Lately, I have felt more of an inner nagging to sit down and write. But I have still not managed to put aside much of my self-inflicted work schedule to provide time to write a few lines and satisfy my inner spirit’s desire. Writing story about my observations and reflecting on nature is the root of who I am. When I veer from writing to indulge in everyday tasks and outdoor work, which I also love, I feel a bit dissatisfied and in a way, somewhat resentful at the end of the day. Resentful in the sense that, once again, I put work before play, as I was taught to do as a young girl. Oh well, so much for the ways of a farm girl’s practical life…
Some days present a sense of urgency though, and no matter how strong my desire is to indulge in writing or to get out with my camera to walk to the river seeking Daisy deer, or to perhaps capture the colors of the autumn season, there is work that must be done. Monday of this past week, I knew I had a lot of catch-up work to do. FD and I had been traveling the past three weeks to visit family and all I had managed to keep up with were the bare necessities. I also needed to get some grocery shopping done and some cooking going. This all seemed doable, except for the fact that rain was in the forecast for Thursday and the yard desperately needed mowing, and my sweet potatoes were long overdue to come out of the garden.
To boot, I had been battling an upper respiratory infection that started in late September, before our trips to visit family. I figured ragweed was the culprit. With all of the rain this year and perfect atmospheric conditions, this native plant (weed) was thriving. Our trip up north to visit family in Kansas and Nebraska landed us right in the middle of corn harvest. Everywhere we went, a cloud of dust hung in the air, either trailing behind a churning combine, or kicked up by semi trucks busily moving loads of grain over gravel roads from the fields to the elevator in town or to grain bins on a farmstead. Needless to say, neither FD nor I had managed much sleep with my constant coughing and wheezing during those weeks. Even cough medicine was not working its magic anymore.
On the Monday we returned from the last of our travels, I made a quick trip across town for groceries and over-the-counter allergy medicine. Putting my schedule together for the coming week, I decided we would just eat simple meals until Wednesday or Thursday. I would mow all day Monday despite FD warning me not to. Mowing had been my self-designated job on this place since I quit full-time work in town several years ago. There was no way I would have FD ride the mower after working all day at the office! I figured I could dig sweet potatoes and pick tomatoes on Tuesday and Wednesday. I would be lucky if I got all of that done in two days, but I tend to thrive on a busy schedule and I knew I could manage it if I kept plugging away, despite still feeling a bit punk. Tending to myself and relaxation would come later in the week on the rainy days. Or, at the very least, I could indulge in some more-relaxing tasks, like cooking and making roasted tomato sauce with my harvested tomatoes.
Donning a face mask to filter the air, along with my noise reduction headphones and my eye protection, I jumped on the mower after returning from my trip to the store. I am sure my neighbors had a good laugh at my attire. I kept hydrated with water and sucked on lots of cough drops to keep me from coughing my brains out as I mowed until late afternoon. With the dry conditions we had recently, I was filthy with dirt when I finished. I showered, fixed a light dinner, chugged down some cough medicine and flopped into bed.
When we got up Tuesday morning at 5:45, FD stepped out on the back porch while his coffee was brewing. Since releasing Daisy deer four years ago, it has become a ritual for him to go out on the porch with the flashlight to see if Daisy or her friends might be down at the feeder. This morning, he quickly came back inside and asked me to come out, saying, “You need to see this”. I knew by his tone, something was wrong.
The first thing to hit me was the stench. One knows it is bad when one has sinus issues and the rank smell breaks through layers of mucous. The flashlight illuminated a green pool of, well, urine-diluted shit the size of a dinner plate on the decking. Having discovered a missing flip flop and a few cherry tomatoes under the glider, FD had lifted the covers from our porch furniture to investigate. On the right hand glider seat cushion, was a good-sized nest of dried grass and weeds, dandelion leaves, shoelaces from FD’s work shoes, chewed off straps from our patio furniture, bristles from the broom I keep by the back door, gnawed fabric of an unknown source, and LOTS of cherry, pear, and plum tomatoes, while a vast scattering of wet rat turds made up the debris on the other side of the glider. The wet, green sewage dripped from that cushion, down the glider frame, and into the larger pool on the decking. Lifting covers from the other two porch chairs exposed more rat turds, all moist and wet with the green, rank-smelling goo. But there was no sign of the culprit.
Not feeling particularly ambitious about doing a major cleaning on the back porch, I realized I had no choice. The porch decking would have to be scoured and sanitized. Furniture covers and all of the furniture cushions would have to be soaked, scrubbed, and dried. I would have to pull up all of the tomato plants around the house that were serving as a source of food for this unwelcome rodent. Rats carry a bevy of diseases, and I would not risk picking tomatoes that might be tainted. Some of the tomatoes in the nest were from the special plants I had put in for Daisy deer and Spirit deer up in front of the house. This rat had obviously been busy transporting his cache from all around the house to the back porch. Ultimately, I had only myself to blame for this fiasco. I had invited rats by planting a food source so near the perfect winter habitat – our back porch!
