heat and chores

   Rain is falling outside, much-needed rain since nothing of significance has fallen since before the last haying.  Now Barry says it is almost time for the second cutting of his hay meadows, since the red clover is in bloom.  We were pleasantly surprised when his horse pasture produced over one hundred bales on the first cutting; nevertheless we have low expectations for the second-cutting yield in the haymeadow.  Our own pastures are brown and rough with weeds the steers won’t touch even when confined to small paddocks.  Shawn clipped the steep pastures with the weed-eater blade until S-3 anticipated he would have heat stroke.

   Some days are so scattered and without form that they make poor reporting.  Many people moving in many directions may accomplish much without leaving anything particularly changed from what it was the day before.  S-1 is home with his beautiful wife and children, to add to our pleasure and to the accomplishments of the day, yet we look back on a day difficult to account for.

   The various farm vehicles were maintained, and the strange dinging in the van was investigated.  There was, of course, the marathon clipping of the south hill pasture.  A quick trip to the feed store is never as quick as is expected, but now we have replenished our stock of dairy sixteen – an item our next cow will not be taught to expect! – of sweet feed for treats, and of cracked corn, which is all the layers need in the summertime when the leaves and bugs are succulent, and which makes good calling feed when we scatter it around our feet with the classic “heeeear chick-chick-chick-chick!”  One trip out yielded half a dozen old tractor inner tubes, which were patched by S-5 for float trips down Yellow Creek.  With gasoline so expensive, we need to cut down on our driving errands.

   S-3 is making a training yoke for the young steers, and this afternoon he showed his cousin how to work it with the hand chisels.  By evening she had removed much of the excess cherry wood from the top side, and the lovely red grain is beginning to be evident.  When one has time and a medium, the making of things beautiful is reflexive, not reserved for items of significance.  The same cousin, visiting for the latter half of the summer, also helped tie up tomato vines in the lower garden, where the beefsteaks are higher than a woman’s head.  We sucker as heartlessly as we can make ourselves, and the path is scattered with branches for which there is no room in the tomato patch.  The leaves disarranged by our work will use tomorrow’s sun to reorient themselves, and the ruffled look the plants now bear will be combed and neat again.

   We encounter one fat green tomato worm, finding him not, as is usual, by the bare tomato vines which are his mark, but by the thirty or so white wasp larvae which stand up on his back like fat spines.  These parasites mean that we will leave him in the garden, not feed him to the chickens as we would if he were not so adorned; the wasps which will hopefully develop from the white larvae will, in their turn, lay parasitic eggs in other horn worms.  The sphinx moth which is the mature form of these large caterpillars is interesting and attractive, and when we meet one we admire it and treat it courteously, but we are nonetheless determined against the larval form.  They seldom visit our garden in large numbers – we do remember one year when we found as many as twenty or so, but this is unusual – and are one of the few things we know which will eat tomato leaves and vines.  Not even Isabel on a garden-raid is inclined to eat them; she mostly just knocks them over and steps on them.

   After dinner, chicken and squash and potatoes eaten in a dining room so hot we drip sweat as we eat, some of us head out to a hillside where we can range in high-powered guns without disturbing neighbors.  Shawn goes down to milk, and Mom and S-5 move Isabel’s paddock over, then run hose up to the high water hog and pump it full from the spring tank.  We are supposed to get rain sometime tonight, and are making room for it.  It arrives while we are still up on the hill, and the gusts of relatively cool air and rain are intoxicating; Isabel in her new paddock eats steadily as her tan hide darkens from the spine down. 

   There is one less Sussex accounted for when I close up the chickens.  Is it wrong to curse a fox?  I ask instead that God protect my chickens.  Of the thirty-five pullets we turned into the hen house two weeks ago, thirteen are left.  We can’t consider this success.  What will the harvest be?  Tomorrow we will lurk again with guns when the roosting hens come off in the morning.  How canny this predator is!

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