Monday, March 14, 2011

Borrowed the neighbor's chickens.

My winter greens garden has done its duty and now has been invaded with aphids, ants and caterpillars.  I made a small attempt to use Castille soap spray to fend them off.  There are no flowers yet to feed the beneficial insects and balance the garden. I thought hard about what I needed to do.  I like my kale greens in my morning smoothie.  It is hard to think I will have no greens at all til the young plants are larger.  Nevertheless, I could not help to think that the impending battle with the tiny animal kingdom over my old kale was not good karma.  Better to put the insects to good use.

I pulled the majority of the greens and buried them in a hot compost.  I could have simply tilled the bed under, but thought again about my old chicken flock that I would have let into the garden for just this kind of fowl fun.  The thought stuck with me for a while.  Chickens are useful in so many ways.  A diverse collection of animals can be like precise tools, each geared for a certain task or aptitude, when they don't go crazy and add chaotic laughter to your day.  At that moment I gave into my wife's desire to go buy chicks.  We did not need a whole McMurray's order of 28.  Two or three sounded fine.  Off to the farmer's association we went.  We ended up with 8 bantum straight run chicks.  Surely some will be pullets, right?

We returned home to set up the brooding light and get the new chicks comfortable.  The kale bed stared back at me.  "But what about meee?"  I needed to do something now.

Before my neighbor could get to his car, I accosted him.  I asked for a favor.  "Could I borrow your chickens?"  He smiled, but did not otherwise react.  My neighbor is of Gemanic descent. Ok, he's really German. To be told, he speaks much better German than English.  I did not think he understood me when I said I wanted to tractor his two leghorns in my kale bed and feed them aphids and caterpillars.  We laughed again and I arranged the transfer of fowl for later in the afternoon.  We were both off to the ASN, the local food buying club for locally grown Arkansas farm produce.  There his wife was working.  I got her attention, and she immediately said, "Yes I know.  You want to borrow our chickens."  Apparently I was right.  Her husband did not know if I was joking earlier, but she understood.  She assured me it was ok with them both, and I moved the leghorns over into a thrown together tractor as soon as I got home.  For the afternoon, while I slaved away in the garden with pick and shovel, the girls tractored across my greens bed, enjoying the smorgasbord of raw protein. 

I returned the chickens just as my neighbor came home.  I thanked him profusely for the loan.  Chickens can be so useful.  He thanked me for feeding his chickens.  We exchanged a laugh about how mutually beneficial the loan was.  ... I skipped the story about how one flew over my picket fence.

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