Thursday, August 21, 2014
WHY I KEEP CHICKENS....
9:15 pm edt
"Hey, look in here!" It was Gladys of course,
telling me where the eggs were hidden, the ones I've been searching for since the hens stopped laying them in the corner of
the bad asses' stall. Heaven forbid that they might consider laying in the coop nest boxes. Certainly not!
They prefer secret hiding spots for me to find, as if I have nothing else to do. When I do discover their nest,
they move it somewhere else. Now Gladys was indicating that I'd find the stash of eggs hidden in the depths of the pumpkin
Being the clever girl that she is she knew I was skeptical, but assured me that she knew best.
"I'm tellin' you, the eggs are in there."
And indeed the hen that rides the donkeys, swims in the
pond (when absolutely necessary) and dictates treat feeding times was telling the truth. There, under the giant green
leaves, nestled amidst the big orange blossoms were six beautiful eggs, one of which the tattle-tale herself had probably
Careful not to step on any of the vines or blossoms, I eased my Clogged foot into the jungle of greenery
and retrieved the eggs all the while questioning just why I keep these cackling, pooping pests. I often think
they are more trouble than their eggs are worth. They dig up spring gardens, peck holes in almost-ripe tomatoes, lounge
on porch furniture, poop on the walkways and hang at the back door demanding treats. Yes, they are annoying, but in
my heart I know they're here to stay.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
3:57 pm edt
About a year ago I joined a water aerobics class at the local YMCA
hoping the exercise would help what seemed to be a chronic back pain issue and it did indeed. No more pain! Never
having been much of a water person before it was surprising to discover so much enjoyment (not to mention relief from the
back pain) at the Y. I even began swimming, something I was never good at, but daily attempts to swim a couple of laps
were paying off. Everything was great--until yesterday when I passed out in the pool, sank like a stone and nearly
drowned, then spent the rest of the day at the hospital ER.
Long story short, after lots and lots of tests, including a CAT scan of my head I was pronounced healthy and normal
(a debatable diagnosis...) except for some misplaced crystals in my middle ear. Something called BPPV. The vertigo
is treated by exercises designed to reposition the 'crystals' that caused this most-terrifying incident. I will never
be able to watch water films again because now I know that drowning must be a horrible way to die!
I be doing any backstroke swimming (the position that caused me to faint). I'm grateful to all my kind friends at the Y who
‘saved' me from a potential watery demise. I'm also forever grateful to friend Diana who played ambulance
driver, rushing me to hospital in her little green Ford and then spending a very long day at the hospital. Today I am
Saturday, August 16, 2014
BLOOM WHERE YOU'RE PLANTED.
8:29 am edt
'Easier for the Amish than it is for people like myself who wonder
if/when they will ever take root.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
THE FIRST INTERVIEW CONT.
11:16 am edt
The daughter is even plumper than her mother and she's just as warm and hospitable. She sits barefoot, rocking enthusiastically
in a Lazy-Boy and isn't the least bit surprised to see her mother appear from the basement accompanied by an English stranger.
She and her husband have had to double the size of their home and the project still isn't finished, hence our entry
through the cellar. The ‘new' house rambles in a curious manner seemingly without logic other than to provide
more chambers to accommodate the growing family. There are eight children already, including two week old baby Mandy.
Rooms stumble into one another and like A's home, it is hot! A big gas stove and a smaller wood burner transform the space
into a vast incubator. The husband languishes in the kitchen, leaning on the counter and he too seems delighted by our
impromptu visit. There's a palpable sense of calm and unity in this odd place.
After we unload the many trays of plugs we've brought along the daughter shares photo albums of her own gardens while a thin
girl of about 13 wearing a black scarf fetches the baby named after her grandma. The perfect little angel with more hair than
I have on my own big head sleeps in a tiny hand-stitched polyester nightshirt. The baby is cradled lovingly by the teenager
and it's obvious she's in good hands. There's no fuss over the infant as A, daughter and I set off for the greenhouses,
leaving baby Mandy in her sister's care.
are simple plastic-walled structures heated by gas stoves. Robust flora spills from overloaded tables and plants encouraged
by the hot environment send up volunteers from the dirt floor. It's a far cry from huge commercial English greenhouses,
but the pansies, alyssum, begonias, impatience and geraniums of every color and type care not a lick that things aren't fancy.
