Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chickens, mangoes and time

I've been working on the chicken pen for the past week, fixing up the fences. The lower pen has a slope to it, dirt and rocks continually work their way down hill and pile up at the fence, slowly lowering the top of it. I've been clearing away the rubble and raising the fence. I'm going to put some logs at the bottom of the fence to act as a dam, this is how we terrace around here. When I'm sitting down moving rocks and dirt the chickens are working right along side me. They're enthralled with all the food there is crawling around. Most of the chickens keep a cautious distance but one brave hen is right in the mix, the reason I'm sitting down. I tried using a shovel but every time I brought the shovel down I had to stop and move her. As quickly as I moved her she returned. Finally, I sat down and worked with my hands and sometimes a trowel. She was a good influence. I work at a slower, more deliberate pace and I am that much closer to the chickens. We have names for a lot of the chickens but not my constant companion. Maybe I'll call her Constance or Connie , since she's my constant companion. Sometimes I'll spot a grub before she does and I'll start tapping my finger near it. She comes running over and dines with gusto, looking up at me to see if there's a second course. At one point she was right next to me so I reached down , picked her up, put her on my lap and petted her. I could tell she wanted to get back to work but she settled in and we communed for a bit. When I quit petting her she got up and got back to work. So much of the time I feel like I'm in a really cool school learning all about the world and its contents. I know people say that we attribute human characteristics to the creatures around us. My thought is that as we spend more time with our fellow creatures we discover that we have a lot in common. We're both changed from the experience. I'm sure Connie is having the same conversation with her fellow hens. The Roosters are too busy talking about sports.

One thing good about farm life is it gives you time to think and look at the world around you. I never got over that part of little boyhood. I remember being in grade school looking out the window on a sunny day wondering why we were inside. It seemed to me, that it would be better to have school on rainy days.

We're at the end of the rainy season and things are lushly green. I'd like to have a crayon box with all the colors of green we see around us. The rain washes all the dust off the leaves and makes them shine. We have lots of pretty tropical flowers that, knowingly, use the green as a back drop for their colorful splendor. I used to feel a bit sad up north when the winter came because things had a gray hue and a lot of the trees had gone to sleep and lost their leaves. We have seasons here but they're celebrated by the different fruits that ripen. When I was young we didn't always have a lot of food. I didn't dream of being a fireman or an astronaut (there weren't any back then), instead, I dreamed of having lots of fruit trees so I could eat as much as I wanted. My dream came true. I recently was given a book called "The Fruit Hunters". It's all about people with the lovely obsession of seeking out exotic fruit from all over the world. There are so many magical varieties. I wish I'd have known about that in my 20's. What a life's work that would be. I have over 50 kinds of fruit trees here but there's always room for one more. From the time you plant them to the first fruit appearing is usually 2 or 3 years. You only get a few fruit the first year with increasing amounts as time passes. Some trees give their fruit one year and vacation in dormancy for a year. I don't mind, I just picture them storing up energy for a luscious crop. Our lychees are on vacation this year. Amaranth and I have a clean 5 gallon bucket waiting for when next year's offering appears. There's nothing more fun than making a big mess eating fresh fruit. Mangoes are like that. It's wonderful while working on a hot day, too tired to make the trip all the way back to the house for a drink, you reach down and pick up a fresh, golden, Mango and open it with your teeth. You are about to get messy, so dive in. Let the mango juice run out of the sides and front of your mouth. Smile as a nice golden mask of Mango pulp covers your face and hands. It can't be stopped. The uninitiated struggle with this but soon learn to give themselves over to absolute pleasure. It's always refreshing, after the feast, to dip your hands into a water tank and splash yourself clean.

Well friends, now comes the time part. It's time for me to head up the stairs and set myself down in front of a fresh bowl of mango slices, the last of the season. Don't pity me. We have 3 freezers full of tropical delights.

Bye for now. Wally

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