Dust Baths

“Meow.”  It’s 4:15a.m. and I hear this inches above my head, outside my dirty-but-open bedroom window.  Garfield is on the roof.   I leave the windows closed on this side of the house during the day, when there’s dust from our beloved dirt road.  At night, I like the cool breeze.  Our second story bedroom is right over the cat condo which was the temporary evil cat Ditto’s territory all summer.  Now Garfield is bravely experimenting with the idea that the exchange cat from Attackistan really has returned to nursing school with our daughter.  He won’t take our word for it.

“Go to bed,” I whisper to him, and close the dusty window.  It’s been two days since she left, but he still won’t go back into his old digs even though I cleaned it and smudged it with sage smoke.

It’s the time of year when dust coats everything, when cleaning feels pointless but also more necessary than ever, and when I realize just how much dirt there is on the farmlet.  I see on the calendar that last year I cleaned the blinds and ceiling fan this week.  They need it again already.

I could have legibly drafted this go-round of Farmlet in the dust on the side of the truck, but instead the Bearded One and I go to the farm supply store for root cellar straw and more chicken wire for the coyote-proofing.

Our neighbor who was going to supply us with our first chickens told us this week that she’s been wiped out by eagles, never mind the dang ground forces and coyotes.  The eagles are relentless.  Another neighbor saw an eagle soaring straight down the middle of our road earlier this summer, 8 feet off the ground, never flapping even once.  We see owls doing this from time to time.  The neighbor presumed the eagle was after a chicken she’d seen loose up at the dead-end of the road.

All I’ve seen on the road lately are fog banks of dust and loud gangs, very appropriately called murders, of crows.  Twelve angry ones scream bloody murder at us at the road entrance as we turn onto the main road.  I’m thinking about my compulsion to clean, which I’d like to be shed of.  The Bearded One (who wouldn’t notice dust if he was swimming in it…) talks about eagles and says we should be okay because they need a pretty long glide-path and we’re a small clearing in the middle of some really big trees.

The lady at the farm supply store tells us that bulletin boards and Craigslist are the best places to get laying hens this time of year.  “Do you want hens or chicks?” she asks.  “Hens,” I say right off.  “We’ll work up to chicks.”  I tell her that we need a chicken starter kit, and she says that chickens are easy.  “Just have a dry place for them.  They clean themselves in the dirt, you know.” 

I go out to the parking lot and the huge bank of ripe blackberries I spotted when we drove in.  I pick while the Bearded One loads the straw.  And then he comes over and helps me.  The berries are huge and bursting with juice and we fill my gallon jug in fifteen minutes.  I just happened to bring it along.  Blackberry jamming this afternoon.

Blackberries, marionberries and boysenberries.

When we get home, the Bearded One hauls the straw bale up to the chicken house with the hand truck.  I see Garfield curled in a ball in the lower goat pasture.  He felt safe from Ditto over there, but after the eagle stories, I go out and scoop him up.  “She’s gone, dude,” I say to him.  “You don’t know, man,” he says.  “That’s what I thought last time.  She’s around here somewhere…”  He was about half her size.  This may take a few days.

He and Ruby follow me up to the chicken house which is wonderfully eagle-proofed.

Eagle, coyote, weasel and we hope racoon-proof aviary and chicken coop.

Garfield checks out the straw and then rolls in the dirt for a nice bath.  All the animals do it, chickens, cats, and Ruby especially, after I bathe her, she wants nothing more than to race outside and roll in the dirt.  And her coat positively gleams!  This strikes me as incredibly profound.  What is dirt?  What is dirty?

Hanging out together in the dirt.

Garfield feels so good he races down the hill ahead of me.  By the time I open the gate, I can see he’s jumped up into the open window of his cat condo.  He’s perched above his very own little bed, the dust billowing off his golden fur in the sunshine. “MEOW!” he calls out.  “She’s gone!”


3 responses to “Dust Baths

  1. My internet was down for 2 days! I just got off the phone with the lovely Time-Warner, and a man who says his name is “Paul”, although he had a distinct Indian accent! 🙂 I can’t wait for our phone chat this evening. I’m really glad Garfield has his old stomping ground back. I think it’s so cool how throughout all the comings and goings at the Farmlet, that Ruby seems to just go with the flow! That’s why dogs are so wonderful! Good luck on finding laying hens. I hope it’s not too much hassle for you and B.O.! I’ll be talking to you this evening. Until then 😀

  2. Christi and Keith… Thanks for the info about the eagles. I didn’t know they go after chickens. A pair nests close to our new property. Jack had the same experience of a huge eagle flying past him, just 15 ft. away, on the road leading to our home. I guess the street is one of their glide paths. He said it was awesome! We’ve learned, though, that eagles can pick up animals as large as fawn, which is a bit scary. We’ll have to keep an extra-sharp eye out with toddlers, puppies and cats @ the new place!

  3. Christine Widman

    Here in the desert the Cooper’s & Sharp-Shinned Hawks swoop down & grab up the Gambel’s Quail or Mourning Doves pecking in the dust. Interestingly, this kind of hawk slams the captured prey against an adobe wall to stun it and then sits on top of the quail or dove, talons closed around the bird, until the bird dies. We have actually watched this moment of life and death contest many times here.
    I LOVE the drawing of you & the Bearded One sleeping!!!

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