The punkins now peek over the old tire. The herbs– oregano, lavender, dill and lemon balm– have not died a withering, bitter death. Yet. They appear to enjoy me moving them about from here to there. There are little newbies coming up where I planted seeds. Cucumbers and possibly a second eggplant plant. And I noticed squash babies have formed. Little teeny squash.
I’m so glad I collected cow shit from the field across the way and mixed it, by hand, in the soil before I planted my pet squashes. So glad.
Now I note there are ground squirrels sharing the far corner of the lawn with the rabbits.
I whistle at them through the window. They sit up, trying to find what bad-voiced bird calls at them so. There is also a giant mouse that lives in the wall by the fuse box…and it does not seem afraid of humans. I’ve seen it several times now, even tried to trap it and get it out of the wall because…yeah. A mouse munching through important electrical wires. Yeah.
I’ve read the smell of mint keeps them at bay. I do have catnip sprouting everywhere. Years ago, I got a single plant to delight our cats, when there were cats here. I do mean over ten years or so. Longer. Catnip grows from the corner of the fence closest to the road all the way to the ditch that runs below the small cliff face stuffed full of rodents and snakes that hide beneath rotting boards and rectangles of metal.
Catnip. It’s everywhere. And it smells good. It puts out tiny purple flowers!
The biggest privet hedge hosts several families of small brown birds. Sparrows? Wrens? It’s like an apartment building, except it’s a messy clump of nests smushed together, sometimes with the odd collection of loud-mouthed baby birds demanding snacks.
The blackbirds seem to like the actual trees or the old lilac bush. I keep finding blackbird eggs here and there, with a hole punched through the fragile shell. Some savage bird warfare going on about my oblivious head. Are the blackbirds attacking each other or is it a magpie or some other bird? The magpies have not been around that I’ve heard and oh, they are noisy, raucous presences.
My mother once had one, long ago when she was but a girl, as a pet. It attacked someone, some old family story I cannot quite remember now.
And my grandmother, who had a man come to the house one morning, looking for Mr. Bird. I don’t know where he lives, my grandmother allegedly said, but I do know where Mr. Fox and Mr. Squirrel live. Both were actual names but she was having a little fun with a stranger. I think that stranger probably stormed off, cussing.
I also remember my grandmother watching the rabbits at night when she couldn’t sleep. She even told of watching them play during a brightly lit moon-filled evening.
And watching birds through the window, sitting in her wheelchair, drinking coffee. A big picture window that provided her endless viewing options. The road, the birds, possible stray wildlife strayed in from the sagebrush-cursed hills.
A stump, that had once been a black walnut tree, that stump covered with a board, where bird seed got scattered. This was where her eyes would go, observing whatever showed up for a hasty meal. She had severe arthritis, as did my other grandmother.
I realize I am among the few left who remembers the ‘old stories’. The little moments. The sorrows. The tiny joys.
Farming in a place that has almost no water. The eternal sameness of Christmas traditions that now seem tiresome and stale to me. Because it wasn’t the tree or the presents, it was the people I got to enjoy. How maudlin, but how so horribly true.
I meant to pen a quick little smear about growing pumpkins and the yard rodents. I veered off into Remember When land. I guess that happens on unsettled late spring evenings.