Thursday, December 15, 2016

Be Back Soon

I’ve been in Tucson for more than two weeks now. Arizona and Kansas are so different in many ways for me. In Kansas I am rather isolated in the country, while here I am in mid-town Tucson, part of a four-person intergenerational family. In Kansas the nearest grocery store is twenty minutes away, but here I can get to Sprouts Farmers Market in just three minutes. Although a million people live in this area, midtown gives me access to everything I need within the neighborhood. There’s even a crematorium not far from our house, just in case.

I can’t write in my Chicken Creek Journal while I’m in Tucson because the two places are so radically different. Today I’m switching to my other journal, Tucson Off and On, to record my alternate reality. I hope to be back here in April 2017, assuming I won't need to patronize the neighborhood crematorium in the meantime.

Before we left Kansas, Dennis hung old quilts over our uncurtained front windows. 

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Be Here Now, in Peace

All through November I meant to write in my journal about peppers, but it didn’t happen. I was preoccupied with attempting to weave my way through the maze of arranging for an infusion of my rheumatoid arthritis drug in Tucson on November 23. The treatment must be administered every eight weeks, so if that

We had planned to leave Kansas for Tucson on November 1. Having started packing in mid-October, we were living with half-packed banker’s boxes in every room. I was buying just enough fresh produce for a day at a time.

After numerous phone calls spread out through three weeks to both of my rheumatologists – one in Topeka, one in Tucson – I finally admitted defeat and delayed departure until I could get an infusion in Topeka.

This preoccupation with the future kept me from living in the moment. If only I had been able to follow that old Hippie slogan “be here now” (a principle shared with Buddhism and other peaceful, meditative religious) I would have written about the marvel of having thriving pepper plants on October 31, laden with ripening peppers. Our average freeze date is much earlier than that.

Finally, on November 13, we harvested the peppers after a freeze the night before.

I loved looking at the various shapes and colors. They are all peppers, but they vary in characteristics that define them as pimento, yellow bell, jalapeno, and so on.  Sometimes those of us who save seeds for next year find a few surprises when we discover that two varieties have crossed to produce a different pepper altogether.

People are like peppers. Some of us have dark skins, some light; some hold to one religion while some have other beliefs. We vary in many ways, but we are all people, easily distinguishable from apes and kangaroos. Sometimes people of different varieties cross, and produce a beautiful child. 

I wish we could just all get along, like the pepper plants in our garden, happily co-existing.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What's in a Name?

Yes, by any other name a rose would smell as sweet, Mr. Shakespeare, but when it comes to chickens, it’s a different story. When we first kept chickens they didn’t have individual names. They were just “the chickens.” We had a rotation system. We started our chicken enterprise with 25 straight run baby chicks. (Straight run means the birds have not been sexed, so you end up with both hens and roosters.) That year, when the roosters were beginning to crow (they were six to eight weeks old) we butchered them and put them in the freezer. That left us with a dozen laying hens. We didn’t care to repeat he butchering experience, so the next year we bought a dozen Plymouth Rock pullets. The third year we gave away the Rhode Island Red hens and bought a dozen Buff Orphington pullets. And so on. None of our hens was more than two years old and it was easy to identify the oldest ones. We always had plenty of fresh eggs.

Then, when Laurie became our chicken partner, everything changed. Instead of ordering chicks from Murray McMurray, she and I went shopping for baby chicks. Laurie was so enchanted by the different varieties that we bought an assortment of breeds. By the time the babies were six weeks old, Laurie had named and could identify every chicken. Instead of talking about “the chickens” we talked about Lucy, Matilda, Rhoda, and so forth. By giving them names, we had turned them from a flock into a group of individuals, each one a distinct personality.

Objectivity went out the window. We no longer rotate the flock and some of our hens soon will be five years old.  We bought a dozen new pullets this summer, but only one of them has started laying eggs and one turned out to be a rooster. Egg production has plummeted to two or three eggs a day, sometimes none.  We separated the hens we thought weren’t laying and dubbed them the “B team.” They just hang out and eat kitchen scraps.

So, what’s in a name? When it comes to naming chickens, you will end up running a chicken retirement home and buying eggs at the grocery store. Still, I love old Lucy, who survived a viscous raccoon attack. Lucy recovered from her wound and lived to rule the roost, and I wouldn’t condemn her to death for any amount of eggs.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Dream World

I've been living in a dream world in which the lines “And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea,” were a reality, not a hope. The 2016 election season has shattered my dream world because every time I look at news photos and videos I see ugly hatred in the faces of many of my fellow citizens. I never dreamed there was so much hate among us.

My perception of my country is destroyed and my dream is shattered. I can’t help wishing that “America the Beautiful” were our national anthem; singing and hearing those words again and again might have made our country more like my dream world.

Copyright 2016 Shirley Domer

Monday, October 31, 2016

All Hallows Eve

It’s Halloween, known in Christianity as All Hallows Eve, but more anciently to Celts  in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man as Samhain, or “summer’s end.”

I like the summer’s end appellation because it fits what is happening here in Paradise. This past week Dennis has put almost all of the garden to bed for the winter. He hauled four truckloads of horse manure and spread it in areas that haven’t been recently enriched.

He has moved the raspberries to an area outside the garden fence, moved strawberries to a new patch, and covered the strawberries and rhubarb with a layer of protective straw. Just a handful of things are still growing – marigolds, peppers, turnips, and parsley. The pepper plants, lucky to have survived this long without a killing frost, are still loaded with ripening peppers.

And, nestled in the parsley are two black swallowtail butterfly larva. They had better hurry to their cocoon stage, for a frost cannot be far away.

One of the traditions of Sanhain was leaving food and drink outside for the Aos Si, spirits or fairies, who visited on this night when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thinned. This tradition has most likely led to our modern tradition of trick or treating, when children dress in costumes and go door to door seeking candy.

I’m sorry we can’t participate in this tradition because all of the children in our rural neighborhood have grown up and moved on to their own lives. There’s no one here now but middle-aged and old people, no one to come knocking at the door when night falls, crying “Trick or Treat!”

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer