love a beer.” Either way, I want to wish a happy anniversary to my husband. I’m glad we’re travelling this road together. Thanks for being you…and HIM. I’d love a beer, too.

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Counting My Chickens

Don’t laugh when I say this, but chickens are not polite. They cluck, they peck at each other, and they push each other out of the way when dinner is served. They are especially hard to count in the evening when I lock them in the coop for the night. I entice them in by feeding them. Sundown also draws them in, but during the summer months, sundown comes long after I am ready to go inside and call it a night, so I have to resort to bribery. I always count those chickens before I close the door. Seventeen. Six yellow, six black, two red, one white, and one black with white speckles. Oh, that’s only sixteen. I always forget the broody one who never seems to leave the nesting box, even though there are never any eggs underneath her. I always check, and she always pecks me. It was a gorgeous summer afternoon yesterday, and I was multitasking by simultaneously hanging sheets out on the line and admiring my beautiful zucchini plants. Bees were buzzing in the hollyhocks and Barney the Chihuahua was on a long leash, sunning himself. The chickens were all over the place, either searching for worms and bugs in the sunshine or searching for worms and bugs in the shade. All was right with the world. All of a sudden, I heard an awful shriek. It sounded like a screaming chicken getting carried off by a wolf or an eagle…or something. I looked up to the sky first, but saw nothing. The chickens that were in the yard heard it also, and ran for cover. Barney’s ears perked up and he stood, looking south, toward the old pole barn. I needed to check out the source of the shriek, but am pretty squeamish and didn’t want to find a pile of bloody feathers, nor did I want to come upon a rabid wolf or coyote eating one of my beloved hens. Still, if I am to call myself a Farm Woman, I needed to check it out. Another shriek pierced the silence. Slowly, carefully, and filled with apprehension, I walked back toward the barn, clapping my hands and whistling. The whistle calls the hens, who think it is dinner time, and the clapping of hands is to scare away the wolves. I saw no pile of feathers and thankfully, no wolves. In fact, I saw nothing but a bunch of chickens cowering under the bushes. Right before sundown, I tossed out some feed and counted my chickens as they came in the door: Six yellow, six black, two red, one white, and one black with white speckles. Sixteen. As I expected, one was gone to chicken heaven. I was very sad until I started gathering the eggs, and realized that once again, I had forgotton to count the one who never leaves the nesting box. There she was, broody and glaring and beautiful. I reached under her for the egg that is never there, and this time, I was happy to get pecked. As for the awful shrieks coming from behind the pole barn? I don’t want to know, and I hope you don’t either.

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