Friday, May 09, 2008

Marshall and Louise

I feel under siege.

I mean, I feel like I'm waiting for that, awful, that fateful attack. The one that overruns our defences. The attack that destroys everything.

When is this 'attack' going to happen? I don’t know when. (but don't sneak attacks and raids always come in the middle of the night. In the early morning, hours before the sun lights the sky)

Where? I don't know. It could be anywhere along our borders with the forest. Last year we had bears that ripped holes in the fence so they could get in and eat from the bee hives, to snap off the limbs of the fruit trees looking for apples and pears.

Why? That's an easy one. Why? Simple. Someone, or something out there is hungry. And this hungry someone, or something wants to eat what is growing, and living in our fields.

They want to eat our vegetables. And they definitely want to eat our chickens. And, of course, everyone wants an egg meal whenever they have that empty feeling.

Who? It could be just about anyone of that class of critters I call the eaters. And an eater is just about anyone. Back when I first started doing this sort of thing for the food bank and we would be donated land inside the city the eaters we were most worried about where the human kind. I remember spending time worrying about what was the least costly way of protecting tomatoes.

Out here in the country (well, what once was the country and has now turned into the front edge of the city's suburbs). It's a little different. The eaters have changed but the goal is still the same.

Here's an example.

Earlier this week Wenonah and I were going on our evening walk. Every evening is mostly the same walk. We leave the house and head up the gravel lane toward the greenhouse, follow the drive around the curve, past the cemetery, and down to the creek.

That's half a mile.

Until a few years ago you had to ford the creek. In a car that meant splashing through water half a foot deep.

On foot it meant either getting your feet wet, jumping ( it was maybe six feet across) or chancing it to the stepping stones I had set out in the water.

A few years back, though, I finally listened to Wenonah and put a pipe down for the creek to flow through and then built up the road with clay and gravel, so instead of getting wet we could drive or walk over the creek (the creek's official name is Catlett's Branch).

In doing away with the ford I sort of messed with the environment something that a shareholder over at the EPA called me to task on.

Instead of the creek flowing through some boggy land and then over the rocks and gravel the ford was made of, there is now a sort of pond (what Wenonah refers to as 'Leigh's swamp').

Back when I created the swamp I also bought a bag of goldfish and tossed them in the water. And this is what John called me to task on .

This week when we went for our walk I counted 150 gold fish. 150 goldfish means the gold fish are thrived and reproduced faster than the ducks, heron, snapping turtles and whatever else can gobble them up. In other words, a nonindigenous species has been successfully introduced. Fortunately it was only goldfish and not something like (fill in the blank with a fish with an evil sounding name).

Anyway, we turn right at the swamp with the goldfish and staying on the gravel road follow the creek for another half mile to where at one time there was a bridge and as many as a dozen houses including one that was reputed to be a house of ill-repute.

(Someday I’ll tell you the story about Marshall, his sister Louise, their mother, the sister’s lover, and, of course the voices that spoke to Marshall in the night. telling him, among other things, that it was his duty to get his sister to mend her evil ways (managing the house of ill repute) or, or he was to shoot her.

But be that as it may, We walked past where the bridge used to be ( I think it was a Sunday morning in the early 30's when Louise and her lover, stood in the water under the bridge hiding from Marshall as he came down the road calling out her name and telling her 'its too late now. You're going to have to be punished.' In each of Marshall's hands was a six shooter.

Marshall, it seems, had already had an encounter with Louise up at our house, their mother's house. That's where he had first pulled out his guns Pulled out his six shooters and speaking to Louise who was standing in the doorway told her, "You are a sinful woman." He lifted up one gun, aimed, and pulled the trigger.

And that's when Marshall and Louise's mother stepped in between them.

The bullet struck her and not Louise, and she fell down and died right there.

Louise didn't hesitate a moment. Instead of trying to reason with her brother, she grabbed her lover's hand and the two of them turned and ran out the back door, climbed dowm the hill, ran across the corn field (we're growing tomatoes, peppers and eggplant there now), and on the other side plowed right into the briars and thorns and ran as fast as they could down to the bridge..

Which was were Wenonah and I were walking. I was talking about the growing season and commenting on what a different year its been so far. And wondering if the morel season was still on.

You might not know it but this has been a fine year for our local edible mushrooms, morels.

I think I was saying to Wenonah, "How about some morels to go with the asparagus for dinner?"

And that's when I walked off the drive and into the brush around the old bridge foundation, hoping to see some mushrooms.


Instead of mushrooms, that's were I saw the egg shells.

Chicken egg shells.

In fact they were blue chicken egg shells just like the shells of eggs from our Aracuna chickens.

So the question is. How did they get there? This is 3/4 of a mile away by road from the chickens.

Or 300 hundred yards through the woods and poison ivy the way Louise had traveled almost 80 years ago.

