Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New and Improved

I'll lay off the depressing stuff for awhile.  No one wants to hear about all the dead stuff anymore.  Nope.

You all want to hear about the three cute little chicks that are currently living in a corner of the chicken coop.  Adorable!  And one is a baby rooster.  Cannon fodder!  (Oops, no more dead stuff...)

We've had sun and lots of rain.  My seeds are going crazy.  We've been eating fresh lettuce, and I am having to thin stuff out.  Beet greens... yum!  Never mind that those are beets that will never grow into real beets.  (Oops, no more dead stuff...)

Of course, the grass is growing like weeds.  Well, there are a lot of weeds.  Everywhere.  But last week, I got tired of waiting for the ground to dry enough so that the riding mowers wouldn't leave tracks, that I got out the small mower and personally mowed up and down the driveway, trimming the grass away from Jungle zone to Lawn zone.  Funny how I have to see a pretty lawn when I drive down the driveway and run over a young opossum. (Oops, no more dead stuff...)

I spent quite a lot of time clearing out the lovely garden outside the morning room.  Peonies and roses and irises and rhododendrons, even the chives!  There are poppies... dear lord, there cannot be a more beautiful flower in the world than a blooming red poppy.  The time was well worth it, even if I had to drag two full baskets of weeds to the compost heap.  (Oops, no more dead stuff...)

Yeah, I am making a joke out of it.  Life and death.  Right now I feel like a teenager, obsessed with mortality and such.  All I need is vampires in the mix... although I did see a bat the other night.

Katt is gone, and I am functioning like a semi-normal person again.  I am better, and getting wiser, I guess.

I even had a party this weekend.  It was tiny compared to the other one.  The Husband smoked a brisket (drool city!) and I prepared way too many vegetables.  Next weekend, my baby brother will come visiting with his family, and we'll have another small party.

The good thing about having company is that it forces me to clean up the house.

A friend recently told me that he admired how I've thrown myself into this country life.  I thanked him, but then I had to admit... I wonder if I throw myself into it more because I have the accountability of reporting my adventures here.

Like, my favorite game right now is flicking stink bugs across the room to hit the wall.  I love it when I manage to hit them hard enough that they don't recover from the impact.

I get off the farm enough, I guess.  But, I have learned to adapt.  Is it a true adaptation, or one for the public?

Does it matter?  Not really, I'd say.  Actions have consequences.  The end result is the same--I came upon a snake skin and picked it up: if I try to come up with a clever story around it for the blog, or simply pick it up to show the Boy, the fact is, I picked up a snake skin.

Now, to slaughter more lettuce...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Digging Holes

Digging holes is hard work.

I've spent the last two weeks working in the garden.  I dug out the compost heap to add to the soil.  The chickens love that hole:  they've decided that every time they catch sight of me with a shovel, they ought to come see what I'm up to.  

Anyhow, I got the beds slowly planted, and for the first time that I can remember, I got everything in before anything died.  Eleven tomatoes, thirteen peppers, marigolds, zucchini, cukes, cantaloupe, and then all the seeds: sweet corn, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, more cukes...

Digging the holes in my garden beds wasn't too bad.  Several tomatoes were a little bigger than I liked them, but I just clipped the lower stems and sank the plants in some pretty deep holes.  The other plants?  Not so deep. 

The marigolds...I actually had about 60 little plants to begin my border (I'll add seeds later).  For them, I used my tulip planter to dig about 60 little holes and that was that.  

So, Sunday, I thought I would lay down the straw for weed/erosion control, and also do the spring cleaning in the chicken coop to prepare for the chicks arriving this week.  I thought I was done digging for the weekend.

But, there was a really important hole that I still had to dig.

Sunday afternoon, Katt finally lost control of her bowels and bladder.  She staggered, and could hardly move.  I called the emergency vet and got an appointment.  There were a flurry of emails and texts...and one useless attempt at an international call.

 We had an hour with her at home, the three of us.  We still hoped somehow for good news, but we all said goodbye before I took her to her appointment.

Have you ever been in a bereavement room at a vet's office?  This one was nice and big.  Couch, comfy chairs, a pretty carpet.  Katt began her stalking immediately.  We waited for the vet.  Katt got herself stuck behind the couch, and I grumbled about how silly she was for not just turning around, even though I was pretty sure she couldn't do it.  I moved the whole couch for her.  She slowly made her way over for some petting and scratching, but she wouldn't settle.  I was sitting on the floor with her when the vet came.

The vet asked lots of questions, consulted Katt's chart, and examined her.  The list of issues was long:  severe lower back pain, neurological issues, a sizable heart murmur, high blood pressure, loss of sight... the list got too long.  I stopped listening when she said that the treatments for any one of those things could be too hard on her heart.

It was time.

I kept it together.  It needed to be about Katt.  I'd have time later.  The vet explained that Katt would get a big sedative, and her pain would stop.  After that had taken effect, the last medication.

I sat there on the floor with Katt as they gave her the sedative.  She growled and got fussy, and I was so glad to see that fleeting spark of personality.  They left, and I kept petting her and she kept hitting me with her irritated tail.

I knew the moment the sedative started to work.  The tail stopped, and the purring began.  And for the first time in months, I saw a relaxed Katt.  A Katt that wasn't twisted with stiffness and pain.  A Katt that could just lay there, purring to have me at her side as I talked to her, thanking her for being part of our family, giving her a last goodbye from Country Kitty, and apologizing for not understanding just how bad it had gotten for her.

And then the purring faded away, and she was just breathing, utterly relaxed.  The vet came back to check, and I asked for five more minutes.  I continued petting Katt for a bit, and then I sat back, just watching her.  And then I climbed up to sit on the couch, and kept it together.  And I watched her until they came and took Katt away.

Later, they brought her back in a white cardboard "coffin", sealed with packing tape.  The attendant asked if I needed help, since there was no way I could carry both the cat carrier and the coffin. She asked which I wanted her to carry.  I kept it together, and I asked her to get the coffin.

I drove home.  I changed clothes, got my boots and gloves, and found the shovel.  I was going to bury Katt in the woodland garden, near the previous cat's grave.  The vet had warned me to bury her deep.  I wandered around, searching and finally finding the perfect spot.

I dug.  I dug the deepest hole I've ever dug.  I moved soil and roots and rocks and more rocks.  The Boy came out and kept me company for awhile.  He asked me if he could help, and I asked him to find a nice big stone for Katt, and to bring me the potted lily I'd been wondering where to plant.

I dug until I didn't think it was possible to dig anymore.  I opened the box, and saw Katt laying there, still wrapped in the blue towel I'd brought to the vet.  I kept it together as I lifted her out and placed her into a paper bag, which seemed like a more environmentally sound idea than the cardboard box wrapped in tape.  The Husband placed her at the bottom of the hole.  I kept it together.

The Boy wanted to shovel some of the earth back.  He and his father wound up filling the grave together.  I went back to the big garden and filled two big planters with the rocks I'd collected the last few weeks.

We covered her grave with lots of pretty rocks.  I planted the tulips at the edge of her grave.  They had already peaked, so I went and cut some pretty blooming flowers.  It only seemed fitting, and I kept it together.

I've been keeping it together.  Maybe only just, but I've done it.  Never mind that cleaning her food dish was a physical pain in my chest.  Never mind that her not greeting me when I got downstairs this morning left a ghostly wake that has followed me all day long, as I walked the farm, worked in the chicken coop, and struggled to keep focused.

There is a hole inside me right now.  But nothing is getting in right now because I'm keeping it together.

A few years back, Country Kitty's parents died, and we had offered to get her a white lilac in memory.  Well, for a variety of reasons, it took a long time to track one down, but we finally did, and it arrived last week.

So, today, I dug one last hole.  I planted that white lilac in the front yard.  I feel like I may never dig another hole without thinking about her.  But I'm keeping it together.


Monday, May 5, 2014

The Circle of Life

Spring is supposed to be a time of rebirth, of life, of green and happy freaking maypoles, right?  We enjoy each new iris pushing out of the ground, savor each new bud on the dogwoods, thrill each time we discover a new bird nest.  Heck, we spent one bedtime laughing at the sound of a couple of foxes going at it on Tuesday night...as in fox love.

Life.  Yeah.  But you cannot have life without the inevitable ending.

Last week, I learned to hate foxes.  Never mind that every time it got quiet that evening, every time I began digging into my book again, they'd start giggling like a bunch of hyenas and start it over again.  (I mean, really?  Just finish already!)  And never mind that I giggled too.

No, I learned to hate them the next day.  A day which shall be called Bloody Wednesday.  A day I lost not one, not two, not three, but FOUR chickens.  We lost Acid, Mocha, Ginger, and poor Pickles.

Princess Leia and Peaches-n-Cream are all that remain.  I've let them out twice since; and both times, they were heavily supervised.  As in, locked in the big garden with me as I continued preparing the beds for planting.

There is a fierce debate going...

Sensible:  You need to get more chickens.
Dramatic: Why, so they can just feed the foxes? 
Sensible:  You have this huge coop with more room than many chickens ever see.
Dramatic:  But they don't need to be locked up all the time!  They'll be miserable.
Sensible:  Then put up a fence, so they have a yard that will protect them from the foxes and hawks.
Dramatic:  But then they are not free range.  One of the reasons I wanted free range was because they keep the bug populations down!
Sensible:  Then you have to accept that the foxes will eat some.  Get lots more chickens.  Maybe a rooster.
Dramatic:  I cannot take any more death!  How do farmers do this?
Sensible:  They have more chickens than you do, and they don't name them.
Dramatic:  Well, how will I tell them apart?
Sensible:  Don't.  Don't tell them apart, and just enjoy your eggs.

And so on.  I am trapped by the debate, and so have done nothing.  Leia and Peaches spend their day in their huge, rambling, empty chicken coop, eating and scratching and laying, and I get two eggs a day.

We had to buy our first eggs in months this weekend.

But this wasn't all.  No, there is more.  I could hardly bear it.

On Saturday, the Husband was coming out at 11:30 on the dot to help me get the chickens back in the coop.  The girls enjoyed the foray into my garden, eating grubs and seeds...and the earthworms.  But, I needed help getting them in.  The Husband's alarm sounded, and he came out.  Amy had spent all morning with me, so she didn't bother, but Katt wandered out after him.  We got the girls in, I dumped another load of weeds down a groundhog hole, and then we ate lunch and went to our afternoon event.

On our way home that evening, we realized that Katt had not come in, and that, in fact, we hadn't even seen her when we came back from the garden.  And she usually never stays out of sight of her humans, or at least the dog.

We got home, and Katt was not waiting.  In fact, there was no evidence of her.  Anywhere.  We all spent the next few hours until sundown, wandering the fields, calling her name.  She didn't appear.

If the fox had appeared at that moment, I would have beaten it to a bloody pulp with a stick.

Katt didn't show before we went upstairs.  And she wasn't waiting for us in the morning.  And she never showed up at all, and I had to write a painful email to Country Kitty, letting her know that Katt was gone.

In my heart, I was already grieving her.  I couldn't stand looking into the sunroom, because that is her room.  The Boy was disconsolate, and I had trouble even smiling.  Even Amy seemed unhappy.  The Husband slept poorly last night, and I had to hold back tears as I cooked the Boy's breakfast:  there was no annoying Katt underfoot.  And things were pretty subdued.

And here is where the entry was supposed to end.

But, after I had let Amy out and the Boy was halfway though his eggs, there suddenly came the shout:  "Mommy!  I see Katt!"

I see Katt.  What did that mean?  I put down the pitcher of water and went to the door, terrified of what I would see.

Katt came mincing in, her tail up, her gait stronger than I had seen in months.  She meowed, and our tears began.  She was back, and she was strong, and she DEMANDED her breakfast.  The Boy and I crowded around her, unable to credit this strong and happy kitty, and even Amy joined us, sniffing madly.

That dumb Katt.  

I still hate the fox.