…things were more tragic than a person like me would like. It started out with little tragedies. I got some fertilizer too close to one of my tomato plants when I was side dressing the day before. (Again, this is coming from a person who has never amended soil before, so I was lucky it was just one plant!) So, when I walked into the garden yesterday morning, I was greeted by one of my new varieties of tomatoes with two very droopy stems. Now, since I didn’t single stem my tomatoes, that being something I just learned about this year, there were plenty of other stems that were not droopy, but those two drooping stems felt a lot like failure. After all, I was the one who side dressed BEFORE I looked up the right way to side dress. There were some other little things as well, but most of those had to do with the fact that I was melting.
The heat has been crazy. Usually here in the NW, we get two, maybe three weeks of super hot weather in the end of July. Well, that is not usually preceded by months with little to no rain. Since I have rehearsals at night for a musical which opens next week, (I did tell you about that, right? Now I have to go read past blogs just in case I missed that super important detail this summer…I promise a story if I didn’t already type it) I have no time at night, when the garden is out of the sun, in which to work. So, even when I am out in the garden at 6:30 AM, I am in full sun and heat. Even with my sunshade visor, I am melting and do not linger after a quick round of watering. So my garden is neglected. I have seeds for my fall crops ready to plant, I have beds which need cleared of spring crops which have given up in the heat, and I have grapevines which need pruned so my grapes can grow instead of the leaves. And in the middle of the day, instead of melting and turning a color to match my tomatoes, I have been out running errands for the play, looking for costumes, getting groceries, trying to figure out what was wrong with my favorite chicken.
Chickens are not huge fans of this sort of heat either. So when Jessie, one of my Buff Orpingtons, was looking poorly last week, I figured she was having a hard moult this year. Her sister Buff O. named Nibbles had a hard moult last year, so I just guessed that Jessie was in the same boat. By this week, when I picked Jessie up to check on her, she already weighed almost nothing. Now, I have read that chickens are really darn good at pretending to be well until it is almost too late, but I went into full panic mode–how had ai not really noticed earlier? Why didn’t I check her out more when I noticed what I thought was moult? I read everything I could about what could be wrong to make up for not reading right away last week. I hadn’t seen signs of worms, but it could have been that. Coccidia was another possibility. When treatments for those two options didn’t catch hold fast enough, I came across the option of mites and fleas. Our chickens have not had those in the three years we have had chickens, but I had some spray on hand just in case. So, Wednesday, when Jessie didn’t leave the coop at all, I sprayed her down and looked forward to a day when I would be home when the coop wasn’t in direct sunlight so I could clean it all out and spray it down, and Jessie again.
Well, yesterday, Thursday, Jessie was out of the coop again. She was eating out of my hands. Her comb was getting more red. When I left at 4:30 to head to rehearsal, she was actually wallowing in the dirt for a dust bath with the other chickens. I knew that when I got the coop cleaned, treated her again, she was going to fight through it.
When I got home from rehearsal at 9:30, I went up to shut the coop and check on the chickens. Using my cell phone as a flashlight isn’t terribly effective in most cases, but it works in the coop when I get home late. Jessie has been sleeping in a corner on the ground since Sunday, so after counting the rest of the sleeping peepers, I looked for her. She wasn’t there. I checked all of the nest boxes again, just to make sure she wasn’t hiding behind another chicken who was on a perch. She wasn’t.
I ran out of the coop to check under the front porch of the house. She wasn’t there, and my cell phone’s light was not effective at cutting through the ever darkening darkness. I ran down to the lower house to grab a real flashlight. I searched under the porch at the lower house, I ran back up the hill, searching along the way in the bushes and places the chickens like to scratch. No Jessie. I checked behind the upper house. I checked behind the garage. I went back to the coop, just in case I had some how missed her. And as I was unlocking the coop again, my light happened to swing to the left into the field where the horse and donkeys have their waterer.
You may have already guessed that my eyes caught a glimpse of a small pile of orangish something. When I turned to look closer. I noticed that the horse and the donkeys had made a ring around what I finally accepted was Jessie. I started to go through the gate next to the chicken coop, but realized that the pile of manure the donkeys liked to leave there made that direction mostly impassable. I was still hoping that somehow Jessie was just resting there in the field. Chickens don’t move much after dark.
I ran around through the barn, and into the stall closest to where the orangish mound was. When that mound still didn’t move, and I could see her face, I had to accept that Jessie was no longer going to come up on the deck for her special treats. I was furious, Not at Jessie, but at Taz…the donkey who likes to stomp things. I was pretty sure he was the cause of death. Jack, the love bug donkey, tried to come cuddle, but I ran out of the barn. I refused to talk to the donkeys. I wanted to yell. Yelling at animals is no good, so I ran.
I tried to figure out what Jessie was doing, when she was just getting better, in a field she hadn’t been in for months. I tried to wrap my head around her just getting better and then being gone. Then, I tried to be all tough. This is a farm, of sorts, after all…death is always pretty darn close on a farm. Things happen. That whole cycle of life thing is very real. She was just a chicken. Just a chicken…as if.
So tonight, after I got home from rehearsal at 10:00, I was just ready to eat some dinner and figure out my plan for tomorrow. So, I turned on youtube (I got rid of cable–too expensive) and there was a new post from Roots and Refuge farm. Now, I’m not a huge follower of youtube folks. At least I haven’t been in the past. What with my digging deeper into gardening for goodness and gratitude (hey look…I managed to connect this all to gratitude at least once…oh wait…more gratitude will be coming…watch!), I started turning to youtube to find more answers to things I was reading about and needed more information. So, in the spring when I started digging my way out of the grumpy (literally) with my garden, I discovered Charles Dowding when I wanted to know more about no dig gardens. I had read about those a year or so ago, but since I was in China, hadn’t really explored.
Well, once you start watching some sort of topic on youtube, it starts throwing more and more posts related to that topic your way, which I am sure you all know. I find this very useful, and slightly creepy all at the same time. So, Charles Dowding lead me to Gardener’s World, which somehow jumped the pond to MIGardener, which eventually, popped up Roots and Refuge farm in my recommended video list. Anyway, Jess, on Roots and Refuge, is one of those sorts of folks who you would just like to sit down and have a great cup of tea with, or help her with a project, or spend some time with, so I got pretty hooked on watching her videos. (I cannot wait to build some arches like hers when I build my next three garden beds). I’ve been watching her posts for the past couple of months, and really appreciate the light and goodness she brings to her garden stories.
Anyway, her post which I found tonight was a garden devotional after a pretty big bummer happened in the morning. You can watch the video here. That video was followed up by a video I hadn’t seen yet, which talked about the good, the bad, the ugly of homesteading. She is just so likable, watch that video here. And both of those videos were just perfect for yesterday’s tragedies, and today’s dwelling on my darn chicken. My guess is there are some things that Jess and I wouldn’t agree about, but just knowing she is out there, doing her best to be an amazing human, makes me pretty darn grateful for the algorithms of youtube for sending me that first link to her posts. (Ok, I really did not think this post was going to lead me to express gratitude for algorithms!) Really though, I am just grateful that Jess is one of the many people out there on youtube who are taking the time to share stories, give advice, and make connections in a world in which certain forces/folks are increasingly moving to pull humans away from each other.
I’m grateful too, that some of you have decided to follow me (it’s still kinda creepy though!) I hope you aren’t too annoyed that all I seem to talk about lately is gardening. I really hope you aren’t too annoyed that I have no actual guide to gratitude. Though, I suppose my second step, if I were to actually create a guide, would be to find people with whom you can connect who help lift you out of dark places with their own light and willingness to fight for kindness. Those people don’t have to be people who believe exactly what you believe. They don’t have to be exactly like you. They don’t have to be people you actually know in person. But, if they are the sort of folks who risk sharing themselves, who are willing to express ideas with passion and humor, and who you could sit down with and have a great cup of tea and conversation, and you know they would listen…well, what’s not to be grateful for in that?
Hey Jess, if you ever happen to read this, feel free to stop on by for some tea.