Saturday, October 20, 2012

One Tomato at a Time

Apparently, a key to homesteading is being home enough to do it. When I returned to work full-time a year and a half ago, I was able to maintain our gardens, chicken coop and home projects largely on weekends and with a bit of attention during the week. Michael, out of work with an injury, was home more than I, and our shift of most roles happened fairly organically. He's been working more these days, and I've had a bumper crop of freelance work lately, which have had a positive effect on all aspects of our lives except our modest homesteading efforts.

There are cucumbers in the garden bigger than my cats; withered tomato plants have collapsed under the weight of their unpicked fruit. Some tomatoes lay disemboweled on the ground nearby, as if having hurled themselves in protest of the shameful neglect. All will likely be lost to a frost tonight, unless I manage to pick it.

Worst of all, we forgot to close up the coop last night, or maybe the last three, and all that's left of Kiki Jones is enough feathers to know she flapped mightily in alarm before making her great escape, or was mightily shaken by whatever abducted her. Do raccoons eat chickens, or just steal their eggs and scare the feathers off of them? I suspect the hen harasser and a recent home invader may be one and the same.

A couple weeks back I woke up to find muddy paw prints on the kitchen floor, walls and counter that were far larger than those possibly created by any animals supposed to be inside our house. Said creature had also torn open a box of -- wait for it -- animal crackers, ripped the limbs from a decorative, desiccated sea star, and shed longish black hairs on the windowsill below the cat door, its obvious point of entry. Since the door had been set to "in only," I had to assume George or Rosemary Cooney had either 1) jimmied the closure or 2) was still in the house. I hadn't heard a racket in the night ... but I've slept through two fires and a hurricane in my life so that might not be an appropriate measure. No one else heard the rampage, either, and we're all in pretty close proximity to the kitchen.

Then a few nights ago I was up late and heard the bell of a cat collar. As we'd already undressed one of the kitties for the night and left her collar on the windowsill for tomorrow's outing, I knew it was feline #2 coming in for the night, and went to the kitchen to lock the door behind her. Instead, a raccoon had poked its head and front arms through the flap, where it was hanging out, shaking the collar with one paw like a tambourine. "HEY!" I yelled. It looked up at me casually, stared at me for a good 10 seconds while it finished its jam session, then slowly retreated, making off with the rhythm instrument.

We moved the cat door the next day to a less accessible window for those creatures not adept at vertical leaping. The kitties firmly believe they are in this category and loudly complain as they hover on the outside stairway that runs by the kitchen window.

Death, neglect, invasion, protestation...all of a tedious, low-grade variety, with comic relief courtesy of the Cooneys. Frankly, everything feels out of whack right now. Michael and I are tag-team parenting and homemaking, we haven't had a date in...I don't know how long. We're still playing catch-up, barely covering our expenses. As a family we share maybe a meal or two together each week, after years committed to converging nightly at the dining room table. The stepkid's grades are down (but at least this has spurred his dad, he and I to check in on Sunday nights about school and schedules for the week ahead). Stellina has to have oral surgery in two weeks. I can't stand the thought of my five-year-old, with her tiny impacted Chiclets, undergoing general anesthesia followed by a good deal of discomfort. But it's doable. We can do all of this.

The day is predicted to be sunny and in the high 60s before tonight's much lower temps. Michael is working all day. If I opt out of attending the stepkid's football game, my daughter and I just might be able to put the gardens to bed, and attend to the hens, and even play on the trampoline quickly filling with fallen oak leaves.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr