Zen Short Stories: New Boys on the block

Spring winds are blowing most days and nights as the Gorge attempts to switch from Winter to Spring.

Temps fluctuate from highs all the way into the 60s; Summer weather, back down into the 20s..the rest of the year..

In the gardens

I had been working out in the new garden area by the apple trees sweating like crazy only to have winds come in and bring snow back through within the next 24 hours. Not that this is new in any way; it’s Zen, even our “neighbors” a mile or so away have a completely different take on weather than we do… For all that, even a quarter mile away, as the land dips and tree flourish, there is less snow, yet more rain, and less winds, due to said trees. Where our wild roses out in the fields may be six inches tall, a quick walk and the same type roses are over 8 feet tall and wider around.

Zen IS the transition zone; woodlands to high prairie and grasslands. We have a hand full of trees, that I planted nearly thirty years ago. Any time they try to reach for the sky, the winds sheer off the tops, generally taking them down by a third. A single winter wind can take away nearly a decade of growth over night. A few years ago, the entire of my trees coming in to the property were all broken off by ten feet, cutting them as if the wind used a ruler and chainsaw.

When I head in to town, or the trip to the village for mail, the difference always amazes me to this day. Frigid winds grab the hat off my head and the breath out of my lungs only to get to the flatlands and have to strip out of jacket and vest in the still warm temps.. only to get back to the homestead, step out of the rig to be shoved into the door as I try to open it.

Yup, we do pay for the view between wind and drought conditions , well and winter snowing us in fairly often.

What this all means is that growing seasons are short and brutal. Winds literally erase plants and top soil and as the temps are so low, plants have a hard time growing fast enough to make up for the wind damage. Add in the heavily clayed soil and that we have a top soil of…well in some areas, it is just a little moss on rock, others tend to be at a few inches before we hit rock. Below the house is a shelf of rock, no idea how big, I have never gotten past it. To plant the required trees so we could just put a new house on the exact same footprint, we had to plant trees to the South East of the house… yeh, none are left…. I had to use a pick to plant them , and then the wind killed most of them, the deer and elk killed the rest. The final tree was taken out late this winter when a bull elk came through , snapping it off a few feet above ground level…. It was a fiver year ( here) tree.

So…. The new raised gardens are all put together. All but one are ready to go. I need to make another town trip to pick up some more soil and then it is just planning what will go where…though we pretty much already know.

I’ll till up a couple of the older beds to use as we start planting some with more herbs and others with squash and melons. Beings we have so many plants in our little nursery, I imagine there will be tomatoes and peppers in some of the old beds as well and we will just hope for the best as the dang squirrels can get into those beds along with fighting the winds.

Already, our veggie plants are bigger than the ones we bought from the nursery last year and the Basil is easily three times bigger than they were last year at the end of season. Things look good so far, but then, we still have a good month to go before any can go outside.

Soon, we’ll start the seeds for the squash and melons. If they grow like the rest, they will take over the front room as well. Even just since last week and my transplanting, I can see roots have gone through the bottoms of the new pots. I just wish we could get them to grow this fast outdoors.

In the fields

While I work in the gardens, the fields are growing like crazy. I have a ton, probably close to, of pine needles and pine cones I would like to try to get out from under the trees and park. It gets so dry up here that we lose a lot of needles during the summer, which, with all of the fires over the last few years makes us a little nervous.

Last year’s 21 fires close to the homestead, including four knocking at our door, I have been trying to get things a little more cleaned up now that I have time. I have been trying to clean up all these many years as I walked into a piece of property with wood stacks absolutely everywhere. Before the big fires just a few years ago that kicked off all these man-made fires, along with dry conditions that spurred so many more, we would normally have a couple fires a year relatively close to us and only one at our door once every several years. Now we live out of bags during the summer. While others are BBQing and sitting outside under trees and with green grasses, we watch fire alerts, we scan for smoke and turn them in. We have winds, blowing like crazy trying to touch off any spark. Hopefully it’ll be a better summer this year. Huddling inside trying to breath while the air is dark orange and ash falling for weeks on end simply sucks.

Soo.. I mow down as much as I can around us to make things safer. Hopefully over the next year or so, I can relocate the wood stacks to the safest spot I know of.

I haven’t even bothered trying to start ” Lil Red” our old Ford Jubilee tractor as she just keeps throwing one new fit after another and I don’t have time as of yet to get to her. With a gas and an oil leak on top of not wanting to run, it is going to be a lot of busy work.

We see that the wild flowers started opening below us , coming up the hill , so we should start seeing out wild flowers popping in a week or two. We always look forward to that. They normally last almost up until the grasses go dormant as well , generally in June , then everything turns brown.

Hummie Stories:

Snidely

I think I mentioned him some time earlier, but still, his colors are new up here this year.

