There they are, the two glossy black hens out hunting as usual and not annoying me in their customary way. They are going after worms and grubs as usual and I believe they are finding plenty to eat, not that Betsy doesn’t keep treating them to left over rice and bread crumbs. I have forgiven them for digging up the crocuses, because they just don’t come down to the house much now that their coop is at the back of the lot in the woods. They are beautiful as all healthy creatures are. Their irridesent feathers shimmer green on black as the light changes and they appear very much as elegant visitors from afar, with this proviso, They seem pretty stupid in their aimless wandering. I did see them burrowed in a dirt bath Jim had cultivated at the base of the pear tree, and that was the first time I had seen much evidence of thought, although they may hear a worm or a Japanese beetle grub burrowing, because you rarely see them peck with no reward. Let me add that egg production is way up and it makes us feel healthy just to look at them lined up on the rack in the fridge.
Another sign of real spring is that Fiona and her friends are spending whatever time they can on Friday nights at the Teen Center. For a few years Fiona had caved in to the idea that frequent infections prevented her from having her ears pierced. This spring, the spring of her fourteenth birthday, she has decided that it is possible, that she can pierce her ears and survive, making it possible for herto toss her hair around in beguiling ways to make her ears twinkle.
As for me, well, it’s planting time. I have to level off the beds where I will plant the onions. I think I’ve mentioned in the past that our beds are three feet square, and although square yard planting has emphasized a scientific method for putting in the plants, it is a method unsuited to the capabilities of Betsy and me. We often start out with the best motives and end with a mess, so I’ve decided that I will come up with my own plan and keep notes. This is my plan. I’m going to make a bed across the tops of two beds that are separated by a path two feet and a half feet wide. This will give me a double row of about nine feet, or almost eighteen feet. It needs to be spaded and raked, and I will bring some of Jim’s excellent compost down the hill and spread it over the bed.
Next comes the hard part for me, but I do have a kneeling pad. Before Jack went to Germany I could have employed him to do the planting. Fiona is too busy with track and ballet to get locked into planting onions with Grandma. Frankly, just visualizing it makes my back hurt, but listen, if Fiona, from her point of view, can puncture her ears I can do my onions.
Yesterday Patrick Macgregor, the pharmacist at The Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, spoke to the Oneonta Garden Club on the topic of Wild Weeds. We are pretty opinionated on this subject as a general rule, so that he inspired us all to find out where he stands on the question, and it isn’t long before he shares his positive thoughts on weeds and their contributions to humanity. Before our science began to be isolated in labs and test tubes weeds were used for all kinds of medicinal and culinary purposes. The mother in the house kept a book of notes on these various uses and learned to identify the plants that she kept out of her garden. Because we can buy conventional herbs and over the counter drugs recommended by physicians now we don’t feel the need for herbs as medicine, but we would probably do ourselves a favor if we made even a small study of their benefits. Patrick handed out some samples of various herbal teas yesterday and I had a taste of burdock tea. It has multiple uses from bringing a sweat to clear skin conditions to providing an excellent addition to soup stock. When I start work on the onions this afternoon I’m going to keep a lookout for some of the weeds that might be growing now, weeds such as dandelion and colts foot and chickweed. Our salads are certainly in need of a pick-me-up this time of year.