It’s Thursday and time to deliver eggs to Tweets Café in Edison. The five mile run into Edison must rank as one of the world’s best egg runs. The road winds through woodland, blueberry fields, flanked by the Chuckanut Mountains. Mt. Blanchard is ever graceful, ever watchful, ever peaceful.
Today, on the way home, I was treated to an impromptu art show, when I had to wait for a freight train to pass. Was I looking at the work of Canadian artists? Or were these Californian art pieces back from a rolling exhibition in Canada? Or are they more Portlandia?
The budding peonies at home are putting on a stunning art show as well. Few flowers go to such trouble, unfolding their leaves and buds like dancers with arms entangled in a slow moving, heart-rendering melodrama.
Blue skies and sunshine give a reason for the cherry blossom buds to plumpen. Another month and they will be on the verge of opening. Early March is when they usually open. Last year was a cold spring and they didn’t open until nearly April.
Kuma-hime 熊姫 is pondering which nest to use. The current most favored nest is occupied. Someone could write a doctoral thesis on the nest selection process of chickens. It’s far more complicated than you can imagine, and the underlying algorithm would probably scrawl across several blackboards. Years of intensive research may uncover a primal selection mechanism that goes back hundred of millions of years, and is one humans have embedded in our genetic code too. Where we all like to bed down may be determined by the exact same genetic code. Knowing this algorithm hard-wired into our genes, marketeers could make selecting their couches out of all the others irresistible. More research is required.
There’s no time for me to research the algorithm buried in Kuma-hime’s brain. It’s on to planting onions.
The morning started without a cloud in the sky. There are places where a cloudless morning doesn’t even register as anything out of the ordinary, but here it is something you write home about. I’m old enough to remember when letters were a thing. The nice thing about letters is that you weren’t expected to respond this minute. You had time to think about what to write back, and the party on the other end would wait a week or two, a month or two, and not be unsettled at the long time it took to get a reply.
The bright sunshine motivated me to plant potatoes, a little early perhaps, but I’ve found that potatoes do well when they have lots of time to grow their roots before sending up their shoots in April.
The ducks are eager to help. How many bugs can a duck eat? I thought chickens were voracious bug and earthworm eaters. Ducks are on another level. Their bills are like shovels, scooping up any creature they spot.
It has been raining almost every day for a month now. We are the land of mud, of rubber boots and raincoats. The ducks don’t mind. They would be happy if the garden turned into one big puddle.
It’s the season for Evening Grosbeaks. All day they gather at the tops of the alder trees, their chirps sound like a chorus of little bells clinging. The drop from branch to branch, cascading through the bare branches until they crowd each other at the bird feeder, making us buy bag sunflower seeds in fifty pound bags. Next year I may as well have a ton delivered at the end of fall. The Evening Grosbeaks look and sound like small parrots, little green and white and yellow jewels in the middle of a very gray season.
You almost never see them on the ground. I wonder what it would be like to live your entire life without touching the ground, to know only the air brushing your toes as you dart from branch to branch. What do the birds call us with our feet in the mud? Mudders? Stuck-in-the-mud creatures? Mud Beings? Do they wonder where our wings are? Why we never fly?
For birds that never touch the ground, what is the earth? A fearsome surface like a cold sea is to us? Does an adventurous hummingbird chick ever cry to its parents, “I did it! I touched the ground and lived!”
Despite the daily clouds and rain, all is not doom and gloom. The tulips have poked out of the ground. I may have gone overboard last fall, planting several hundred tulip bulbs in the garden. Apricot Beauty, Abu Hassan, China Town, Ile de France, Abigail, Maureen, Barcelona, Queen of the Night, Orange Juice, Roi du Midi, Saigon, Princess Irene, and Purple Dream. Come late March and early April, I will have a riot of color to enjoy.
The garlic are growing robustly. Come May my constant stir frying and roasting of garlic scapes will drive my husband out of the house.
The ducks thrive in the cool, wet weather. They should be called “happy birds” because they are constantly at play. I may have to give up eating duck. How could it ever be moral to kill such a happy animal? I may have second thoughts about that once I see the drakes do their thing. With two drakes and a hen, her happiness may require my intervention with a carving knife this spring. Life in the country presents challenges city folk never dream of. Which is why I plant so many tulips and garlic in the fall.
It’s late January, time for the daffodils to push out of the cool earth. But how do they know it is time to emerge? Underneath the ground, they can’t tell that it is getting warmer, that the days are getting longer.