Monday, March 24, 2014

Thank You for Sharing Your Beauty in Walmart

Bit of a change for everyone today.  No chickens, no garden.

This has been bugging me for a while.  One of the Walmarts in the area has a older man "greeter", who frequently after he welcomes you to Walmart he thanks the female customers for "sharing ypur beauty with us".  Now this can come across different ways, the first time he said it to me he had just asked me to contribute to some charity and I declined.  Here's how it went:

-Welcome to Walmart.  Would you like to give to QQ charity today?

-Not today.

-Well, thank you for sharing your beauty with us today.

Now tone is everything, the tone of the last line came across as if he was calling me stingy. I stopped in my tracks and did one of those, "Did he really say what I think he said?" moments.  I just kept shopping.

Nearly every time since then this man has been near the entrance, sometimes asking for contributions, sometimes not, but invariably he thanks me and every other female who enters the store for sharing their beauty with "us".  The tone varies, sometimes it sounds as "Have a nice day!" having been repeated hundreds of times that day--just a meaningless phrase, other days a bit lecherous, other days sarcastic, sometimes it sounds like he actually means it.

I'm not there to share "my beauty" with anyone, especially strange men in Walmart.  I'm just there for the Q-tips and the whole wheat pasta for $.99. It feels like walking past a construction site every time I enter that store. I cringe and get a knot in my stomach. Society keeps bludgeoning women with the idea  that they are there for the sole purpose of being looked at.  We know the truth, but this stupid idea keeps smacking us in the face anyway.  It is time to get past that.

I want to ask that man why he doesn't ever say it to the male customers. I would love to be there when he thanks some guys for their rugged good looks and inner beauty.   I would, of course, stand ready to call 911 for the ambulance.

If it is not appropriate to say to a man, it is not appropriate to say to a woman.

I think this man would be shocked to find out that some women (well, at least this one) feel that it  can be a sexually charged statement (when it is not a snide commentary), but have been taught to ignore people who make inappropriate comments.

I would skip the store altogether just to not encounter this man, except that it is one of the very few places to shop within a 25 minute circle from my house.  This last time I went there he was not at the entrance, I felt so relieved.  It was this feeling of relief that made me realize how much "sharing my beauty" sounded like a catcall.   A few moments later I realized, with that familiar pit in my stomach, that he was sitting by the exit door to check the receipts of the folks with electronics items, etc. as they leave.  When I left the store he thanked me for sharing my beauty, as usual,  and it will be the last time I will not speak up.

The next time I will head straight to customer service and fill in one of those nasty-grams that gets sent to corporate.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

No Neck Dog, Chickens and the Slumber Party

A new development, it was warm for a few days before our weekly six inches of snow, it was enough of a change that as the snow melts it is exposing bright, spring-green grass.  A sign that we are headed in the right direction.

I've been too busy with other activities to do things like garden and whine about the weather.  My daughter turned 12 this past week, and with the birthday comes the inevitable slumber party.  I use the event as a way to kick myself in the behind to get some house cleaning done, despite the fact that I could name a few thousand productive things that I would prefer doing.  After a week of mopping, polishing, sorting, organizing, recycling and tossing, I then commenced baking, decorating and other hostess-y things.

About an hour and a half before the first guests were set to arrive and I was frosting the chocolate cake, the chickens made distressing noises by the kitchen window, Paisley flew up past the glass in a panic.  I rushed outside to find my neighbor's hugely overweight lab/pit mix, not quite a year old puppy trying to pounce on the girls.  Ursula cut out from the rest and he pursued, she found the gap in the garden fence and lost him for a moment, but then found herself cornered.  I sprinted out, coated with confectioner's sugar, and threw myself in between the two.  Shrieking at the top of my lungs, hoping my neighbor would hear me.  I kept telling the dog, "No!" and he would back off a bit, but he seemed mesmerized by what he perceived as giant, fluffy dog toys and seemed compelled to go back.  He didn't have a collar on, there was no handle to hold. I tried and tried to hold him, but he kept slipping from my grip. He pounced again and Ursula dodged, I snagged her, kneed the dog and sprinted to the coop.  Locked her in and the dog was on to seek out the next chicken.  My daughter came out of the house having heard me shouting. "No, Nooooo, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!", wearing socks, but no shoes, and tried to round up the others, but he just followed her and she didn't want to expose them, but we didn't want them out any more.  She kept his attention on the back steps while I ran for one of the leashes that groomers use. He let me put it on and didn't seem to mind and then whoosh, it was off and he was off.  I chased and caught him again and looped it again, but his neck was just as fat as his head and he slipped it again.  I did this several more times, until I decided to tie the leash around his neck. The whole time I was bellowing, "Where the H*ll is your owner?"  We got him to his owner when he called him, I was asking him to keep the dog in his yard, as my daughter went back to round up the rest of the chickens, Only to have Tank (the dog) escape again, he wouldn't come when his owner called.  He chased Paisley around the house as my daughter gave chase, shrieked and pushed him away--she probably weighs about the same as Tank, about 100lbs.  Paisley, smart girl, ran under the quince bush.  The dog pursued, but then discovered quince thorns and hopped around the perimeter.  In the mean time, I sprinted from the neighbor's yard, through the woods then across our yard to the quince bush,  captured the evasive chicken, kneed the dog again and blasted over to the coop with the dog in hot pursuit,  I slammed and latched the door right as his nose arrived.  He took off to find the other chickens, our neighbor, citing knee surgeries, was just now arriving in our back yard.  We finally were able to send Tank home, with a promise that he would either be on a lead or in the fence in the future and that he will wear his collar.  We gathered up the Buffs and put everyone in the run, with snacks and water.  Then my daughter and I had a good cry,straightened ourselves out and finished the preparations for her party.  I felt like I had used ever shred of energy available chasing and fighting off the dog.  The dog never seemed vicious, he had a goofy look on his face the entire time, listened to me, sometimes, and leaned up next to me for a pat when I put the leash on him.  He just seemed compelled by some force to pounce on the chickens.
 Just writing all this has been exhausting,  If I hadn't been in reasonable shape, we wouldn't have chickens anymore, there's no way in my old shape I could have done what I did.

