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Mr. Onion Breath

Monday, June 17th, 2013

bad goose

Not once, but twice,  I found GQ in my onion patch on Sunday EATING MY ONIONS! The wretched goose was ripping them out and munching on the bulbs leaving the green leaves strewn about the permanent walkways like flowers for the victor.

I have absolutely no idea how he was managing to sneak into the fenced off area, but he found a way in and was there long enough to develop a  serious case of onion breath.

Twice,  I air-lifted his feathered derriere out of the left-bank garden with snack-interrupted. So…he just marched himself over to my right-bank garden and ripped out all the plant identification markers in my bean field and flung them far and wide.

I scrambled to remember what I had planted where and groused big-time while I stuck my markers back into the ground (extra-deep). GQ watched with a steel glint in his eagle eye.

I’m not sure who coined the phrase “bird-brained” when referring to stupidity, but that individual obviously had no experience with geese.

Sequel Teaser: Man-Rule #3

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

When the meal was over and the boys had finished peppering Keith Hawthorn with questions about life in the major leagues, Keith took his leave and Gray tucked the boys into bed. Both were still wearing their Kansas City Royal jerseys and Gray had to blink their bedroom light on and off several times before they stowed their baseball cards underneath their beds.

Kit was prattling on about Keith’s next visit and the signed baseballs he promised to have in his magic duffle on that fly by, but Bear was quiet and thoughtful.

“What’s up, son?” asked Gray, sitting down on the edge of Bear’s bed.

“I’d like to hear the story of Keith’s bat.”

Gray grunted softly into the darkened bedroom.

“What did mom do with that bat?” asked Bear. “I’d like to know.”

Kit quieted and turned towards the two of them snuggling down in the covers so that he could listen with both eyes and ears.

Gray took a deep and deliberate breath. “This talk stays just between us. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” said Kit.

“Agreed,” said Bear.

“Keith didn’t have it so good growing up.”

“Were they poor?” asked Kit.

Gray shook his head. “This has nothing to do with money. Keith’s father was an angry man and when he got angry he would take it out on Keith.”

“What do you mean, dad?” whispered Bear.

“One day, just before the start of a baseball game, Keith arrived with a black eye and your mom just knew that Keith’s father had given him that black eye.” Gray patted Bear’s knee. “She grabbed a baseball bat, Keith’s baseball bat, and just about destroyed Keith’s father’s car.”

“Holy moley,” said Kit. “Holy moley.”

“In front of everyone? Or secret like?” asked Bear.

“In front of everyone.”

“She made her point. Keith’s father never hit him again.”

The room fell quiet and Gray patted Bear’s knee again.

“I get it, Dad,”said Bear quietly. “Now all the hits are in the bat.”

“That’s right , son. All the hits are in the bat.”

“Dad?”

“Yes, Bear.”

“I gave Kit a black eye.”

“Ah. That is different.”

“Why?”

“When you fight with your brother, you fight as equals. You are both the same age and the same size. But when a full grown man hits a child, when an older boy picks on a younger one, when a boy hits a girl… these are grave wrongdoings. A real man protects the weak and helpless.” Gray stood and walked to the door. “That is man-rule #3.”

All’s Quiet on the Eastern Front

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

In a pre-emptive strike, we have mowed down an acre of grassland bordering the poultry pen to create a larger buffer zone of open space. This gives predators less of an area in which to hide and less of an opportunity to sneak up on unsuspecting geese (who literally have no nose for trouble).

I haven’t seen a fox or coyo-wolf in two days, although last night, there was a pascal of coyote-like yips and then a terrible ruckus up at a neighbor’s house involving lots of flood lights and dog barking. This turned into an animal fight and it didn’t go so well for the dog from the sounds of it.

The geese and I are in a constant game of Marco-Polo all day. GQ “wheats” and I must “wheat” back otherwise he panics and screeches like a barn owl until I pop to the window or deck porch where he can see me. He needs to know I’m close. I get it. Now, I Marco-Polo him too as the sun moves across the sky and we keep track of each other.

He is intent on replacing the ten eggs lost in the Raven Raid. Poor Minger. She is heavy with gosling every day. He crows like a rooster when he has his way with her each morning and crows like a peacock when she lays an egg each evening.

He patrols the nest regularly now. So does she. And they both give me hell if the door is shut and they can’t do an egg count. I have to stop everything and rush over to open the pen for them so that they can inspect. And I must wait until they get “the warm and fuzzies” and leave so that I can re-secure the nest by shutting the door.

