Sunday, March 27, 2011

whitey and the dull blade

Sorry i haven't written in a while. things get pretty busy here on the farm. Roll call happens around 630am and the day doesn't usually end until around 830 or 9pm.

To catch everyone up. on march 1st, i packed about 95% of my belongings into my pt cruiser and headed to northwestern PA to begin a six month internship on a csa garden and goat farm.

After driving for about six hours, i arrived in Reynoldsville, PA. You should all know that this is the first time living so far away from home as an myself. I find my actions to be very brave...Anyway, it was dark, i was tired and all of a sudden lost! Well, okay, not really lost. My gps took me to a portion of road that was a raging stream. Not my gps' fault.  Reynoldsville had just experienced a torrential downpour before i arrived.

Remember in my last note on germination? How I have a tendency to become a little dim witted when i'm anxious? Well, add tired to that and I turn into a downright idiot. As I stopped in front of the "road closed" sign marked with orange cones to prevent anyone from driving on the road, I thought "What have these barriers and warning signs have to do with me? I'm almost at my destination. I'm sure I'm considered 'local traffic', and therefore the road crew who set up the "road closed" sign and the orange cones did not intend all of this display of safety towards me? Road closed you say? Orange cones be damned. I continued on my way, down the dark, deserted, CLOSED road. Stopping about 100ft before the rapids that had washed out the bridge, I relied on being delusional as motivation to drive on. Just because there is a rapid of water washing out the road before me doesn't mean I can't cross it. I attempted my crossing by driving up on some guys lawn. "How high can the water be?" I wearily asked myself. Well, good thing the man who owned the grass came out to yell at me for being an idiot before literally driving off the deep end; luckily i didn't run over his well. Those of you who own wells know how low to the ground they are, and how bad it is for someone to run over them. For the rest of you, please refer back to previous sentence.

So after hightailing it off the road blocked off with orange cones and marked with a big sign that read "Road Closed", I attempted I relied once more on my GPS to take me in a different direction. It didn't. It took me on a road parallel to the one i just left. " Not to fear, I'll just take any road. How about this dark dirt road? This looks unpromising." Delirious and stupid, I ended up on a dead end road that was lined with Amish houses. Mothers and wives gathered to peak out their windows, no doubt shaking their bonnets and tsking the English.

After a few embarrassing phone conversations with my new and temporary roommates, i finally made it to my destination. I was greeted by two farmers, whom were probably wondering if they made the right decision by picking a girl who would drive down a closed road and attempt to cross a washed out road. Well anyway, that's what I was thinking. I was also greeted by two dogs: Bella and Wyatt, and a rooster named Whitey - the tragic hero of our story.

Whitey was one of three roosters who occupied the lower chicken house. He was also a rival to Nuroo, the rooster of the upper chicken house. From what i could gather, Nuroo is one hell of a rooster, and Whitely, well, not so much. Whitey's face and fleshy bits on his head and chin were badly cut and covered in blood when i arrived. Lucinda, the farmer's wife, was cleaning him up and separating him so his wounds could heal. After a few days, Whitey was as good as new, and out he went to join the flock, or brood or something.

Unfortunately, about a week later when i was opening up the lower house for the day, i noticed Whitey looking battered and bloody again. I sighed and continued to clean out the house and feed the chickens.  Afterwards, I herded him back into the chicken house and proceeded to catch him...south paw aint got nothin on me. it didn't take me long when finally i was holding Whitey in my arms...seriously, Rocky can kiss my ass . i caught a rooster. so proud of myself. I thought, "now i can take him up to the house where he'll get all fixed up, and sent back down." Well, Looney Lucinda took one look at him, and said, "Whitey, i can't do this anymore." And just like that, Whitey's execution was set for Sunday.  Yikes!  Feeling responsible for Whitey's trip down the green mile, I still couldn't help but reminisce on how i caught a rooster. Yay me! Heart felt apologies to Whitey.

Sunday rolls around, and Looney starts to ready the kitchen to do the deed. She asks if i want to stay. Well of course I do. farm experience and all. The prisoner is brought in and the executioner proceeds to pull a knife from her butcher block sitting on her counter. "Odd" I thought. "She just pulled out any knife. i think i used that knife the other day to slice bread.  As I recall, it was rather dull.  But no. She wouldn't..."

Lucinda leans Whitey's head back over the sink to make the quick and fatal cut, and lo and behold, the knife is indeed dull. "What?! Not an important detail? Putt away dishes - important! Making sure you had a sharp knife, forgotten detail?! Really!?" i stood there horrified at the scene.  In my head I was screaming"The blade is dull. The blade is fucking dull! Dull. It's dull. Why wouldn't you check that first?"
Lucinda of course is crying, but the tears are fake.  How do I know this?  Because she turns to me and says, "Stephen, her husband says if we don't cry when we do these sorts of things, then we might as well pack it up because we've lost our compassion."

"Compassion!? Are you kidding me!? How about you save your tears and next time show some compassion by using a sharper knife! "Oh death come sweetly?!  Indeed not! Poor Whitey!"

"Are you okay?" Looney asks me.

