Carl and I put in a good day's work on Friday. The temperatures were still in the sixties and there was barely enough breeze to turn the Aermotor's blades for most of the early afternoon. The forecast was for a drastic cool-down with the possibility of snow and 30-45 mph winds as the day wore into night.
After our noon meal, I whipped up a batch of 'Nancy's Crockpot Soup' for supper. The soup, named after my friend Nancy who introduced me to the recipe, consists of green peppers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, a small head of cabbage, beef bouillon, tomato juice, one pound of browned hamburger and garlic, onion powder, black pepper, chili powder, etc. in varying amounts. I'm not very good at measuring things, I'm a toss and go cook. Sometimes I add lentils, but today I forgot all about them. Apparently I'm not so hot at remembering all the ingredients, either.
The slow cooker is always in action around here at least once or twice a week. It has saved me countless hours in the kitchen and when we've put in a long day in the garden, it's such a comfort to know there's a hot meal ready and waiting for us.
Friday's mission was to finish clearing out the east hosta bed. My back was a little better, but still very stiff. The good news was my sore neck had cleared up considerably, I could actually turn my head to the side a little without wincing in pain.
As we worked together removing hostas, I was happy to see all the rocks reappearing again. And I found my shiny mushroom family under the leaves, too.
I bought the ceramic mushrooms from a thrift store a few years ago for $3. I was struck by their realistic, organic shapes; the artist did a wonderful job.
I left Hosta 'June' standing; the foliage had turned a vibrant shade of gold and it seemed a shame to remove it.
As Carl and I made our way through the hosta beds, the Girls followed along, scratching for bugs and tossing the mulch around. The hens are getting quite old now, but we still get an occasional egg now and then.
|Ebony and Sable|
|"Did you hear something??"|
It's fun to have them around; they're always working and clucking quietly to each other, a running poultry commentary only they understand. The two black hens, Ebony and Sable, came to live here together and are the largest and quite tame. As they age and molt their feathers every year, more tan feathers are becoming prevalent. Just like me, my hens are going gray.
Ashley, the gray and black chicken, is an Araucana-cross hen and our oldest hen. Her feathers are finally almost all grown back in for the winter. A few weeks ago she looked like an escapee from a plucking factory. She is probably the most intelligent of all the chickens we've owned over the years, but is also the most nervous and wary. I guesstimate we've had Ashley over eight years already.
Our youngest hen is Tina. I had some fertilized eggs given to me by my friend Sue about five years ago and stuck them under one of my late brooding hens, Francee. Two of the three eggs turned out to be roosters (and Thanksgiving dinner that year) and the other one was Tina. I'm not sure what breed Tina is, she has feathers on top of her head like a Polish chicken, and feathery feet, too. She is the size of a Bantam, being much smaller than the Ebony and Sable. She is also quite flighty and does not trust us very much, either.
The hens go all over the yard and even out into the fields usually, but today, they stayed close by. I assume there was either a hawk or other predator lurking; I heard the blue jays making a racket and noticed the hens were under a cedar tree a few feet away from us. They know enough to take cover, thank goodness.
We've lost chickens to predators many times. Ebony and Sable had a sister, Inky, whom we lost to a fox two years ago. Opossums are also a menace, and raccoons are even worse. Domestic dogs are also a threat, along with hawks. A hawk will strike from above, but then cannot carry the hen off because they weigh too much, so it's a senseless loss. I had a hawk kill a little white bantam hen years ago only to find he/she couldn't lift the carcass more than a foot off the ground. I came out of the house on the run because I'd seen the incident and chased the hawk carrying his ill gotten gains into the woods across the road. The hawk was exhausted by the effort of carrying the hen and didn't notice me floundering around in the underbrush at first. Seemingly startled, he dropped the chicken and flew a few feet away, perching on a log. I flapped my arms and shooed him off and retrieved my poor little hen. No meal for you, buddy. I didn't want him to get used to killing my chickens.
With winter coming on, the Girls will have to get used to the coop again, but they will come out on any day that is sunny as long as I have a path shoveled.
