Goes Far Flies Near

This morning, I fought a chicken for some eggs. I went outside to feed the chickens after sunup. Chicken Chicken usually greets me at the door, but this morning, she was not there. A feeling of dread came over me. Afraid Chicken Chicken, who is quite old, might have come to a sudden end, I opened the coop door and found Chicken Chicken very much alive. She leaned back and revealed an egg, then three more. I was reaching for that egg when the small, feisty black chicken flew at me, landed in the coop and and began pecking at one of the eggs.

The tiny leg there is fragile.

This is about a century of one family’s arts, crafts and major awards.

I picked up that little chicken, whose name is either Patty, Maxene or LaVerne, whereupon she pecked me ineffectually. Weeks ago I realized that the pecking of a tiny chicken didn’t actually hurt, so I could pick her up and put her down in the run. Anyway, peck! peck! peck! Chicken kerfuffle! Wings and feathers everywhere! I gathered the eggs, closed the coop and set the eggs where Andie would find them. Then I went to work and described to my crying co-workers the reason I was covered with chicken coop pine shavings.

No one seemed surprised.

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Hours in an Offhand Way

My raised garden bed has not been a source of unmitigated good news. Because it is four feet wide and I am a very small large mammal, reaching into the middle of a bed I can’t step on is a dicey proposition. More than a few backaches dampened my enthusiasm as recently as last weekend, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Two weeks ago, Central New Jersey had a crushing snowstorm that took down trees everywhere. I had an idea. It was a very old idea I’d come to on my own. It’s called hugelkultur, and the principle is to use what is on hand to solve problems.

Sunday, I dragged my little red wagon to the corner and turned left. Between two birch trees, I found a metric buttload of small branches. My neighbors watched from behind curtains as I filled and overfilled the wagon with branches and sticks. Don’t worry. When I see them do sketchy shit, I don’t make eye contact either.

Debris is your friend.

The raised bed, viewed with my back to the house, in the first stage of reshaping the surface.

Pete and I drove out to the feed store, where baby chicks distracted me from my worries and I spent a zany amount of dosh on seeds. Note to self: YOU ARE DONE WITH THAT. Anyhoo: we were driving around and broken branches everywhere frustrated me because I can’t operate a chainsaw and Pete says I’d be a total menace with a Sawzall. Which is true, and mostly to myself. Maybe. But Pete also said that right in front of our house, down a cross street, a fallen tree I’d reported to police might solve problems, but first, we both needed sandwiches and a time out because we were both grrr grrr bad kids.

This may be a thing where you live or not, but maybe where you live, jerks call the cops on Black teens who take pictures on their way home from high school. That’s happening in my tiny town. There’s no excuse for it. In fact, cops should call themselves on kids not taking pictures of every little thing and give themselves a stern talking-to about being the goddamn adults. Since I am what passes for an adult, I ate a sandwich and walked my red wagon down to the fallen tree with my pruning shears. I filled and overfilled the little red wagon with branches and sticks. Twice, I walked down my street three or four houses and filled the wagon again. All of this debris was collected within 100 feet of my house. The last time I went out, I saw a man in a car spy me from a distance and slow down, because no one expects to find a grandmother with a red wagon and pruning shears on his front lawn. He drew closer, then darted down the driveway I was not blocking, and stole into his own house. After that, I waited for the police, who did not, somehow, come.

The first step of hugelkultur is to create a spine of logs, branches and sticks. This is the first step of the first step. As soon as the snowpocalypse we expect tonight and tomorrow thaw and fade from memory, I will collect more branches and sticks to build this spine higher and wider. This is going to give me a backache. I should stock up on Aleve.

Seriously, I don't have the teeth for this.

The same garden bed viewed from the opposite corner. Not pictured: beavers. Not at all.

After I collect more branches and sticks, the next step is to cover it liberally with rich organic soil. It’s going to compact as the branches decay and enrich the soil. If I play my cards right, I will gain two square feet of planting space the length of my raised bed. The trick is to at this point make the spine high enough to prevent future backaches.

Note to self: buy a lot of Aleve.

 

My Armor Is Destroyed

Deep breaths...deep breaths...

