Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ordinary Things

RAIN. I have been in California since early November, facing sunshine day after day after day. I have gotten used to it. And then today it's raining, and right away I get depressed and I wish the sun was shining, even though I live on a farm and I know we need the rain.

SNOW. LaConner artist Janet Laurel called me at 7:15 this morning. She is an early riser and a high energy woman. I am barely awake at that time, but I welcome her calls, because I am inclined to be gloomy and her voice cheers me up. She said, looking out her window, there was six inches of snow on the ground and it was 18 degrees cold out there -- really cold, but the skies were diamond clear. LaConner is all socked in by the snow.

Janet loves to drive around -- she will zip down to Seattle on short notice, and fight all the way through traffic and then come back hours later and still be energetic for some other project.

But today Janet is housebound -- not by the snow -- but she is confined to her living room sofa, recovering from surgery on her foot. The doctor said, "Janet, stay off your foot, or it won't heal." And she is not allowed to drive her car.

This is not easy for her to do, being so energetic. I said to her "Do you knit or embroider?" She said no. But she's an artist, so I said, "You get a small sketch book and start sketching. That will use up some of your restless energy."

She agreed that was a good idea. We talked about other things for a while and then I said, "Goodbye, I gotta eat breakfast."

But it's still raining. I have to change my farm routine on account of the rain. On most days the first thing I do, upon arising at 6:30 a.m., is put on my coat on and my shoes over my pajamas and walk over to the chicken coop and let the hens out. Then I feed them and gather what eggs might be there.

Then coffee and journal and email and shower and eat.

Then work -- but this is where I am adjusting. Yesterday, knowing the rain was coming, I spent extra time in the garden planting seeds.

I planted shelling peas, 51 days to harvest. I planted turnips in the other row, and I snuck a row of radishes in between, because the radishes will come and go quickly.

I also planted two rows of beets.

I avoided planting carrots. They make a problem for me because the seeds are so tiny, and I think I just have bad luck or some kind of mental block when it comes to growing carrots.

Do you ever have that problem in your garden? Like some vegetable, and you just can't seem to grow it, even if you try year after year?

Tomatoes, for instance. I used to have bad luck with tomatoes, but this year I feel that my luck has changed. This year I am going BIG on tomatoes, Brandywine, Heirloom, Zebra Stripe, Grape-size and a few others. I believe the force is with me. I have the seedlings started in the greenhouse, and I watch them with loving care. The danger is over-watering. If you water them too much you can love them to death. Better to have a little faith and not watch them too closely

But that was yesterday. It's too wet to work in the vegetable garden today. I might plant some more flats of seeds in the greenhouse, but we are running out of space. The greenhouse is close to a 1,000 square feet, but it is full of 3,000 dahlia tubers, all carefully marked and identified, all 200 varieties, all laying in 3 inches of compost on tables -- it's very complicated. I would have to give you a seminar on how to grow dahlias, but this is the commercial part of the organization, so dahlias, and the space to grow them, are the Prime Directive on this little farm, this little piece of heaven by the Ventura River.

We were planning to have a tractor class today. Andy was going to show me the tractor and how it runs -- it's fairly simple, a diesel engine with hydraulic power to the front scoop and power take-off in the rear.

We were going to scoop out and re-arrange the manure pile. It's getting to be quite a pile, considering that we have five horses boarded on the farm. They generate two to three cartloads of manure per day. It's black gold, but it has to composted first, and we need the tractor to up-end the pile.

But it's too wet. Okay, I know what you're saying. If we were really hard-core farmers we wouldn't let a little rain stop us from the tractor work.

Except there are plenty of things to do around here that do not involved getting wet and muddy. My Mom and Dad sent me to college and I am an educated man. So I will apply myself agriculturally but keep my socks dry at the same time.

Ordinary things. I am writing about these ordinary things because the news is full of mass demonstrations and violence across the Middle East. It's scary and it's hopeful, and some young people are having the best time of their lives, and some other young people are wounded and dying, and some other older people, in those blessed countries, are wishing with all their might that it was just back to normal and be quiet and ordinary, like it is here on the farm.

So I am writing about these ordinary things on the farm as a gesture of solidarity to the struggling Arab people -- their countries will get back to being ordinary again, and I hope and pray with all my heart that it's a better place than it was.

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Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog: Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
7922 Santa Ana Rd
Ventura CA 93001

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