Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mother of Invention

Birdland is quiet with my boys on the high seas. They’ll return from sailing with their grandparents next week. Meanwhile, I enjoy the solitude and keep busy with work and trying to maintain pockets of civility in an overgrown yard. My experiment with limiting my mowing to once a month has been a success. I’ve got sections of meadow, where the grasses have grown tall and gone to seed, allowing a variety of flowering plants to offer nectar to the pollinators. Close to the house, the grass is shorter, but I’m not sure why, since I was eagerly awaiting July 1st to begin my monthly mowing, and after a few circles around the house the mower broke. Again. The mower and I have a complicated relationship. I can coax it to mow for a little while, before it needs some kind of repair. At the moment, it sits stubbornly outside my window, challenging my orderly plan. This is fine, since I can now turn back to my neglected mulch mountain. I’ve used about half of the mulch, and it looks like it may last me the summer before I have to go get more. My friend and neighbor, Gayle, has been generous with her perennials, giving me buckets of Bee Balm, Clementine, Black Eyed Susans, and various Hostas. My islands and paths of flowers are growing, and I discovered that not only necessity, but laziness can be the mother of invention. I so appreciate Gayle’s floral gifts, but no sooner do I empty her buckets, than she is back with more. I could hardly keep up until I figured out a new way to plant Hostas. They need shade, so I built up a mound of mulch around the base of a Maple tree. Then, instead of digging holes, I just put each plant in a circle around the tree. I give them a little drink of water in the evenings if we haven’t had rain, and they never showed any signs of even transplanting distress. They’re even blooming, with their stalks of subtle, lavender bells. I put another circle around the Walnut tree, too, but Walnuts kill some plants, so we’ll see if the Walnut tree is hostile to Hostas.

The Day Lilies are fading and the explosion of yellow flowers hasn’t yet begun. I depend on the Queen Anne’s Lace, dried grasses and Rose of Sharon for my bouquets, with some Cattails and Curly Dock seed stalks for their deep brown accents. Chicory adds a particular blue that electrifies the green background in the wildflower bed, but the blues fade to a pale pink when you pick it. Chicory, with its toothy, pinked petals, is better in a bed than in a bouquet.

The heat and humidity brought me another discovery, born of more laziness. Alone in Birdland, “I eat when I’m hungry, and I drink when I’m dry.” I found myself the other night, deciding to cook rice for my supper at 9 in a kitchen dripping with stifling mugginess. I measured the rice and water into the pot and lit the fire under it. The heat and the hunger and tiredness made me a little loopy, and I stood sweating in the kitchen, trying to decide what to have with my rice. Suddenly, I changed my mind, settling on a cold salad instead. I turned off the rice just as the first bubbles had formed, turning to the fridge to pull out vegetables for my salad. I completely forgot about the rice, and left it on the stove all night. In the morning, I found a pot of perfectly cooked rice, almost as if the shoemaker’s elves had visited in the night to prepare my breakfast. Now, I would normally not leave my rice out all night, but I can see I don’t need to boil the rice for the 20 minutes or so I used to, heating up my kitchen and using up my propane. From now on, by royal decree, rice in Birdland shall be brought to a hard boil, and then turned off to steep until done.

Lisa from Tomahanous Farm brought my chicks to the Mahomet Market. The aviary has four new residents, mixie chicks—half Auracana and half Cochin. They are small and brown. I was hoping for mostly pullets, but one started crowing last week, and another is suspiciously red of comb and upright of tail. They are growing fast, and I hope I’ll get some eggs soon, but not too soon. It’s not good for pullets to mature too quickly. Will they lay the blue eggs of their Auracana heritage, or the tan eggs of the Cochin side? Maybe one of each?

Wait in Beauty; Guess in Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. You can find her at the Mahomet Market on Wednesdays and at the Steeple Gallery Coffeehouse on Second Saturdays. One reader wrote to ask what she sells. You can find her books, knitting and other fiber arts, photos, cards, and occasionally plants.

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