Friday, June 15, 2012



AS THE SUMMER STRETCHES OUT IN BIRDLAND THE EVENINGS ARE AS LONG AS LUXURIOUS AS A CHILDHOOD DREAM. The sun gets low and the day cools. I bring in the laundry, still smelling warm from the sun as I fold it. It wasn't windy today, and the jeans are a little stiff. Still, a good laundry day. Warm enough to dry three loads all the way through. I fold the laundry fast so I can get back outside to finish the evening chores before the sun slips down behind the corn. When I come up from the basement it's hanging above Jim's machine shed. Good. Still time to plant the seeds I bought in town today.

I had planted most of the garden coop, which protects the tender vegetables from my chickens. Tomatoes and peppers at intervals, one hill each of zucchini and summer squash in the southern corners, various greens and roots (beets, lettuce, turnips, broccoli, cabbage) in the beds between the tomatoes. I'll train the tomatoes to grow up some sturdy lines to the roof. Along the chicken wire walls I have planted cucumbers on the west side, but pole bean seeds are hard to find. It would have been easier to order them from a garden catalog, but I seldom think ahead. I've been pawing through every stand of garden seeds I come across, but can only find bush beans. It takes a while, too, to read those descriptions. Finally I found a packet of Kentucky Wonder, the beans my grandfather used to train up strings he nailed to roof behind his garage. I picked up some peas too, regular ones and sugar snaps.

By now the sun was low in the sky and I poked the beans one by one into the soil on the east wall of the garden coop. The peas went on the short ends—regular peas on the south, sugar snaps on the north on either side of the door. I'm trying to hurry. I want to get these watered before it gets dark. I finish and dust crumbs of earth from my hands and the knees of my jeans. I close up the garden coop and join Michael who is checking on the chicks. They are beginning to mosey on back to the coop, hopping one by one over the high threshold. A few weeks ago, when we first started letting them out of the chicken yard, they would go under the coop at night, and we'd have to kneel down and pull them out. They would scatter and it was quite a production getting them all in, counting to make sure. Now they go in on their own, but not always before I want to close up the door. Tonight the three little lavender orps are nestled in the dark between the supports of the floor underneath, but by the time I kneel down to get them, they have gone out the other side. I walk behind the coop to herd them; they peep frantically, hopping through the little doorway. Michael latches the door and we count: 3 Buff Orps, 3 Rhode Island Reds, 4 Auracanas, and 3 Lavender Orpingtons. Yep. All there.


Now it's time for my favorite chore. The watering. On any day when we didn't get rain I try to water the garden and all the new plantings of flowers. We have a sprinkler around somewhere, but I have a habit of forgetting to turn it off. Besides, I find this very relaxing in the evenings: a chance to reflect on the day and plan tomorrow. I also get to visit all the various parts of the yard, the shady plants around the ornamental quince: Coral Bells, Japanese Painted Ferns, and various Hostas; the sun loving plants that line my path to joy: Hollyhocks, Mullein, Sedum, Peonies, Irises, various ornamental grasses. I've also planted just a few more vegetables there that wouldn't fit in the garden coop: Chard, Arugula, Basil. Watering is a chance to treasure all the gifts of my yard. They'll be there, blooming, offering fruit and greenery, whether I appreciate them or not. 

Breathing in these gifts at the end of the day is pure selfishness: it is for my own enrichment. But if I gather these gifts into my soul, maybe I can spread them around a little. The sun has finally slipped behind the corn. I stand aiming a gentle sprinkling of water at my garden and watch the sky darken. Fireflies begin to blink their secret signals, rising like prayers to the sky.

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