Anyway, back to the cleanup; Carl and I were working on the east side of the Lane bed, removing hosta and daylily foliage and recent dandelions. A car approached from the east and slowly turned into the lane driveway. At first I thought the driver was looking for a place to turn around, but he kept coming and turned off his ignition. Neither of us had ever seen the elderly man before.
"Hello! Well, it's nice to see two youngsters working in the garden together," the man said. "Why does she have kneepads and you don't? I take it she's the boss of this outfit?"
Carl looked at me and smiled, "Yes, she's the boss."
"I thought so! Oh, well, you can't win 'em all, can you? You'd better get all your work done today, the weather's going to turn, you know," he said. "Are you still working? Or are you retired?" our visitor asked Carl.
Carl told him he was still working; retirement is still a few years off yet.
"Ok, well, that's ok. Say, I'm looking for any abandoned homes or farms to buy around here. Do you know of any reasonably priced ones? Who did you vote for? And just how high are your property taxes? Do you make a fair amount of money at your job? Over 50K? Or more, or less? What did you say the taxes were?"
The questions were fast-paced and intense and since we weren't forthcoming with exact amounts or direct answers, he launched into telling us about his life. His story was interesting but hard to follow; it began with his childhood in Poland, and moved to high school, through the military and a gruesome story about the Korean War, followed up with his after- military service high-paying careers, well-paid semi-retirement gigs, and a teaching degree as a professor right up to his retirement. And then he transitioned with a flourish back to his present situation; questioning two random gardeners about their tax burdens, income and voting preferences.
Somewhere in the half hour conversation, he restarted his car's engine again, only to turn it off when he remembered something he wanted to say. He teased Carl about his weight and told me I fed him too much fatty food and then told a joke about two old people who died and went to heaven only to find you can golf, live in a grand home and eat anything you want with no consequences, so the husband is mad at his wife because she made him eat bran muffins and low cal foods for decades which in turn, delayed him getting to Heaven.
Then he restarted his car, only to shut it off again when he remembered that in between, he'd worked in Alaska selling land and for the state as a field inspector where he was paid over $50 grand a year to dig a rectangle of soil out of a site and mark it down on a piece of paper. They wanted him to move out of state and he wasn't willing, so he went back to Poland to teach where they wanted him to only speak English instead of his native tongue. He thought that was curious, but he did as they asked. Somewhere in the murky timeline he ended up back in America teaching psychology.
Wait, why was he talking to us again? Oh, yeah, he was looking for old, abandoned, hopefully cheap farms or houses to buy in the area for a relative who is divorced with three children and can't make a go of it on $17 bucks an hour and pay on a mortgage at the same time since her Obamacare health insurance doubled from what it cost last year.
"Hey, you never said who you voted for," he said. "But I guess, you're the boss here?"
During this most interesting discourse, I'd been half-kneeling, half-sitting on my milking stool and my back was starting to ache more than ever. I had to get up and stretch.
"So, do you know of anything around here for sale?" he asked, shutting off his car one more time.
I told him where he could find some houses for sale and after giving us two of his professorial business cards (one had written on the bottom, 'I specialize in Bull'), he bid us a good day and backed down the lane to the road.
"Hey, if this works out, I might be your neighbor! Have a good day!"
We both waved goodbye.
Well, that was different. You never know what will happen when we go out to work in the garden. We've met some very interesting people over the years. 'Chubby' Carl and his equally 'fluffy' wife went back to the task at hand, clearing the garden.
Just before sunset the wind began to pick up drastically, scattering leaves and loose pots all over the yard. The Girls headed on the run for their coop.
The cloud bank to the east reminded me of summer, but the temperature was dropping quickly. I think this will be the last time we see those type of clouds until next spring.
Carl hooked the Oldsmobile up to the trailer and hauled the load of plant material to the compost pile while I picked up the tools, shut the barn door and locked the chicken coop.
The last warm sunset of the year was glorious:
When we came in the house the delicious aroma of the soup was all we needed for encouragement to shuck out of our filthy work clothes and get cleaned up for supper.
Thank goodness for crock pots. (And Nancy's recipe.)