Water Runs Downstream!

Everybody knows that water runs downstream. So why should I get so excited to see it?

A bit of a recap first for those who missed the earlier post on this. Some weeks ago, during a bad rainstorm, I noticed that water was running from the level of my driveway downward. The problem was that it ran all through my chicken coop area. That was fixed with a small retaining wall, plus a berm along the driveway, which did the job of keeping the water away from the chickens. But in the next storm it flowed through the mulch in the area next to the chickens, making a mess of the mulch. Long term, this was not a good plan. In my head I see a woodland garden in this area (someday!), and I can’t have water running willy nilly.

I could see generally where the water had flowed because of how the mulch had been moved – curve here, curve there, according to the lay of the land. I raked it back to the banks of what looked like a natural path for the water to go, and sure enough, in the next rainstorm, the water followed the path. It looked like this:

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Those are some beautiful curves, but I wanted to make them more beautiful and feel a bit more certain that the water would go where I wanted it to go. I decided to make a stream bed with rocks following that same path. It was a lot of work finding, hauling and laying the rocks. It took a long time.

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I laid down white landscape fabric under the rocks to keep the weeds at bay and dug out the bed somewhat to make it easier for the water to obey.

20180623_145538.jpgThat’s Fred, who helped me with the first third or so of the total length. You can tell he was thrilled about digging dirt and laying rocks. Who wouldn’t be?! Look what’s coming! Pretty soon it looked like this:

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I say pretty soon because in retrospect it seems like it took no time at all. How quickly we forget pain and hardship when there is a favorable outcome! It reminds me of the lady in labor in the room next to mine when I was giving birth for the first time (or maybe the third time or the fourth time, I forget that too). She screamed in pain, let me tell you. There was no question that she was not having a good time, no question that it hurt! Well, I had my baby and she had her baby, and coincidentally she and I were placed in the same recovery room. We were both resting when her phone rang. The person evidently asked how things had gone, and she said, just as cheerfully as anything, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad!” Lady, I thought, it was that bad! I was there!

Yes, we forget. I forget the digging (the hacking at Virginia concrete soil, more like) and the tree roots and the bug bites and the hot sun and the heavy rocks and my aching body at the end of the day. Did I mention the heavy rocks? They are heavier when you put a bunch of them in a bucket and carry them back to the work site, a trek which more often than not included an uphill climb. But no matter. In the end I had a beautiful stream bed. And then, of course, we had a dry spell.

I had to water all the plants in the berm and elsewhere it was so dry, so one day when I had the hose out there I stood at the head of the stream bed and let ‘er rip. It took a good bit of water but it flowed the way it was supposed to. My bed passed a small test, but the real deal would come when the skies opened.

I waited and waited. It poured in the night once or twice but I slept through. Today was my lucky day. The wind kicked up in the late afternoon, the gigantic trees outside my windows started to sway and I heard the first drops fall. This was not a tease of a storm, this was real. It started pouring at about 430pm, I mean pouring! Picture time!

I did remember to put on a hat before running outside, my wide brimmed sun hat, which sort of helped. It was raining so hard I was drenched before I even got to the head of the stream. It took a minute or so for the level of the water to build enough to start flowing over the rocks. I stood there cheering it on… c’mon, you can do it, oh yes, up and over, whoo-hoo, and flow it did! Look at that water flow! It works!

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That’s water flowing over the rocks! See? Water! A lot of water but mainly where it is supposed to be! Yes!

I know it’s a still photo (wish I knew how to upload the video) but hopefully you get the idea how fast it’s going:

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I could hardly stop laughing and giggling and whoo-hooing the whole time I was out there (I’m sure the chickens were wondering Who is that kooky human?) – it works! That’s why water running downstream is so exciting! My stream bed did its job! I was soaked through and still laughing when I came back inside. The poor dog, who had scooted out there with me – she never wants to miss anything but I think she regretted this decision – she was drenched too. But she ran all over, found her toy, ran some more, wanted to play. Something really fun is happening, she is thinking, I don’t know what, but something!

