The weather changed last week. Just a half-moon ago, there was an article in the Seattle Times saying we had broken the record for consecutive days above eighty degrees. Not really much of a record - I think it was eight days. But still - after the longest, coldest spring and early summer anyone could remember, we would take any heat-related record we could get.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
And it was a nice stretch; more than a full week of clear blue skies, no clouds in sight, and hot enough to sweat. My garden, along with everyone else's, suddenly decided to mature. Green beans lengthened and curled. Tomatoes plumped and reddened. Even my little bitty cantaloupes in the greenhouse sweetened and fell off the vines. My eggplants swelled and began to look harvestable. The potato vines wilted and dried. It was hot enough for me to curse as I dug tubers and boiled up jars for canning.
Alas, no sooner had I harvested the bounty than the weather turned again. Nights have been downright chilly lately, leading me to speculate about the price of propane. I've broken out the woolen blankets. I've searched through the drawers for the children's sweaters - they can't go to school in T-shirts anymore.
Yesterday, I walked the back pasture and saw that there is just about nothing left for the animals to eat. Well - not quite - there is still plenty of green, but it is the green of thistle stalks, pigweed, dock, tansy, and false dandelion. Plus many weeds I don't know the names of, and can't find pictures of in a five-minute online search. These are things the goats will eat if need presses, but prefer not to. The good grass and the favored weeds are eaten to the ground. Therefore, being extremely cheap, I have started letting the goats out to browse just about every afternoon so as to forestall the day I have to start feeding them purchased hay. Outside of the fenced pasture, there is still an awful lot of good forage: grass, blackberries, and general unnamed herbiage.
Goatherding ought to be a simple task - seems like it should be; after all, it was the job relegated to children throughout history in goatherding lands. Yet, it is pretty taxing to me. It is bloody hard to get goats to go where you want them to go, and even harder to keep them from going where you don't want them to. You can't just sit down in a chair with a book and casually cast an eye over the goats. Believe me - I try. I assume it was easier back in, say, 2,000 B.C., when there were no highways or near neighbors. In those days, all a goatherd had to do was keep a lookout for bears and cougars. There was plenty of time for, for example, whittling a flute and inventing the pentatonic scale.
I keep thinking I can sit down with a book in my folding canvas chair, loosely holding a stick. What I end up doing more often than not is running back and forth across the property waving my stick and shouting terrible oaths.
As an aside: My mother has a mouth like a Russian sailor. There's a family story (which, of course, I can't confirm, seeing as it concerned me when I was less than three years old) that once, during a terrible snowstorm, my pre-school teacher had to drive me home from pre-school. Her car wouldn't start in the cold. After she had tried several times, I, with my wispy blonde hair and gigantic china blue eyes, pointed at the dashboard and let loose a string of profanity the likes of which one seldom hears even today, much less in 1975.
"Aimee!" exclaimed the startled teacher. "What on earth are you doing?"
"Well," I lisped, "That's how my mommy starts the car."
The best part of this story is that years later, when I was in seventh grade, I wrote it up as an assignment. For some reason (perhaps because it was my first year in public school) I thought the story would be more effective if I spelled out the exact words - the words my mother faithfully and unvaryingly used whenever she was highly pissed off.
Today, it gives me great satisfaction to let loose with similar words (I must admit, I've never been able to match my mother in the profanity department) while I come across the back of some seriously delinquent goats with my oak-stick. Cursing hasn't saved the grapevine from marauding goats, but it has relieved my feelings when I see the aforementioned grapevine chewed to shreds.
Maybe somewhere out there is a scholarly paper which answers the question of whether or not my cursing a blue streak spares somebody else a hard right hook. Common sense would seem to dictate that if I can call somebody a craven boot-licking cur I thereby avoid giving him a physical licking. And even if if not, I think it more likely than not that releasing my feelings in the form of heartfelt profanity is good for me.
Why should anyone suffer from high blood pressure, constipation, or anxiety, when they can instead let lose with a volley of colorful language?