An old bathtub heaped with potting mixture serves as a work station.
A pale little boy of about 4 wearing a knit hat that is much too big for him plucks blooms from begonias and offers them to
me with a shy smile. He's enjoying this game, fearless of any reprimands from mom or grandma. None are forthcoming
anyway. Everyone is smiling and eager to get to the work at hand. A tightens her apron, securing it with straight
pins, redoes her hair covering and grabs the first of many trays. The family closeness and ease of togetherness is something
I myself have never known. These people know the wonder of living in the moment. They see the awesomeness of the ordinary
and they savor it.
My camera malfunctions, so a return visit
is encouraged and I depart amidst jolly waves and smiles. On the way home I stop at Beachy's Nylon Harness shop to implore
the missus to fill out a questionnaire. I find the mister busy at his machine and remind him that we've met before.
We chat about harness and magazines and he says he will call the wife. Heading toward a corner he informs me, "We
have a phone. Well, really it's a plastic tube that goes from here to the house," he admits. How does the
wife know when to listen at the other end, I wonder aloud and quickly discover how when he blows a police whistle into his
end. After some words not intelligible to me the smiling wife enters the shop.
The mister sits leafing through the Draft Horse Journal bearing one of my articles which is enhancing my credibility (I hope)
while the wife and I talk about the merits of Cosmos, pink and orange. She casually brushes the back of his neck and
shoulders in a gesture of familiar affection and once again, I am out of place.
I make my good-byes with a promise to "...see you soon." The first day of interviews has gone well, but I
have no pictures and learned almost nothing about Amish gardens.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
THE FIRST AMISH GARDEN VISIT.
12:39 pm edt
Amish garden notes from March 20, 1997 as written. Names will
appear in this transcription only as initials (except for Alvin).
My first garden interview is with my late Amish fence-jumper
friend Alvin's sister. I've never met her, but he assures me that sister A. will welcome me and indeed she does.
A and her husband
H live in Becks Mills. She greets me with a big smile, obviously happy to talk about her gardens. The small yard is cut into
planting pockets, some framed with old barn timbers, others outlined with rubber. A bush near the door is blanketed
in pale tan blossoms.
Adjoining the house is a beautiful old schoolhouse, "...where we used
to live until it just got too small," she says. A and H have twelve children, all grown and gone from the home
now except for a daughter who works in town and only comes home on the weekend. In a few weeks they will begin construction
of a new, small house and one of the children will move his family into this place.
Inside the house it is hot and every
window is crammed with something growing. Some are mature plants in pots set in plastic buckets tilted toward the light.
Others are miniscule plugs in trays of one hundred, covered with plastic lids to make mini-greenhouses. Geraniums bloom
and African violets, symmetrical and fuzzy sprout nodding buds. A has a green thumb. Plump and looking remarkably like her brother, she takes out a photo album of her gardens in full dress
and they are indeed lovely. Her husband H is a chiropractor who works from a trailer built onto the rear of the house,
but he is recuperating from hernia surgery. He's a thoughtful man and a serious fellow who measures words like grams of gold.
Nearby, Sammy, a brilliant orange canary in a deluxe cage sings madly, shattering the quiet heat of the modest house.
"We feed him baby carrots to enhance his color,"
says A. The diet seems to work, for Sammy is a spectacular little soprano. It is decided that I should see their
daughter's place in New Bedford. She is recovering from a blood clot and with the recent birth of a daughter and the
addition being built onto their home, she could sure use some help says A. She says she'll stay there for a few days.
That agreed upon we go into the bedroom and she stuffs a small overnight case with unknown items necessary for the visit.
