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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Hay in my pockets

© Another Day in the Country

There’s a reason that chicken-raising in urban areas has become more popular. Caring for chickens, gathering eggs, and eating those eggs that your hens have laid dates back to the earliest years of agrarian survival.

There is something very satisfied in our genetic makeup when we grow our own food. Gathering and hunting fulfills a need to be self-sufficient. We aren’t totally dependent on another farmer. We can supply some of our own food. The feeling is even more enhanced if we have enough to share.

When we first came back to Ramona in 2000, planting a garden was one of the first items on my to-do list.

I’d already prepared a gardening plot in our earlier summer visits. Some of the boys from town had brought over chicken manure from Clinton’s hen house the summer of 1995 when we’d been here for the whole summer.

In California, gardening involved a lot of watering during the summer. We had way too many trees on our California property and finding a spot that afforded enough sun was an issue.

In Kansas, sun was not an issue. Maybe we’d have too much sun. I’d heard that water wasn’t an issue.

“It rains in the summer,” the locals said. Soon, I discovered that rain was rather quixotic — too much or often too little.

“Oh, well, we have our own well, if we need it,” I responded.

We started out trying to grow a little of everything: corn, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, carrots, kohlrabi, beets, onions, okra, and cabbage. Eventually, due to my frequent trips to California during vacations, the garden got narrowed down to onions, tomatoes, peppers, a cucumber plant or two and sometimes bird nest gourds for my young art students at Centre Elementary.

Okra went ‘bye-bye’ because no one liked it except me! Every year I plant cabbage, my sister campaigns for just buying sauerkraut from the grocery store when we need it.

When someone killed the fox that lived in town, the rabbit population doubled in one season and kept on growing, which pretty much ruled out carrots and beets. The rabbits thought my garden was like Mr. McGregor’s, only easier because there was no fence.

Potatoes have been iffy since the beginning, so far as yield is concerned; but even if they are small, there is something so magical about digging for potatoes. There’s that gathering instinct again as you search through the soft loam that my garden has become. But even potatoes fell by the wayside last summer.

My friend Gordon always has predictions about what to plant and when to plant it. He loved teasing me when it was time to plant potatoes, “Don’t forget to wrap them in a little paper towel. You wouldn’t want them getting dirt in their eyes.”

When my mother moved back to Ramona at the end of her life, she was aghast at my potato crop. She remembered the huge mounds of potatoes we used to dig on their farm in Oregon, and in comparison my Kansas potato crop looked meager. But I still loved their flavor.

“Who cares if they are smallish?”

Back in the day, when we still had aunts and uncles in town, I’d load up my little red wagon and haul my garden surplus to their door for them to pick and choose from the bounty. It was so much fun. If they were still here, I could now offer them eggs!

Did I tell you that these girls are laying more than a dozen eggs a day? A dozen eggs every day of the week mounts up. My refrigerator is half full of just eggs.

“You need another refrigerator,” cautions my sister.

Although it’s no fun to take care of chickens in the winter — plodding through snow, carrying buckets of water — it is certainly fun to gather the eggs.

Kristina gave me an apron that holds a dozen eggs in little pockets but most often I forget to put it on when I’m heading out to the henhouse. I end up putting the eggs carefully in my jacket pockets. It’s a trick getting 16 eggs into two pockets; but on really cold days I can put my hands carefully into the pocket on each side of my coat and feel the warmth of those eggs as I plod back to the house.

Now that is pure country riches, feeling those warm eggs.

I don’t have a big acreage. Don’t have a big garden any more. We’re down to pretty much tomatoes and peppers. But we have eggs! And, on any given day in the country, you’ll probably find hay in my pockets.

Last modified March 12, 2020

 

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