Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Good Day To Be Outside

It's miraculous weather here at the moment—blue skies, cool breezes, no bugs. Well, almost--I just got my first black-fly bite of the season. It made a big lump behind my ear, and blood trickled down my neck. I think it's a badge of honor, a sign that I'm a real Vermonter.

This is the kind of weather that makes even weeding enjoyable. The ground is moist and loose, the weeds young and naïve. They give way easily and I dump them into a big tub and carry them to the goats and chickens, who enjoy picking through them like customers at a yard sale.

Later in the year, sweat runs into my eyes and stings me as I weed. But now, barely breaking a sweat, I congratulate myself on getting a headstart on the weeds. Pretty soon the “good” plants will form a canopy over the ground and smother the weeds in their cradles.

Everything smells so good. Here is what I smelled this morning: lilacs of a certain age (I dislike the scent of immature lilac), lemon balm, orange mint, lavender, ornamental sage (strong stuff), some unidentified mint, chamomile, apple mint, rose/lemon geraniums, and drying hay.

After weeding, I started moving stuff around: some thyme into the bare spot next to the back steps, some sunflower volunteers from the vegetable garden to the area under the bird feeder, and the mystery seedlings to a bed I made for them in a sunny spot (I'm sure they're the descendants of Halloween pumpkins we chopped up for the chickens last fall).

I filled the watering can in the tub garden and watered the new plantings. Then I refilled the tub garden with the hose. Why not water directly from the hose, you ask? First, because plants hate cold showers, and the water from the tub is not icy like the water from the hose, which comes straight from the well. Second, because this allows me to renew the water in the tub, which will help to keep my two precious Shubunkin, Alpha and Omega, alive.

Since I got the two fish a week ago, I've barely caught a glimpse of them. I read that you should provide fish with a good hiding spot, and I did such a good job of that that nobody would guess there are guests in the tub. I'm hoping that with time they will get over their shyness.

After the gardening I realized that this was the day to wave the buck rag.

Here's some more goat ob/gyn: goats come into heat every 18 to 21 days. The signs of heat are tail wagging, restlessness, bleating, and secretions from the appropriate places. Usually a goat will show all these even if there isn't a buck for miles around. But some goats have “silent” heats, and that's when you have recourse to the buck rag. This is a piece of cloth that has been rubbed on a buck's scent glands (on the top of his head) and carefully stored in a glass jar.

With the wood thrush as background music, I opened the jar and waved the cloth in front of Blossom and Alsiki. They were certainly interested. They sniffed and sniffed and tried to nibble it. (The buck rag, by the way, smelled like very old goat cheese, the kind I can't stand.) Then they tried to nibble my shirt.

They did not, however, wag their tails, become restless, bleat, or anything else. Perhaps they were just happy to smell their old friend, the buck Challenger, whom they had visited recently. Perhaps they are repressed, and believe in keeping their feelings to themselves. Or perhaps, may it please the goddesses, perhaps they're pregnant.

This evening, as my husband mowed the lawn, I found a freaked-out toad trying to escape the mower. I picked it up--it lay cool and still in my hand--and carried it to a hiding place near the vegetable garden.

6 comments :

  1. I feel like I just watched a scene from a movie...such detail and your discription of early spring and weeding was so true...working outside now is a joy later in summer a chore!

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  2. AND later in summer there's harvesting and freezing and drying--and canning (for those who know how). Who has time to weed then?

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  3. i love reading about your life.

    it makes me want to live that way too. even though, truth be told, i get heartily bored planting stuff and i hate pulling weeds.

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  4. Pulling weeds is kind of like washing dishes--has to be done over and over. It's best approached in a Zen frame of mind. As for finding planting boring, is your garden too big maybe? I get bored planting too. That's why I never plant carrots. Those teensy seeds drive me crazy.

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  5. Vermont in May sounds like paradise! And the scents of Spring! So delightful after a long winter smelling nothing but frost and woodsmoke.

    Weeding, though-- bah humbug! I don't know how the weeds can take off so fast while the vegetables creep along. About this time of year, weeding becomes the bane of my existence. In a few weeks, when all the tomatoes and peppers are bigger and the direct-sown squash and cucumbers have all come up, I'll be out there laying down newspaper and straw to smother the buggers out.

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  6. Mulch is God's gift to gardeners!

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