Monday, June 15, 2009

For the next few days we'll be canning and freezing strawberries. At the Kwikstop on the highway, one of the apple orchards from the Gays Mills area parks a refrigerated truck on their gravel apron. It reminds me that the string of orchards along the ridge raise vegetables and berries to supplement the big fall blowout of apple sales. I put my order in for strawberries last week. The last time I visited the Amish, the girls said the berries were slow in ripening. They were hoping for hot weather, "If we get some hot weather they'll all ripen at once," says Wilma as she holds a dead grass snake looped over a garden tool. I need eggs so I'll check the berry report. I hope Buddy's leg, the one that got caught in the haybine, is better.

There is nothing earth shaking happening in Kickapoo Center.

This warrants taking a closer look.The Pooch and I take a late afternoon walk. In the fall, we'd go across the corn field and walk to the old railroad grade. I don't want the Pooch to get the idea that he can wander through a cornfield at this time of year. It'd be easy to get lost, despite his keen sense of smell. So we do the short version up to the horse corral and down the lane. I greet the horses with my usual, "What's up guys." They look up from the big round bale of hay. The Pooch spots a grass snake sunning itself on the sandy road. "You don't want to be playing with snakes,"I warn him. He pokes with a paw and retreats. Everything's a toy is his motto, therefore, he pokes again and retreats quickly. I'm encouraged that he's wary but...Poke again. The snake gets angry and makes motions like he's going to defend himself. The cat is startled by the reaction and jumps back. The snake moves quickly into the weeds at the side of the lane.

This morning I watch the Pooch stalking in the backyard. A blackbird dive bombs him. He leaps up hoping for a one pawed grab at the bird, flips around in the air and lands on his feet. He does the head shake with similar sound effects from Saturday cartoons. With the hot weather, Pucci takes cover in high grass or flowers. The hostas by the garage are one safe place to snooze. Dawn walks by the flower bed. The Pooch surprises her when he leaps out of the 80 foot row of peonies on a rise above the south end of the driveway. There's a row of white pines on the far south end of the property. When we walk past the area, blackbirds and robins squawk and hurl insults at the cat. The weeds under the trees is a cool spot for a fur bearing animal. There's mice and birds to keep him entertained.

With her new bench, Dawn is a weeding maniac. I walk over at three in the afternoon to remind her that dark blue in the sun for an hour is a sure prescription for heat exhaustion. I'm wearing a white T-shirt to help deflect the heat, yet it's muggy out in the garden field. I previously left a clover patch grow to waist high length. The only mechanical tool I have for cutting hay isthe Cub Cadet riding mower. I put the cutting deck at the highest setting and cut the hay. Several passes blows the grass into a windrow. It's not the best use for a riding mower, but as Dawn points out, we'd need a tractor and several implements to make hay. My wish list includes a small tractor but a sausage stuffer is higher on the list.

When the grass is dry, I pile it into the wheelbarrow and line the new tomatoes with hay mulch. I notice several Brussels sprout plants are drooping. Even the weeds adjacent to the plants are looking sad. Yup, there's a mole tunnel nearby. I could sacrifice two Brussels sprout plants out of the thirty some out there. It's a matter of principle. After watering all the new tomatoes , I stick the hose in the ground next to the Brussels sprout plants and collapse the tunnel. Then I cut more stakes and pound them into the end row of this plot and surround the plants with wood stake barriers. Darn moles.

When they created the new highway alongside our place, they abandoned our driveway which was the old highway. They bulldozed a protective berm at the entrance to our 5 acres. I'm guessing this to be over forty years ago. Someone planted blue spruce on the berm in two neat rows along the top. The spruce are mature trees now. As they age, the lower branches die. Cutting the grass on the berm called for wearing a long shirt or my arms would be bloody with scratches from the sharp, dead branches. One winter I cut all the dead branches from the lower six feet of the trees to make mowing easier. Now, the trees look like giant arrows shot into the hill. There are three remaining trees I did not trim. After puttering in the garden, I grab the chain saw, put on a new chain to replace the one I trashed hitting a rock and walk out to the berm. It's ballsy going out to trim trees with a t-shirt and shorts. I'm too lazy to change. I add one concession which is a baseball cap. Wading into the sharp branches, I start cutting the dead ones and a few that are blue/green only at the very tip. Standing back to make sure I have evenly trimmed two trees, I admire the nice open space around the trees. There's a patch of violets I leave unmolested. The drive way is lined with branches separated into categories. Totally dead, partially dead and a few green branches. The third tree is green at the driveway side. It can wait. Walking by a birdhouse hanging from one of the spruces, a bluebird flies out.

Dawn and I pile the branches next to the maple stump in the front field. I've created a base of cardboard, wood pieces, sawdust and other burnables I don't want to bother with at the town dump. Then we pile dry branches and green boughs over the top. We make a nicely rounded burn pile which will be a spectacular twenty foot blaze in the evening when Ella and Del come for their visit.

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