The little blue valise is packed solid and it's heavy,"...full of vitamins," she says.
No zippers on Amish dresses, so A. pulls the yoke of her black dress tight at the
waist and deftly repositions the straight pins that keep it snug. Her black bonnet is secured and after bidding H farewell
she and I pile into my truck and head for her daughter's home.
It seems strange to set off to spend days at someone's
home without first telling them, but off we go, traveling fantasy roads weaving their way past farm after farm where gardens
are being readied by their Amish caretakers. We stop at a yard sale and A buys some sticky buns. "I'm taking
herbs to loose weight. I don't have to change my diet or anything. The pounds will just fall away," she says tearing
off pieces of the big pastry and handing them to me as we barrel along the shady lanes. How strange my life is.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
COUNTRY FOLK ARE DIFFERENT.
1:02 pm edt
My daughter and I thread our way through the maze of trash leading
to the one accessible door at my neighbor's house. A bucket half full of very old tubes of oil paint stands next to
me as I call through the screen door. Inside, from the clutter that's even denser than that through which we've stumbled
so far comes a movement. It looks as if a chair has suddenly come to life.
"Oh, hi there," he says pushing open the screen and I hand him a baggie of just-baked peanut butter
cookies. "I hope these are as good as the last cookies you brought me. Boy, those were good. I didn't
even share them with Kenny," he says only slightly ashamed of being so parsimonious. He's wearing ladies rhinestone-encrusted
reader glasses and the small patch indicating the lens strength, the one that's supposed to be peeled off before donning the
specs is still in place. 2.0.
"I leave it there so I know what number to get if I need to buy more,"
he explains as if the logic were obvious.
Most folks politely describe this neighbor as eccentric. Others say, "He's nuts!"
I say he's just 'differnt.'
We've come to thank him for
allowing us to relocate some fixed feral cats at one of his many barns. As we talk a big tom appears from the obstacle
course behind the open screen door. The cat has an ominous-sounding cough.
"Yeh, I think he's got a cold or something. He likes to lay on my chest, but he coughs a
lot...." The cat does not look as if he's long for this world.
My daughter has knelt down and is rubbing the big cat's head. She says she'll send some antibiotics
for him because we both know neighbor is not going to take the animal to the vet.
Neighbor is not poor by any means. Everyone knows that. He's probably one of the wealthiest people
in the county. He's just odd. I look over the property that (minus the mess) would be very lovely. The fields
gently roll and big trees lend some grace to the curiously-decorated landscape.
The ‘lawn' sports countless plastic buckets, auto parts, tires, wagons bedecked with artifical Xmas
greenery, plastic ducks, ladders, doors and lots of unidentifiable items. Sunflowers gaily rim the bean field to the
north and vigorous pumpkin vines snake toward one of several driveways, inching its way to the only one that's blacktopped.
A black station wagon is parked there and bright yellow plastic is duct taped over the passenger side window. He says
he'll have to find someone to fix it. "It's electric, you know...."
"So what are you doing with these oil paints," I ask poking the bucket with my foot. I'm
really thinking it would be good to get rid of at least one item that makes getting into the house almost impossible.
The entire property is a hazardous trip zone and the porch is nearly impassable. A nice bed teeters on the edge near
the make-shift steps, boxes of miscellaneous rubbish, several rusted cordless drills, empty cat food cans, boxes, lamps and
rugs vie for space leaving about a ten inch path for cats and humans. There's a big dented can of chopped tomatoes on
I tell him that I paint, but omit that I use acrylics. He points down to the recently blacktopped
driveway and we see that it's brightly splattered with globs of color.
"I throw them down there and then I drive over them," he explains. "I think it helps
fill in cracks." I say it looks as if
Jackson Pollock has stopped by, but he's not familiar with the artist. He gives me the bucket of paints and a very small
space on the porch opens up. At home I dump the ancient tubes into the trash.
Country folk are just different--and that's why I like them.