An hour or so later, the cake frosted...the girls came, then ran around outside in the dark playing flashlight tag ( I don't know the rules, darkness, flashlights, shrieking and giggling are all required) for a couple of hours waiting for the late comers.  After that, they did the annual treasure hunt, per request of the birthday girl.  They followed my riddles around  the entire yard until they found this year's treasure, matching t-shirts and glow-in-the-dark fabric paint.  One was disappointed that it wasn't candy like last year, though the candy was set out on the snack table, I guess it is the joy of discovery.  Halfway through the hunt they discovered one can of silly string for each kid, of course, the obvious occurred.  My daughter realized the next day why adults have some reservations about silly string, as she picked most of it out of the lawn, so that the chickens wouldn't eat it.  (It appears that they don't even sense it, they walk right past, but who knew that?)

A friend lent me all the necessary equipment to turn the living room into the dance party zone: disco balls, lava and glitter lamps, a thing that shines different colored lights on the walls and rotates.  My husband's prized 1980's  stereo with giant speakers provided the music.  At about 9:30 one of the girls reclined in The Red Chair with her root beer and extolled the wonders of  this "the best party ever".

Between the cleaning, decorating, baking, dog catching, chaperoning and assorted other chores, I slept a good deal of the next day.  I still had time to get in a couple of runs to the horse farm to finish top dressing all of the trees planted in the last two years, just in time for the new ones to arrive, just in time for the weekly six inches of snow.  By looking at my photos from last year, our second and final snow was on March 25th and by April 9th the flowers in the garden and yard were starting to bloom.  I'm ready.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Big Cardboard Box

Folks at the sculpture garden knew that I was interested in a big, thick box that was hanging around in storage.  It had been saved for some important purpose, but no one could seem to remember what it was, so they offered it to me.  It is for my garden, of course.  The weather having been dry and moderately cold, but not too cold, so I decided to attempt a garden expansion on Saturday.
The box, folded in half.
Cardboard is cheaper than weed cloth and will biodegrade into the soil, and it is so thick that it will last a long time. I unfolded the box and overlapped the edge with the raised bed I created last year.  The chickens have removed most of the straw mulch in their search for bugs and seeds.
The girls helped me line it up with last year's garden bed.

I then headed over to the horse rescue to get the necessary materials to make the raised bed. 
XB all loaded.
  To answer the question you are thinking, it smells like soil, it looks like soil...   A car load of manure doesn't look like all that much, but it is heavy.  The hood of the car points a bit higher once it is all loaded and I joke about driving a low rider.  (a song that my daughter plays in band)
One carload dumped onto the cardboard.
It took two loads to cover it reasonably well and a little bit more might be needed.
The girls inspected the two loads of manure.
All of it is now (Monday) coated with two inches of snow and a bit of ice, with lots more snow expected in the next few hours.
The seedlings are doing well under the lights, when the winter decides that it is done, they will be ready.
It is time to thin and fertilize them with a little fish emulsion, it is a good thing they are in the garage, that stuff is much more pungent than the manure ever is.

The trees  and bushes we ordered will be arriving within a few weeks!
My stress over the Bay Bridge was unnecessary, there were about three cars on the bridge and virtually no wind.  It was the easiest ride over that thing ever, despite the snowflakes!

Fruit School (that's what the Extension office calls it) was interesting, it was great to find out more about the stink bugs, especially since there is supposedly some news of a bit of a die off due to the cold temperatures, but we will find out for sure in September, their boom season.  The frustrating part  of the lectures was one speaker had  a slide presentation that included material he had presented to the group the previous year, which he flicked through to get to this year's materials, but I really was more interested in the presentation he did last year than this year.  I hear that they are all posted on-line, I'm going to have to find it.

One thing I had never thought about was brought up, conventional farmers spray antibiotics on plants to kill certain diseases, I always thought about animals with  antibiotics, not plants.  Hmmmmmmmmm.