Monday, May 09, 2005

After the Work

I was amused Saturday with what we did AFTER we finished work.

We did our usual day to day stuff, me milking, husband getting breakfast. Then there is the decision of where the focus (for me) will be that day. There are always dishes, and basic kitchen clean-up, so that the next meal can be made. There were three quick loads of laundry. I made bread, and warmed cream for butter (which the kids churned). And as quickly as possible (which was just after noon) I headed to my chosen focus of that day, the garden.

On Friday I had mowed (with riding mower) our front fields, and swept them, and helped to use that to mulch hard corn. On Saturday I took the push mower to the orchard. Now, the orchard hadn’t been mowed at all this year and so was high and in places thick. Push, pull, tilt the mower up trying to get it to cut tall grass and all that. Then there is the bagger. Which is the reason we mow, to get the mulch, so bagging all that grass is the point. Push, pull, empty the bag into the wheelbarrows. A bag of wet grass is heavy, sticks together, doesn’t just dump out but must be pulled and shaken and encouraged.

So I mowed and emptied and husband would look up from his transplanting work and when the barrows were nearing full would come over to empty them onto the potato bed and replace them once again closer to me. Until finally I stopped the mower to empty the bag and just sort of sat down in the shade of the cherry tree and thought, I can’t get up, I can’t empty that bag, I’m not sure I can walk up to the house.

But a few minutes of shade can work wonders. And a big drink of water. And a trip down to the front fields to let daughter #2 show me how well she is doing learning to ride a bike. I wasn’t foolish enough to do more mowing but I was refreshed. I spent some time admiring all of husband’s work. I looked around. And I started seeing things. Like I saw the hot pepper sprayer and thought, oh, I can spray that on the peas and strawberries. In doing so, I saw the strawberries had been eaten off by a rabbit (most likely) despite hot pepper sauce. The next defensive strategy is tulle, that material tutus are made out of. It stops a lot of predation, from rabbits to Japanese beetles, but alas, our supply of tulle had degenerated in use last year. So I found some plastic netting, but not enough to drape the entire bed.

Also, cut worms had done some work on the cabbage transplants. To control those you use BT, a harmless to humans bacteria that paralyses the guts of chewing worms so they can’t eat and die. We’d sprayed the plants themselves but another effective method of application is to put some on bran and sprinkle it on the ground around the plants and hopefully the worms eat this and die before they get to the plants. So I walked up to the house to get some bran to put some BT on, and to renew the hot pepper spray, and to get another length of plastic netting that had made a juvenile chicken pen last year, and to get some dog and cat food while I was at it.

Back down to the garden. Take husband a banana so he doesn’t completely faint away. We haven’t eaten since breakfast you see. I myself had a smackerel of chocolate while I was at the house. Spray everything with hot pepper spray. Cover strawberries. Scatter BT laced bran (which the cats promptly eat -- but since we’ve seen them eat mice out of the potato beds this day, fine, we don’t fuss at them, enough will probably be left to get those cutworms). Look around. See wormwood and decide to harvest my first smudge stick from this patch on this, the dark of the moon.

Think we need to eat something for supper and no one is going to want to cook this night. Think “salmon salad”. This is nearly always my summer answer to, I just can’t cook. Think, spring garlic would be awfully nice in salmon salad. I tend to cook pungently -- lots of garlic and onions and curry and things like that. Or not cook as it were. Anyway, think further, salmon salad and bread needs a salad, and there is all that lettuce growing there, staring at me.

I start picking lettuce into my cupped shirt, the same way my grandmother used her apron. Husband comes back from going to the creek to get water to haul up to the hothouse and wonders aloud if I think I can pick enough salad into my shirt. “We’ll see.” He goes and finds me a bag. Those plastic supermarket bags have multiple lives here. Red sails lettuce, a green oak leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, mizuma, satsoi, plus some lambs quarters all go into the salad. And a couple more garlics.

We walk up the hill together. He stops at the hothouse to water his plants. I wait. We continue up the hill. The children already have their evening chores done (feeding rabbits and chickens, gathering eggs). I start on the salmon salad, husband assembles the green salad. Daughter #1 makes her version of ranch dressing. I choose feta cheese with a good olive oil for my salad so we get the feta out of the fridge. We have several huge containers of it I made while I was milking the goat. These salads are why I make it. Nobody eats like this.

But before we eat, I milk. I prefer to eat after milking because the way I have to sit on the stool and bend is uncomfortable on a full stomach. While I milk, husband skims the milk -- the cream will be made to butter tomorrow, or ice cream, or sour cream; the milk gets put in the pig bucket; the jars washed before they receive tonight’s milk. While I drain the milk, he serves up the children’s supper. #1 son doesn’t like salmon salad and gets a bowl of beans leftover from the night before.

All that is after “the work”. After our working we do all the easy stuff. While we tell the tales. And come to understandings about where things stand. And what needs to be done. And what can ride for right now. And after we do all that, we pretty much go to bed so we can get up the next morning and do it again.

I milk. He fixes breakfast and skims the milk. After he makes my coffee. Love is how you treat each other.

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