Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Autumn, a Packrat, and Rotting Chicken

I've been stuffing my Subaru with leaf-filled bags that crinkle like discarded wrapping paper and fill my car with a heavy musk that feels like second-hand smoke. Incredulity tightens every muscle in Rudabega's body, not knowing how she will fit into the overflowing car. To justify my habit of trolling the curbs in town, block by block, I extoll the virtues of tossing fallen leaves in the compost to anyone who will listen; they hold valuable nutrients, improve soil structure, aerate clay soils, and help retain moisture.  Plus, the goats like to eat them.

In spite of the frosts, my outdoor greens continue to thrive under a layer of remay, which I canopied with some old chicken wire.  Inside the greenhouse the greens grow avidly and untouched.

The molting chickens, on the other hand, feel the effects of the waning light.  They only produce three eggs daily. Meanwhile, a packrat, with bulging, glossy eyes no doubt and a thick, scaly tail the color of bubble gum, is clearly nesting in the coop, eating excess amounts of feed and dragging cacti all over the place.

Though the chickens don't seem to mind, I do. I give myself a pep talk as I head out to the coop to collect eggs,  then again as I put my hand on the door knob, and again when I step into the coop. I tell myself this is another opportunity to develop my dauntless grit.

Speaking of chickens, Jo, our neighbor and caretaker of the barn, e-mailed me yesterday informing me that she found two chickens in a bag next to the freezer. Before I rented a freezer locker in town I haphazardly stowed them in the barn. In my hurried transfer from one location to the other, I left two chickens behind, only to be discovered by poor Jo weeks later. The unmistakable, oppressive smell that lurked through her house did nothing to alleviate my shame.

So I take my lessons this week from nature, making use of the things that  scare me and the things that bring me shame, reminding myself that each moment is an opportunity to cultivate and grow.

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