"Fine!" I gritted through my teeth.  It was the only thing I could say, because in my head I was screaming "The blade was dull! The blade was fucking dull? Important detail lady! IMPORTANT DETAIL! ya might wanna make a note of that next time, you stupid woman!" "i'm fine" i said again.

she starts to stoke the severed head of whitey's chin and turns to me saying, "it's amazing how the body calms down when i stroke the chin, even though the two are no longer connected." "don't you find that amazing?" lucinda asked me.
"again. the blade was fucking dull! it was dull! i find your stupidity to be amazing!"

okay. yeah sure, i drove down a closed road and attempted to cross out a washed out bridge. but seriously?! your tears are compassion? stroking the wattles to calm a headless and jerking body is a special thing? OPEN YOUR EYES TO THE ORANGE CONES AND THE BIG TRIANGULAR SIGN! THE BLADE WAS FUCKING DULL!

Tune in next time when I recall Fish Fridays and the single portion manna.


i'm exhausted and it's a little past my bedtime, but i had to share an encounter i had this afternoon when picking up a few things from General Dollar.

i young woman about 22 checked me out, and gave me the standard "how are you?"

"Fine" i said. "How are you?"

"Fine", she replied. moment of silence.

"Actually", i said. "i'm exhausted."

she replied with a harrumph, which i'm sure was meant to come across as sympathy. more silence.

"well i've been having a real streak of bad luck" she added.

"really? what happened?" i asked.

"well. i totaled two cars in the past three weeks and my grandma had to be moved from dubois general to a hospital in ohio."

me: "wow. well it can only go up from here, right?" i encouraged. "two cars, huh?"

her: "yeah. deer. a man honked his horn to get deer out of the upper road, but they ended up coming down onto my road and i hit it. it went right up in the air and landed on a car behind me."

Me: "oh, that's awful."

her: "and the second time, the deer didn't die right away, and the people who lived by the road came out to put it out of its misery because it was still alive but mangled."

me: "oh, well thank gd."

her: "well. the problem was, they only had a crowbar."

me: "oh no. wow. well. well, how's your grandma?"

her: "she's doing a lot better."

me: "well there's a ray of sunshine."

her: "you know." she said. "that's my name."

me: "sunshine is your name?"

her: "yeah."

me: "that's awesome. well, except right now, it's just ironic."

her: "ha. yeah. i'm sure it's the reason for all my bad luck."

me: "nonsense."

her: "well. you have a good night."

me: "you too."

we both left the encounter smiling.

the end.


i have difficulty pronouncing words, which is probably why i have trouble spelling. It's even worse when i'm anxious. so, my first week at the farm, i constantly mispronounced germination. instead i would say germate. why did this word make me so anxious? because for my first week here, I was to be responsible for the germination of about 200 seeds. why the thought of germinating 200 seeds made me anxious when i was going to be handling close to 10,000 seeds for the entire season is a bit baffling in hindsight, but that may have had something to do with denial. for the 200 seeds in question, it was to be a seed test. did the seeds collected from last season have a high percentage of germinating this season? that was the test. However, this "seed test" really felt like the "intern test". My frazzled nerves would ask, "If the seeds failed to germinate, would we all be tossed onto the compost pile?" I had to admit, the thought had me germating all over the place.
I have grown things from seed before. But in moments of high anxiety, any knowledge a priori seems to fly out the window. And if there is ONE thing i always seem to remember, it's that worry trumps experience.
You should have seen me. I spent days draped in worry, pouring over the "The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic", "Seed to Seed" and "The Garden Primer" to get the directions just right. When all of the seeds were set up as per everyones directions, I was totally dissatisfied. My internal gardener pushed me to start again. It took me two days to finally realize that these books were making it all too complicated. Then I remembered Snaps!
Sugar Snaps! Do you remember him? The frog in the turtleneck and baseball cap? Snaps once offered a seed starting kit. It was a clear, plastic box (the size of a ring box), a gray sponge and some seeds. You wet the sponge, put it in the box, placed the seeds on top of the sponge, closed the lid and let the seeds sprout. I didn't need published gardeners telling me how to do it. All I really needed to do was tap into my Saturday morning, sugar coated youth. Well okay, all I really needed to do was chill out. But hey, it's been two weeks, the seed test is complete, germination was successful, and i'm still here. Thanks Snaps!
Now onto onions.
Apparently, starting onions from seed is rather difficult. AND, this is now THE REAL THING! dun, dun duuuun! Everything i just learned from the seed test - out the window. Sigh.
I'm starting off with three varieties: red baron, valencia and mustang. i've started with 172 of each variety. it's been three days, and i've changed the growing medium twice (remember, fear trumps knowledge...and short term memory apparently). but i'm back on track. instead of living in the cellar under grow lights, the cells are now upstairs in a comfy 70 degree room, under dark plastic. fingers crossed. later today and tomorrow, i'm starting broccoli, kale, beets and coriander.
temperature check for reynoldsville, pa: freezing with snow on the ground and more snow predicted over the next couple of days.
Tune in tomorrow for the tale of "Whitey and the Dull Blade" :o(