When FD arrived home for lunch, I was quite proud of what I had accomplished. Cushions and furniture covers were scrubbed clean and drying on the clothes line. The porch decking was scrubbed and sanitized and the stench was replaced with the clean smell of soap. The furniture was wiped down and stacked away for winter. The cushions and covers, once dry, would be stored in our metal building until next spring. The deer feed and corn could remain on the porch, as it was already stored in galvanized trash cans and secured with straps. We had learned long ago that raccoons were crafty about getting into feed. I had also removed all the tomato plants from around the house and hauled them off to the burn pile. Temptation to return to our porch looked mighty bleak for Mr. Rat, or at least I thought so.
Before heading back to work for the afternoon, FD noticed a large hole in the cover of the grill that sat near the back porch. Upon closer inspection, we noticed several more holes in the cover than what we recalled our orphaned squirrels chewing in it over the months before they finally assimilated into the woodland habitat beyond our house. A little squirrel damage was never a concern – after all, those were our kids. As we untied the cover, FD and I realized the fabric of the cover matched the fabric of “unknown source” lining the rat’s nest on the glider. After removal it was evident the rat had really gone to town and virtually rendered the cover useless.
We braced ourselves for the worst as FD opened the grill top. Inside was another nest, only smaller than the one on the glider, and another huge cache of tomatoes!! Actually, the tomatoes had a colorful, festive look displayed there on the grill grate. I was just beginning to laugh at the arrangement of bright red, orange and yellow tomatoes when I spied the brown rat in a rear corner of the grill, standing on its haunches with beady black eyes looking a tad nervous! I screamed bloody murder, FD slammed the lid shut and we looked for a weapon. By the time I returned with leather gloves, the rat had escaped. And, having screamed and run a at a marathon pace to retrieve the gloves from the storage building, my hacking and coughing began anew.
With more rat clean-up to do, I spent the afternoon continuing my scrubbing and sanitizing efforts, and moving the grill to the metal storage building. We rarely used it anyway. Even after cleanup, I was tempted to throw the grill in my next garage sale.
Curious about tomorrow’s task, I moved to the garden to dig up just two of my twenty-four sweet potato plants and realized they HAD to come out before Thursday’s rain. Some of the potatoes were already quite large and some had been gnawed on by voles. I really should have harvested them at least three weeks ago. I took a little time to load the electric buggy with all that I would need to get an early start digging the sweet potatoes the next day. Another farm girl habit – always be organized for your projects! From there, I headed to the clothes line to retrieve the dried furniture covers and cushions and put them away for the winter. While doing this, I was wondering what meal I could whip up quickly for dinner. The last thing I felt like doing was cooking. I was tired and in need of a shower before I could even think about a meal, and my constant wheezing, coughing, and sneezing had only added to my fatigue. And then, while I was feeling overwhelmed and in the middle of my pity party, a clawing noise on metal snapped me back to the present. I quickly realized the source of the noise was the RAT!!
I found my feet still had energy enough to run, and my tired brain fired up quickly! I ran back to a place nearby where I knew a couple of old bricks were weighting down a tarp. Sneaking up to the metal rain spout where I had heard the clawing, I positioned the brick at the entry and waited, hoping the rat had not escaped. I tapped on the metal and sure enough, the critter, which I was just sure had to be the rat, scratched and clawed from further back in the bend of the downspout. I repositioned the brick flush with the end of the rain spout and then lodged a large Oklahoma sand rock against the brick. I felt immense pride for trapping the wretched vermin that had ransacked my back porch and caused me a whole day’s work. I strode to the house confidently and texted FD that I had captured the rat and I was leaving the task of removal up to him.
Of course I managed to dig up all of the sweet potatoes on Wednesday. The rain poured all day Thursday, and temperatures dropped when a cold front moved through. Friday morning I was washing breakfast dishes and looking out the kitchen window. The yard looked great. I hoped I had mowed for the last time this year. I looked around the kitchen and sighed deeply – it was chaos – containers of sweet potatoes were piled all around the kitchen and dining area for curing, and tomatoes sat on trays – some still needed to ripen a bit while others needed to be made into roasted tomato sauce. The floors had not been vacuumed in a few days and had not been mopped in a week or more. With three hairy dogs, both of those chores were a constant for me. I was meticulous about cleanliness! As much as I knew I had work to do, I also realized something deeper was nudging me. I needed rest. My body was tired, and my mind was weary. There was not one ounce of gumption left in me to proceed with the tasks I saw before me. This farm girl had run her rat race and it was time for a nap – even if it was just 8:30 in the morning!
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…