Not the sort of path a human would normally take, but just the route a rabbit, or fox, or raccoon, bobcat would take after it had stolen some eggs from the hen house.

And that’s just eggs.

What about the chickens?

What if something was sneaking in and eating our chickens?

Just the other night there was a sound that I hoped never, ever to hear around here.

A sound I heard the first time in the early 1970’s way back in no-where Wyoming.

Back in Wyoming it was getting dark and we had been traveling all day, not really sure where we were except that our Volkswagon bug was going places I don’t think a four wheel truck was supposed to go.

But with dark coming on we decided to stop for the night. Anyway, the gas gauge was getting real close to the empty mark and while our Mobil highway map didn’t show the road we were on there was a possibility that we might come out on a highway sooner rather than later.

Since we hadn’t see another car all day there didn’t seem to be any need to find a camping place. We just stopped the bug right there in the middle of the dirt road in what was a narrowish canyon along side a stream.

And opening up the hood (remember with beetles the trunk was in the front) pulled out our canvas pup tent and preceded to collect fire wood.

I don’t remember what we had for dinner but I think our choice of wines back then came with the fine label of Boone's Farm (or something equivalent).

So we ate, enjoyed the wine, pulled out our army surplus mummy bags, climbed in and went to sleep.

Only to wake up in the pitch dark with gangs of animals laughing from the rock cliffs above our heads.

On our right, over on the other side of the creek, up above, one gang of these creatures would let out a scream, maybe a bark, a howl, laughter.

And then on the other side. The side of the creek we were on. Up above us what must have been four or five hundred feet, another gang would answer.

Crying, laughing, barking.

Only to be answered, again, from across the creek.

I think I had seen the movie about this but I couldn’t remember whether it was safer to stay in the sleeping bag inside the tent, or to make the mad dash for the vehicle. where you could quickly roll up the windows before the creature lunged at you.

I know we whispered back and forth.

“Do you hear that?”

“What do you suppose it is?”

“Do they know we’re here?”

How far away are they?”

“How many of them are there?”

“What are they?”

“In the movies they throw some wood on the fire, get the fire really blazing, and that way they’re safe.”

“Until the firewood’s gone.”

“Yes, but that’s in the movies. If I climb out and start a fire and they’ll know we’re here.”

“Besides, its cold.”


Well, I heard the same crying, howling, laughing the other night. Only I was upstairs in bed and I don’t’ think they could have got in the house. The doors were closed. The windows locked (I think). And I have that shotgun locked up in the gun cabinet.

Only there are all of those chickens out there just waiting to be eaten.

And Wenonah says, “What about my cats? They are not going to be safe.”

Fortunately Marcus our trusty guardian dog heard the sound too and immediately started barking and running through the night. and finally headed across the fields, through the onions and up toward the greenhouse.

Andorra, who is large and ferocious looking and as sweet as can be even followed Marcus, both of them barking.

And behind the house the turkeys started gobbling or whatever you want to call what a turkey does when they’re making a racket.

The roosters. Crowing.

The geese. (what is it geese do?)

Needless to say a racket.

And the coyotes. I guess we now have a family of coyotes living up on our mountain side. Since when did we have coyotes running around Virginia like it was out back Wyoming?

And next week we can talk about the vegetable eaters and our success, so far, in protecting your vegetables.

Farm News.

Delivery time is getting closer by the day. We start the week of June 9th. Next week I will start reviewing what an average pick up day looks like. I will also confirm which pick up location I have you down for.

Planting is underway. Our fields are filling up with vegetables. In fact, I'm worried about last night's rain. My rain gauge says 3.26 inches has fallen in the last 24 hours.

Damage? Our road took a big hit. I hadn't been all the way out yet but what I've seen is gullied and/or washed away.

More important than the road are the plants. Thursday we planted something like 15,000 seedlings. The field they're in is too wet to go wading around in. Hopefully they didn't wash away.

And then on Monday and Tuesday we planted seeds. Lots and lots of seeds. Our first couple weeks of greens.

Lettuces like black seeded simpson, green and red oakleaf, salad bowl, iceburg, romaine, and bibb. Mustards like giant red, southern, curley, suehlihung. Other salad greens like arugula, mizuna, tatsoi. tokyo bekana, and yukina savoy. And finally kale and collards.

Let's hope our contour planting kept them from washing away.

Otherwise? I guess we'll spend next week out replanting. Quickly buying more seeds and replanting.

We'll see.

Fortunately radishes take only three weeks,so they don't get put in the ground next week.

Last Saturday we had our first seedling give away. Shareholders took home between 2000 and 3000 seedlings.

We'll have another seedling give away tomorrow. Sorry but this is only for shareholders. Last week the peppers weren't ready. This week they are.

Leigh Hauter

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