Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This is my Eternal Summer

My life is so very different now.

I only 'work' 10 months out of the year; of course there are times when I do have to go in during the remaining two months. Next week I'm scheduled for a class to keep/enhance my certification in what I do; I have State reports to file the first of every month, and I have to sort and distribute supplies when they come in - which they will, off and on, for the next two months until school starts again.

Which is perfect for me. I have a HUGE garden - well, actually two of them, all told about two acres. There s the West Garden, which is all of my 'everyday' garden foods - tomatoes and radishes, collards and mustard greens, spinach and lettuce, squash and zucchini, and carrots and cabbages and corn and green beans and onions and... well, the usual stuff.

The East Garden is my 'experimental' garden. Here I'm growing not just things that I know will grow well here - like potatoes - but things that I've been told won't grow at all, or have never been tried, or that sprawl out too much for a smaller, more precise garden plot. A row of pumpkins, a row of watermelons - the small, 'early' type, that grow quickly and don't take 120 days or more of hot weather. Cantaloupes and 'muskmelons'. Oats and wheat. peanuts, and potatoes - two rows of potatoes.

Oh, crap, I think I've planted too many potatoes. I really didn't expect them all to come up - some were just old potatoes from storage. But it seems that every one of them is determined to grow. Every. Single. One.

There's strawberries, too, in between one apricot tree (I planted two ) and the plum tree next to the apple tree down the driveway. Gooseberry plants and blueberry plants, too. It's a long driveway.

Now that everything's in the ground, I have to weed them and feed them and keep them bug-free. There is the cutest HUGE pair of bunnies that gambol across other peoples' yards - not mine as yet. Hassenpfeffer, anyone? Because for sure I'll be looking for them if they wander into the gardens. There's a four-foot king snake in the East Garden - and I won't bother her. She eats gophers and they say that watching a king snake fight off a rattler - and kill it - is something to see. I planted the onons and garlic on the perimeter of the West Garden, and that plus the fact that there's a lot of horse poop and other compost in the rows may be off-putting to the deer. If not - I have a big freezer.

I may end up loading the quantities of produce into the back of the pickup bed and selling them by the road. Anything that's left, that I can't can or dehydrate or freeze or cook right away, just might be for sale... or left on neighbor's back porches, even in their unlocked cars... ahem.

Then there's the chickens. 10 hens and 10 roosters, just a month old so far. I'll put one of two roosters - the most obnoxious ones - with five hens each in chicken tractors, chicken coops with attached yards on runners, built to scoot between the rows in the garden, to keep down the bug invasions that happen the end of July here. They will spend their fertilizer between this year's rows, preparing for next year's rows. The rest of the roosters will be fattened in a separate pen and will be trussed up, lined up hanging upside down, then their throats cut, then processed for the freezer. THAT will be a messy weekend in August. Then my 10 'girls' will be producing their big brown eggs starting at the end of the summer...

We had to replace the wall oven. The old one will make a perfect miniature smokehouse; we stashed it back. I'm raking up the spoiled hay from the winter horse-feed bale out of the barn, and using the dry hay to mulch, the rotting hay and horse poop to start the new compost pile. We have to take down the storm windows and clean them and the huge old fashioned leaded-glass windows in the frames have to be reglazed and recaulked. We did some last year before winter set in, but not all. It is a challenge. Then there's things to build and things to rebuild; wood to chop for the cast-iron stove and set up to dry and cure for the winter.

Doesn't sound like much of a "vacation", does it?

But I'm planning on taking a short trip the end of June to my brother's in Idaho. My brother - whom my mother abandoned in a boardinghouse when he was six - and I found each other again 10 years ago. Since then we have taken great pleasure in each other's company. But there's a national miniature cattle show not 60 miles west of him. I have sparked his interest in these cattle; 22% butterfat in the milk, makes excellent cheese and butter, and they are foragers, like goats, don't require the hay and corn and grain feed-ups that the big cattle do. He has a house and money with no real property, and I have 60 acres. We are talking about starting our own little herd here; of good grass-fed beef and good cheeses and butter. Most times I preach against going into business with family, but, well... The long weekend in Idaho sounds like such fun, whether we buy cattle or not. They're not in the Plan for another two years, but..

Then of course there is the Star Gazer's Party in July; where everyone gathers at the local river and national park for a whole week to lay on their backs and look at the stars. DH and I missed the one last year, he had bronchitis. But this year I am determined to go. The astronomy professor from UN brings his class and telescopes down to the river and holds free classes on the stars; where they are, what to look for. There is no refraction of city lights here; nothing to get in the way of star-viewing on most nights. The skies here are so covered with tiny points of light that just sitting outside and looking up is like looking into black velvet with a bright light behind it; billions and billions of tiny sparkles. Of course when I say "everyone" - that means about 500 or so people. We are quite glad to be in flyover country.

This is why I moved, what I've always wanted, what I've worked toward and lived for my whole life. To grow things, to produce things, to create things, to be a vital part of life and living, to cast off the Disney World and China Mart existence, to seek after the real meaning of life, the real adventure of it, the real promise of productivity and joy that I find deep within me. My life is my vacation. And even when the snow flies, even when I go back to work full time, this is my Eternal Summer.