Oh, what a beautiful day!

Just Keep Going

On Thursdays my mom and I read to a wonderful 100-year-old blind lady named Evelyn. Mom met Evelyn nearly half a year ago, and they started with a biography of Queen Victoria. I love this idea, so I asked if I could too. I read at 2pm and Mom at 3. A few weeks ago I mentioned Coco, the adorable black pug I am taking care of, and Evelyn wanted me to bring her. Today was an especially good day for that because Evelyn got bad news this week. Coco was perfect. She did what she does. She brought joy, comfort, warmth. Oh that fur. For the full hour that we read today, Coco lay wedged between us on the couch and Evelyn’s hands didn’t come off her once.

The tongue seems disproportional to the size of the rest of her, I know.

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Coco put her tongue (mostly) inside her mouth and I picked up where Mom left off last week and kept reading till Mom came and took over. Today’s chapter was rather heart-wrenching. Victoria was in the throes of despair when I handed off the book and took my leave.

Some days are monumental. You accomplish something big, learn something new and very useful, have a great influence on someone’s life, solve a mystery, explore a new and exciting place, have an important meeting, or experience a life-changing event. Or it dawns on you that if you put food in the chicken coop that the chickens don’t want to go into, they might want to go into it! (Thank you, Kim. I know this doesn’t really qualify as brilliant or monumental the way it seemed yesterday, but we are creatures of habit, we are. Never have I had to put food in a coop to entice the chickens to go in it — why should it have occurred to me before? One of these days I will try though. Perhaps I should drape tempting greens on the steps of the chicken ladder. Spaghetti? Maybe that would lure them up and do the trick?)

Today wasn’t a monumental day (nor did I care to entice the chickens – let them sleep on the ground!). Most days aren’t. Today, like most days, I just kept going with this and that. So did Evelyn, as she’s been doing for a hundred years. That’s a long time to just keep going! It struck me today that despite what happens, we keep on eating good food, sleeping as best we can, loving the people we love, figuring out what to do next and most of the time doing it, or trying to do it.

All around me, everyone and everything is doing the same. The lettuce keeps on making more of itself so there can be a salad every night. Oh, a new dressing to try: Mix a bit of yogurt (maybe two spoonsful) with some apple cider vinegar (about ¼ cup) in a jar (same as you would mix olive oil with vinegar). Add a bit of strawberry jam! The batch I made this year came out kind of soupy, so I just pour a tablespoon or so in there. You might need to mush it up a little bit. Shake the jar to mix it all up together. Salt and pepper to taste. Yum! (Those are the carrots right behind the lettuce in this bed, in case you’re wondering.)

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The cabbage keeps getting bigger too, this head bigger than a softball. Somehow I thought the cabbage plants were Brussels sprouts plants instead. I feel slightly disappointed about that. It seems I will have a good deal of cabbage to saute slowly with onions one of these days.

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Speaking of onions, they keep pushing harder to get out of the ground. I planted 300 “sets” (whatever that means) – 100 each of red, white and I don’t remember what the other one was. Yellow maybe. It seemed ridiculous at the time. Now I am thinking this might be a good number. If there are any left at the end of the summer, they will keep well.

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The tomatoes keep getting taller and have started getting red (yay!). I couldn’t find my favorite “sun gold” variety this year, so I don’t have any of those. But these will be excellent anyway and make the sun golds all the more special when I surely find them next year!

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The lemon grass keeps on getting fuller and taller. By the time the fall comes, this plant will occupy the entire raised bed. I am not exactly sure what to do with this other than admire it. The two other times it has grown in my garden, its entire purpose has been to make an incredibly big and ornamental show of itself, which is nice, but there has to be something else to do with it. Another day I will look into this.

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Everything just keeps going.