This week, I went to training seminar so difficult and upsetting the trainer switched to pictures of an adorable puppy when trainees got pissed off. Punchline: I was not invited to this seminar or sent there. I crashed this party. And good thing I did, because if I didn’t know what was coming and six weeks from now this bullshit came as an awful surprise, I’d be in handcuffs in short order. So this was a good thing. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Yesterday She Joined the Line

It's later than you think, and where are my keys?

Tick tock, tick tock.

Lately, I feel like I get to the end of the day and wonder where the freaking time went. Did I blog? Did I make cat blankets? Did I finally make an appointment with a dentist? Maybe, maybe not. Did I place a grocery order or call my congresscritters? Did I spend enough time with each cat and all the chickens? Did I turn the composter or read a book? Take pictures for the blog or make my breakfast for tomorrow morning? I have so many questions. As I write, Wednesday snores at my right and Drusy is trying to crawl under my laptop. My left ankle is mildly sprained for the hundredth time and it’s no big deal. My job is full of weird palace intrigue, uncertainty and people I love. Two of my closest friends are ill and if my wits had an end, I’d be a mile past that with my thumb out, hoping to hitch a ride home.

It’s time for something different. A change of seasons, a change in the garden, in the animals, in me. I don’t know what will happen. For once, that’s kind of cool.

 

No End And No Beginning

We’re expecting a snowstorm tonight and another immediately following. Somehow, this does not amount to expecting a snow day. How-how-how can two separate snowstorms in one night not result in my spending my tomorrow in jammies, kneading whole wheat dough?

Kids, you will use geometry all your lives.

A circle, another circle, a square.

When I’m at home during daylight hours, every two hours I pour a pot of boiling water over a frozen water dispenser for the chickens and give them treats. They reward me with a few eggs and standing at the other side of the run, pretending we’ve never met. It is winter, after all. The chickens have wild ideas about me. Why can’t I fix this wet stuff falling from the sky, with a roof over the run perhaps? It’s hard to look at this and not think, “Since I can manipulate their weather, I should make it spring already. Where’s my tanning lotion?”

 

 

Deep And Crisp And Even

Annual report time!

The yarn is fuzzy, too.

Action photo of baby blanket.

This started out as the Cat Blanket Project. The Lovely Georg, Ceiling Cat Remember Her With Fishy Treats, asked friends to knit or crochet blankets for animal shelters, which I did. But then people from all over – possibly including you – send me yarn in large boxes; other agencies/organizations ask for yarny help. So! You trusted me with art supplies. This is what I did with them in 2014, in 2015, and in 2016:

cat blankets These go to Georg or to a shelter with which Georg is in contact. In 2017, I added crocheted cat toys.

baby blankets A nearby hospital has a baby blanket project. I try to make blankets early in the year or during long car trips.  I sometimes buy special yarn for this.

scarves There are a number of projects that ask for scarves. I send or deliver them all over the place. Mostly, I buy yarn for this that I think will be fun and soft to wear.

hats Several agencies ask for hats for infants, children and adults. Infant hats are quick to crochet.

lap blankets There’s a chemo facility nearby that asks for lap blankets for patients. I send these through a friend. She feels they are greatly appreciated. In 2017, lap blankets also went to veterans near the Shore.

In 2017, I stitched my fingers off!

Early in the year, I sent out 15 cat blankets and a friend donated an additional blanket. Later, 45 + 45 cat toys went to the same place. That’s 10 more blankets than I produced last year, yay!

Three baby blankets went to the hospital project. Four scarves and three hats went to a community project. I made a thick, giant rug for a very large dog belonging to a very elderly lady.

Seven lap blankets went to veterans, through new friends. Two large blankets went to the Welcome Blanket Project. Finally, early in the year, I made 36 pussy hats for the Women’s March On Washington. I totally bought out my local yarn store’s pink yarn supply!

Sometimes, when donated boxes of yarn arrive at my door, the skeins look like random leftovers from dozens of projects, but sometimes they don’t. This year, I spread out the contents of one box on the floor of my craft lair and discovered unfinished sweaters, Alpine lace, knitting needles, bobbins, threaded tapestry needles. Many things were individually wrapped in plastic bags and labeled. My impression was that a knitter’s projects stopped suddenly, and everything ended up in the box.

Thank you, you, you for trusting me.