We’re ratcheting back up. The count is now 17. As the nest fills, everybody calms. I don’t need the snow shovel anymore for protection. Even if they catch me in the pen filling food bowls or adding fresh water, I can sweet talk my way out without incident.

Chinese geese stop laying eggs in June, so this is the mad rush to the finish line,Nest Inspection 2013. On my end, I would really love to have grand-goslings. :)

Food For Thought

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

bee on dandelionI had the pleasure of listening to Diane Ott Whealy, Founder of the Seed Savers Exchange, at my Master Gardener Annual Training Day at the University of Maryland this week.

She made a comment that really hit home.

In the past, gardeners grew food in their gardens. Only. Flowers were a luxury. Who could waste the space on something you couldn’t eat?

These days, flowers in the garden are a necessity. There is so much concrete (vs. open land) that the pollinators (bees and such) won’t necessarily find your zucchinis to transform blossom into veggie unless there are flowers to pull them in.

The good news is, you don’t have to waste ground on decorative inedible flowers. Herbs (which blossom) will do just fine. And they are incredibly scented, flavorful and nutritious too!

But the moral of the story is: Don’t kill the dandelions. It’s a brave new world and flowers, especially wildflowers, are more important than ever…especially if you want to eat.

Billy Goat Goose

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Billy Goat Goose

 

Come late afternoon each day, I work my way over to the poultry pen to give the geese fresh water and food for their evening lock down. Ming Wing has 22 eggs in a nest just inside the door, so Mr. GQ patrols and protects.

This proves problematic for the hand that feeds them. Me. I need to cross the stream via this little footbridge. Guarding the passage is GQ.

It’s a coin toss every day as to who ends up in the water.

He’s a “take no prisoners” kind of guy, but I’m a nimble negotiator.

If I have the time to sweet talk him, everything goes swimmingly. If I’m in a hurry, feathers get ruffled and it turns into a Monty Python drama to “cross the bridge of death”.

“What is your name?” asks GQ

“Your mama, and don’t you forget it!”

“What is your quest?”

“To give you fresh water and food.”

“Are you going to touch the eggs?”

“Well…er…I’m going to take a peek.”

Aaaaaarrrghh!

Sequel Teaser: An Excerpt from “Touched by the Moon”

Monday, May 13th, 2013

The trees creaked eerily in the wind, their trunks and branches sounding very much like moans of distress. Tom quickened their pace stopping abruptly at the edge of a clearing.

There was a timber wolf. Its eyes gazed lifelessly back from a puddle of frozen red snow. And there was a huddle of life off to the side, not thirty feet distant.

Two wolf pups twitched with nervous energy, protectively wrapping their bodies around Elliott. They licked him. They nosed him. They whined in anxious panic. They pawed gently at his unresponsive body.

The animals stood to attention when the two men arrived, then backed away slowly.

“We’re here now, little brothers,” said Tom Running Deer in a gentle voice. He waved his hand in a westerly direction. “Hurry home.”

Both animals bolted through the woods as if their tails were on fire.

“They didn’t eat him,” said Dan woodenly.

“No.”

“They… what were they doing?”

“Keeping him warm. Nosing him alive.”

“Why would they do that?” Dan shook his head in disbelief. “Predators don’t help the wounded.”

Tom Running Deer opened the steel trap pinning Elliott’s leg while Dan lifted the badly mangled appendage gingerly out of the metal vice.

“Who here is the predator?” asked Tom.

Finding Time

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I am always asked how I “get it all done”.

I have a full-time, sit-at-the-computer writing job and a big garden, high-maintenance animals, volunteer obligations with the Maryland Master Gardener Association, promotional work for my debut novel and writing to do on the sequel…in between family and friends, cooking, shopping, cleaning, eating and sleeping. LOL!

How do I get it all done?

I don’t watch television. I haven’t for years.

I get my news from the internet and my entertainment from my day-to-day activities. That’s the best part about not watching television…you take stock of your life and you figure out what genuinely makes you happy…then, you pursue those interests. You take ownership of your happiness.

Life becomes active.

New hobbies bring new friends. New friends bring an even more active social life…and I’m not talking social media but rather real-time lunches, trips, get-togethers, lectures, learning and other activities.

It’s amazing how much time you can find when you aren’t lost in front of a screen!

Garden Emergency!

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

On Monday, I called in to work with a garden emergency. I needed the day to plant onions. The moon was in Pisces (perfect for planting root veggies) and it looked like rain.

My boss didn’t bat an eye. “Take care of those onions,” he said. “No worries.”

As I down-dressed into clean work clothes that already looked dirty and put gloves on my hands for the task at hand, I was just so grateful to be working for a French organization that valued “terroir” and all that went with it. Garden emergencies, case in point!

As I took my dibble and started poking holes into my double-dug beds, I thought…if I was working for corporate America I would have needed to lie about my personal day. No one would have understood the urgency to get a crop into the ground when the skies and heavens dictated. Or they would have just thought that I was nuts to care so much about growing things.

I planted 260 onions on Monday; 200 of which I received from phenomenal Texas-based Dixondale Farms (www.Dixondalefarms.com). All they sell are onions/leeks. And their support and planting tips are world-class. Their five-minute homepage video about which onions to plant for your zone is worth its weight in Texas Sweets!

But yeah…it’s wonderful to work for a “grounded” company where garden emergencies are real… and it’s a complete joy to get onions from a company so genuinely and professionally “grounded”.

It’s a slice of (very nice) life. In fact, in combination…it made my whole day

Character Development: When you love some bunny…

Monday, March 25th, 2013

I have two mini-rex rabbits: Q-Tip (black and brown and attitudinal all over) and Dingir (a Dalmatian in bunny-form and just as loyal, loving and intelligent).

They have outdoor hutches, but I pulled them inside the Summer Porch/Greenhouse from mid-December to end of February to keep them warm and safe.

Naturally, I let them out of their hutches each day. Naturally, they turned my greenhouse into a race track, obstacle course, and demolition assignment.

They would race down the hutch ramp, pop over the bottom of various and sundry shelving units, hop up into the large pots of lemon grass, drop down to the floor, then jump up onto a chair, then fly under the table, dash through a collection of watering cans, weave in and out midst the outdoor patio planters and zoom around their hutches…and on and on in endless variations.

One day, they found my stash of small seed starter pots and tossed hundreds of them around the room. Another day, they decided to hop into a plant-less outdoor patio planter and dig their way l to China. After they hit porcelain, they spread the black earth of their fruitless excavation all over the white linoleum.

They’d binky so much (prong like a gazelle) and were airborne so often, you’d have thought they could fly. Yep. These little gremlins made Godzilla-sized messes and thrilled to the chaos. But all I could feel was their joy. I let them have at it.

After I moved their hutches back outside, it took me eight hours to reclaim the room. But it was a labor of love.

I find that much of life is like that. Very messy, but so very worth it…especially when you love somebody.

Thing One and Thing Two

Thing One and Thing Two

 

Character Development: High Five!

Sunday, March 17th, 2013
High Five!

High Five!

Ming Wing (Minger) and Mei Muncher (Mr. GQ) have welcomed their fifth egg. Minger is still laying them behind the rock pile and I keep scooping them up while they’re warm and tucking them into her nest inside the poultry pen for safe-keeping. I’m hoping that she’ll get with the program sooner rather than later and lay her eggs in the poultry pen, but Ming Wing is…well, intellectually challenged. Whereas GQ is mensa, Minger is a few feathers short of a down pillow.

We had a little drama this past Friday afternoon when the neighbors’ dogs got loose and decided to go goose hunting. I watched my two great whites sail past my office door in a flutter of panicked cries and raced out to find two nasty beasts in hot pursuit.

GQ, clever boy, did a U-turn when he saw me enter the fray and raced to my side for rescue. I scooped him up and ran to the pen to lock him in safety. Just as I was shutting the door, I saw Minger go down in a tangle of feather and fur. It felt like an eternity before I got close enough for the dog to release her. Unpinned by paw and fang, she bounded up in a spurt of adrenaline. Oh, she was definitely worse for wear, but whole and unbloodied.

I scooped her up and locked her away just as the two dogs noticed my bunnies in their outdoor playpen. I stormed to their rescue screaming like a banshee. The rabbits tucked into their carry case without protest for once and I got them hutched post haste, me cursing canines in the process.

Then, I took stock. All animals were alive and well. But my voice was gone…raw and rough from screaming. I pulled every muscle in my legs and the torso to which they connect. I walked like a rubber band. But, hey, high five! The eggs are fine and mom and dad are still around to care for them. To celebrate, Jimmy Buffet and I took a stroll through Margaritaville.