It was 90 degrees today, but shady where I myself kept going, rock after rock, on my stream bed. This morning I had 23 linear feet. I drove back from Evelyn’s and went very slowly down my road, stopping to pick up a few more set-aside stones from the last outing that were waiting patiently for their own special place in my long puzzle. I gathered some more rocks from around the house and softened the dirt bed before starting to set them in, then kept going to the main curve of the stream, banked those big anchor stones tight against the edge, and decided this was not far enough for one day, so gathered some more rocks and began again, adding 11 feet total today. There’s only 11 to go until I reach the woods and call it done! (I don’t care what happens to the water when it reaches the woods. Let it delta out all it wants.) After all this, I sure hope the water will choose to stay in its pretty channel during the next heavy rain.

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Needless to say, the chickens kept on being ridiculous! It’s hard for me to look at them sometimes and not think they are little aliens. For all I know, this one could have been looking back at me saying You think I’m funny looking?

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Rocks Leading to Mushrooms

Lately we have been collecting rocks for the stream bed that will run through the woodland garden next to the chicken coop. It’s going to be wonderful. This is where the water flows…

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And this is what the stream bed looks like so far. I have never made such a thing before, but I hope it’s going to work. After Fred and I puzzled together many flat rocks, we sprinkled fine crushed rock in between, hoping that when the water comes, those little ones will glue together the bigger ones. Time will tell.

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That might not look like a lot of rocks, but it is. This length is less than half of the full length of the winding stream. So now, whether in the car or walking, I am on the lookout because I need more. It turns out there are a lot of rocks along the side of my road and in my woods, many more than I ever paid attention to before.

They were not delivered here, they were collected. That is, we collected them. The crowbar came in handy for some, but most were just pick-upable. This collection task was made far easier by this attachment on the back of Sandy’s car. Look how many we fit on there. Beats a wheelbarrow.

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The bigger and rounder rocks will go around the coop fencing on the outside as one more barrier against predators, and the flatter rocks were destined for the stream bed. We made four trips up and down my gravel road, which is about ¾ mile till you get to the paved part and has mostly woods along the side. We made one trip into the woods too and got these mamas. I dare the foxes and the raccoons to get past them!

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I find the rocks so beautiful too. These are two found recently.

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First glance, eh, okay, rocks. But look closer.

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The marbling through the, I don’t know, what is it, granite? It’s intricate and delicate and unique. And just sitting there by the side of the road, tucked into the dirt or surrounded by last year’s fallen leaves, ignored and unappreciated till now. Here I come, looking where I don’t normally look. Oh, there’s a beauty! Look at that one!

This evening, same deal, walking along the road, glancing side to side, beauty here, beauty there. The white ones especially catch my eye because I imagine that after they have found their perfect spot in the stream bed, they will glisten when they are still wet after a rain or sparkle under the light of a full moon. Can you imagine that?

In the woods along the side of my road is something else I would miss if I were looking only down at the road or straight ahead: mushrooms! I don’t eat them, not even the kind you buy in a store, so they are not really on my radar, but up they pop through the damp leaves in random places at this time of year. We’ve had a lot of rain, and that helps.

I was not looking for mushrooms. I was looking for, admiring and delighted to find rocks! Keep your eyes open. It’s no surprise that when we are attentive to what’s amazing and wonderful in the world, we will see more that is amazing and wonderful. As happens in countless ways every day everywhere, good begets good.

This perfect white specimen looks like it belongs in a textbook. How perfect is that? And all those funny bumps on top – I wonder if the patterns that the mushroom bumps make are like fingerprints, no two the same. Would have to be.

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Coco is not overly interested. It doesn’t move, it doesn’t smell like meat, it hasn’t been peed on like that teeny pine tree she spent many minutes fixated on just prior to this find. In case you were wondering, that pink pug tongue does occasionally fit into her mouth.

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This next one seems inside out, maybe confused about how that top part is supposed to be shaped. But maybe it has more confidence than that, even a mild measure of chutzpah. Look at it taking great pleasure in expressing its individuality, reveling in its few days of glory and especially pleased to have been discovered. No other mushroom like me, be sure of it! No curves like mine, baby!

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