Our younger Twenty-Something daughter arrives after a particularly stressful work week. She is also fresh from a brunch attended by many young children and babies. “Work is a disaster,” she says, referring to her brand-new nursing job. “And I don’t feel like EVER having babies, either.”
She is on the deck now and looks out at the farmlet and animals. She breaths deeply. “I love the air here.” She turns to me. “I need to talk just a little bit, but mainly hot tub and sleep.” I hear tears way in the back of her throat. Should I tell her about the baby vegetable seedlings incubating under fluorescent lights in her room yet? Maybe not yet.
We walk up the cleared hillside to visit the goats and chickens. The Bearded One burned a big pile of cedar and alder branches in the upper pasture, and to our surprise, the goats love to lie in the ashes. They dig a pit right in the middle of it all. Ash must have some cleansing quality, like a dust bath, or maybe the ash pit is still warm on their bellies.
The goats rise up from the ashes when we appear and our daughter giggles as they shove in close for some cracked corn.
They kept their distance last time she was here, but this time she gets to feel their soft lips nibble her palm. I point out the built -in knee pads on Pearl’s front legs, how I was astonished to see the way a goat lies down by kneeling first on those thick front pads.
Our exhausted nurse wants to brush Sage’s severe neck-area dreadlocks, but I say he would never allow it. And we can’t shear them until May, when it’s warmer. In the meantime, we’re putting Diatomaceous Earth — a wonderful fossil flour that, like ash, is an organic pesticide — on their bedding areas and on their backs. Our daughter approves.
LaLa then demonstrates how male goats pee, which is exactly like female goats, squatting, no leg lifting. Which I find interesting. “Just be grateful you can pee and poop,” says the nurse. We all say our thanks.
Next the Bearded One heads to the area of the future meat chicken pen. He’s got it roped off and we have 3 months to build it. Our neighbor Momma Goose ordered us 30 Cornish Broiler chicks — $1.80 each including shipping. We aren’t doing this to save money, but to learn the food skills involved. The 2-day-old chicks will arrive on June 16.
“The sweet little chicks will be in a brooder in the hut for the first couple of weeks,” I say. “That’s great,” our daughter says. “You are so lucky to have a neighbor to ask. Can I hot tub now?” There is a bit of a whine in her voice.
We head back to the house. “I didn’t even have time to eat lunch on Thursday,” she says, and then continues with the horrid story. The working world is so wounded, I think as I listen. She needs me to listen, and I hear the words fault and blame and responsibility and failure over and over. I want to shine some light on her emotional state, offer some mild fertilizer to my wounded seedling. I tell her I’ll get the hot tub ready.
She goes upstairs to change, and I imagine her noticing her closet. It was the best out-of-the-way spot in the house for the seedling operation, which I started last week in old aluminum fruitcake pans and plastic food containers with holes punched in the bottoms and sides.
I added an inch of clean potting soil, seeds, and set the containers in four long plastic trays under four 18″ fluorescent lights. The lights are on 12-14 hours per day, an amount of light even the hoop house won’t offer for many weeks.
I’ll turn the lights off when our daughter goes to bed, and then on again after 8 a.m., when it’s light in the room anyway. She must sleep well, but I honestly don’t think the seedlings present a problem to that. Still, she’s fragile at the moment.
I stick my head in the doorway. “Did you see them?”
“You mean my roommates, my new siblings — Lettuce, Broccoli, Cabbage and Spinach? Yes, I see them. And it’s okay. You can turn their lights on whenever you need to. I’m not jealous.”
She reaches for a hug, and I hug her hard. “My sweet baby,” I murmur. “Not even a hint of seedling rivalry.”