Three days ago our neighbor Momma Goose called from the fruit stand over in Puyallup to see if I was interested in a good deal. Three flats of strawberries for 30 bucks. This is actually a great deal. I’m now entering my third and last day of strawberry labor.
It’s going to be a beautiful, sunny day — 73 degrees forecast — and I’m up early cutting strawberries for jam. The Bearded One is still in bed. So is our nurse twenty-something daughter who arrived last night to recover from the health care system, her hospital job. She said, “Tomorrow I have a date with the sun,” and collapsed into bed. I sat out the chaise lounge for her this morning, and felt glad that I mowed yesterday. That little antique push mower with the wooden handle I bought on Craig’s List two years ago — 50 dollars cash — was such a good deal.
Our cheap farmlet economy thrives on good deals. Neither of us has an income anymore. The Bearded One quit lawyering in 1994, and I quit my job in adoptions and foster care in 2001. We have no debt and live richly by not spending much money. We’re thankful.
I’m halfway through cutting up the third flat of strawberries — it’s 9:30 — when the phone rings. I step outside onto the deck to talk with the veterinarian who is confirming receipt of our phone message cancelling the annual vaccinations. Which cost 226 dollars last year because a well-animal examination is required. Our animals are all healthy. Ruby is an 11-year-old golden retriever. The 4-year-old goats have never been vaccinated — the previous owner didn’t believe “in all that.” I’m joining her ranks.
The vet advises me that preventative care is cheaper than treatment, and that she thinks rabies is now a county law. I don’t say what I’m thinking — Huh? We won’t be “treating” feline leukemia if Garfield gets it. I wouldn’t “treat” leukemia in myself, I long to say, but I don’t. It’s easier to buck the system if you just can’t afford it. And it’s true. Our own health insurance is going up again. It might as well be a mortgage lately.
The phone wakes up the sleepers. The sunbather comes down the stairs, and I greet her and tell her it was the vet who called. Then I talk about how good the strawberry deal is. She glares at me for bombarding her with talk. Her feathers are easily ruffled in the pre-breakfast time.
The Bearded One sits on the couch and laces up his boots — Danners, made in the USA, very well made and a good deal — and tells me about his dream. “Four bad guys came to the door. I ran to get the gun out of its case in the closet, and you just let ’em all in.”
I tell him the interpretation seems obvious to anyone who just spent 3 solid days wrangling strawberries. Each flat has 4 boxes. They dominated all my attention this weekend. He denies this dream interpretation outright, then listens to my news about mice chewing through the new bag of cat food in the red storage shed. It’s a quiet breakfast of oatmeal and strawberries and then we’re off to sunbathe, address the storage shed problem, and make jam.
I have pectin leftover from last year, thank the Goddess of Jamming. Pomona’s Universal Pectin is a great deal, and I make the last batch of jam then lay out lunch — leftovers and our daily homemade, therapeutic chicken soup.
The sun is shining when I walk out onto the deck. “Lunch!” I holler. Ruby is beside the sunbather; Garfield is on the lower deck licking sap from his paws. The three goats lay against the fence in bright sunrays.
Chicken stem cells have done their job and Jane races Cheetah down the hill, no more limp. Cheetah still wins, though. Up at the aviary, the other hens are squawking — chicken bitchin’, we call it — at the 3 broody banties who hog the best nests.
The Bearded One arrives and doesn’t look happy. The storage shed job has turned into a monster all-day project, thwarting his continued work on the cool tent covering the meat chicken pen. He’s using leftover plastic from the hoop house, another good deal.
“How’s it goin’?” I ask.
“Pissy,” he says.
And then the bikini-clad one looks over. “It can’t be a truly pissy job,” she shouts, “unless you’re paid to do it!”
So true, I think, so true. We eat lunch and happily return to our wonderful, stress-free, non-paying work. Our lack of employment or real jobs — now there’s a good deal.