I hear that this weekend is Memorial Day weekend, which comes as a bit of a shock. Time seems to be outpacing me. Patrick’s last post described our little work party, and the steps we took toward getting our hard-laying hens a little extra space to roam. We finally, last night after work, managed to finish fencing it in. So, first some pix of the run. This first is the progress we made at the work party, getting posts dug and placed, and getting the door put in.
This is a close-up of the door we retrofitted into the coop — Patrick really gets the cred on this one.
Here’s the ramp down, and the chickens, true to form, feeling a little suspicious of this new development.
And finally, the finished run, which we figure about triples their day-to-day living space. We used rabbit wire, since it’s a day-time run, and we are not trying to keep critters out, just chickens in. Though they could hop on top of the coop and then fly down, we are anticipating that this will not occur to the dears. If it does, we’ll have to run some netting over the top.
The girls got their first crack at it after we finished, in the still light evening. The days are getting so long — solstice always sneaks up on me. I always vaguely expect it to show up in August, as my childhood memories feel August as having the longest, hottest days of summer. Hottest they may have been, but clearly not the longest. The hens appeared to be pleased with their new yard, as you see here, though Patrick reports that on their first day with the coop door open, they’ve spent quite a while huddling inside, cooing and muttering nervously. Perhaps they sense that freedom is a mixed blessing.
Other Garden News
As Patrick also mentioned last post, there’s construction looming on the horizon. We’ve been doing a lot of preparation, trying to salvage most of our best plants. Our chayote plant, as you may remember, was deeply and successfully grounded in the soil next to the base of the stairs. You can just see it amidst the favas and hydrangea in this view of the east end of the garden. It is to the far right where it can be glimpsed happily scaling the stairs.
It has been moved, which was pretty major surgery for a deeply rooted perennial. It had a couple of roots that stretched at least 10 to 15 feet out into the garden, and one that went under the bricks that the stairs rest on. I have no idea how far that one went. You really understand how a perennial can take off so fast the second year, after having established dominion over its area. It felt so hard to dig it up. We dug it a deep hole over by the patio, which is being called on to provide refuge for many construction emigrees. You can see the chayote huddled at the base of the curved-top shelf in this overview of the west end of the yard. It seems to be rallying, with some new growth showing up.
You can compare this overview (above) to the same view (below) from my March “Pea Patch” entry.
I would note that while we’ve managed to get a couple stands of peas going, the slugs and snails have just been a ravaging force this spring. So much rain so frequently is a blessing for the reservoirs and our water bills, but also for the slimy denizens of the garden. They have devoured much more than their share of our lettuce and peas and kale. Patrick finally went to growing them up to a respectable size indoors, and putting them in raised containers with copper taping all around. You can see our re-use of Oakland’s old recycling bins for raised beds, as well as a relocated half barrel, which used to live next to the coop. He also snuck in a tomatillo, which we had decided against this year. They are so incredibly rewarding to grow, however, in their inspiring hardiness, that I knew we’d end up with at least one. You can also see some scarlet runners already in flower on the back fence, which we’re pretty sure are perennial returns from last year. We have some starting from this year’s planting, but they are not quite so ambitious. The lovely spread of blue across the garden is Nigella, or love-in-a-mist, self seeding like mad. We just yank it our wherever we want to plant something. There’re also some lovely poppies brightening the yard. I love the way poppies greet the day so eagerly, opening as soon as the sun arrives. It is wonderful to watch bees use poppy cups as places to wake up and warm up in the morning sun.
In another move to create visual reminders of the living things in the garden for our builder-guests, we planted a fava wall, which is growing with satisfying speed to make a nice edge to the space.
Our understanding of the construction that is planned for our part of the house is as follows. The back stairs, which are our access to the yard, are coming down, as is the enclosed porch at the top landing where our washer/dryer live now. They will come into the back mudroom. A new stairway will be built, with three turns, instead of one, so a much shallower incline, and a stop at the deck that will be built in back of the bottom unit. There will be benches on each of the landings, and a small deck at the top. It should truly be quite a lovely improvement, despite our worry about the chaos. We’ve also been assured that the stairs will come down first, but be the first thing to go up once destruction turns to construction. As they are suggesting a month, I am anticipating at least two, but we shall see. This is a view of the stairs pre-destruction.
Summer is always such a busy busy time, with the garden gearing up, the weather luring us out for bike rides, and, of course, money work flowing in like the sunshine. We are grateful for it, but tired, too, and must use it to excuse our infrequent postings to this record. Beyond being crazy busy, though, life is really good. Mornings are my favorite time, especially those when we manage to rise just after the sun, do our exercises, and sit down for a half hour or so to our latest favorite break-fast. It’s a mediterranean-style spread, simple, but very satisfying:
pita, warmed in the toaster
good olive oil
feta (a lovely soft french sheep’s milk)
It’s got the added bonus of being easy to pull together. We are drinking Jasmine green tea these days in the morn. By the time I ride to work, I’m awake and stretched and fed and prepared to face the rigors of the road.
I hope everyone has a good long weekend — for those like us who will be laboring over it, I send a special salutation. And I remind myself that Memorial Day is very fresh for many families this year, whose children, parents, partners, spouses have been killed in a wrong war, a long way from home. I will take a moment of silence in my morning meditation to send some life energy out for those grieving souls.
I would also like to remember my Uncle Ted, a veteran of more than one war, who died by his own hand just under a year ago. He took his own life at the dusk of quite a long and full one, in order to have some control over the way of his death. The manner of his passing caused some extra pain for his family, and I am saddened that our society cannot yet understand the truth of the need people have to die with dignity, and in a manner consistent with their lives. If we would, Teddy could have died with his loved ones around, instead of alone.
June also marks the 2nd anniversary of the death of Matthew Sperry, father, husband, son, and a good man in a world with too few. He was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle to work. He was also a gardener — a side of him I learned of more after his death than before. I feel a particular melancholy sometimes when I stand in the peace, the coolness, the life of our garden and think of how he would laugh out loud in surprised delight to see what we’ve made of it.
Always, always, I remember Belinda, my sister, gone now almost fifteen years. Purgatory is the pain that happens in life, not death, in we who live, and feel forever the longing for one so loved. Grace, perhaps, is life lived with as much respect, passion, and purpose as we are able to muster, for those who have gone before, those who are now, and those who will carry on when we are no more.