Most of the Anna hummingbirds that live up here were born up here. When Hummie saw Ma for the first time as we were trying to decide whether to have us both live at the ID house or whether Ma should move up here, which took us a year to decide as we each worked our jobs in the two states as we had to live apart, The two of them made the decision. We were working around the apple trees, clearing things and making repairs on one of Ma’s visits when Hummie flew right up between Ma’s eyes and hovered as the two stared at each other.

Can I keep her? She followed me home.” Hummie said to me from over Ma’s shoulder.

Annnd the choice was made, we headed down to look at a new house and started making arrangements for the new well…

Since then, Hummie brought in Mrs Hum and they started nesting in Hummie Garden, the Tree by Ma’s office or just inside the grove beyond the apple trees. Those kids all got hitched and brought their families up and so on and so on.

Each Spring, we see faces of hums from years past as Hummie’s clan grows and a fair amount of them stay close to where they were born. After the first hatch, we see wee leetle hums just fresh out and just now starting their flying lessons. Little swarms of micro hums dash in and sit around the feeder by Ma or the one by me at the porch.

Soooo when I say ” new hums”, generally it is simply their first year with their new colors…and so, on with the story.

I was standing on the deck the first time Snidely came in, named after Snidely Whiplash, if you don’t know who that is, well you’re on the internet…look it up..I named him that because he has feathers on both cheeks that curl out, reminding me of Snidely.

Snidely whipped up to me, slamming on the brakes.

Hey Da!.”

Well, hey there Snidely.”

Wait..What? That’s not my name.”

You know, I go through this every year with you guys.. So what IS your name ? “

Ummmm..crap.. Snidely….apparently .”

Sweet. So nice stache Dude. “

Thanks! Yeh, Hummie called me a hippie, told me to get a job…umm… Need and juice sucked or something? I work cheap. “

Sure Little Dude. There is a whole bunch of juice just there that you can work on.. Also..bugs.. you munch down those wee little bugs so they don’t get in Ma’s tea .. K?”

Cool.. I can do that.”

Nice job Snidely. So How’s Hum? I haven’t seen him yet this Spring.”

Freakin grump..so fine.. normal..”

I laughed. “ Sounds like Hum. When is he coming up ?”

Oh any day now. He is getting old..like you..”

Ummm.. Thanks? “

Oh sure.. You bet.. uhhh Hold that thought.. Did you see her?”

With a swish of wings as she flew past my ear, a little female whizzed by brushing me and slapping Snidely. Off he flew after her, howling in delight. “ Be nice. “

I Am nice.” Snidely called as the two whip past me in the opposite direction.

Yeh, I was talking to her.”

The little female brushed me as they flew past once again…Giggling.

Oh, get a nest.” I called out, laughing , as I walked back under the cover of the porch.

Snidely flew up to me, grinning. He twirled his mustaches between wing tip, waggled his eyes, and off he flew, chasing his new girlfriend.

Marty

Another boy, new to the scene, though after today, I am pretty sure he is simply on his first year as a new adult, is Marty.

Marty, named after Marty Feldman , got his name this week as he whipped in while Ma and I were, yup, sitting in the porch area. Marty has a look completely different from the other Anna boys..ok..fine.. MORE different… His black face, which, of course turns red when they want to make a point, isn’t full face like the rest. His is more of a beard and mustache deal, and to top that off, he has white around both eyes which makes the whole googly-eye effect… I had to laugh.

What is so funny?” Marty called to me as he sat grinning at the feeder, he lower face slowly turning red..His googly eyes popping at me.

I snorted, “ Nothing Man. Love the beard.”

Da,, I know you are making fun of me somehow, but I don’t know what.” His eyes seem to get even wider, making me laugh again.

Ok, ok, ok… It’s the white around your eyes. It makes you look wide eyed.”

Marty crossed his eye in an attempt to see what I was talking about. His face turning red again.

Plum Boy flew in, sat at the feeder and stared….Then he laughed so hard, he fell off his perch.

AAAAGGGHHH!!!!!” Marty whipped off the feeder, flew past my face then swung in to chase Plum Boy.

Ma looked up from her I-pad where she was watching one of Whispering Pines’ videos What’s so funny?”

I tried to stop laughing long enough to tell her, but Marty swung by clipping me again in a wing slap to the forehead.

Hey! Ya little Brat!”

What did I do? ” Ma asked, confused.

Not you.. The Other little Brat. Marty.”

Whose Marty?”

So.. I explained, between bouts of laughter, which brought in the little diver bomber again to sit at the feeder, glaring at me. ” What? It’s funny.” To which Marty continued to glare at me… The effect totally ruined by the googly eyes.

Marty looked at his reflection in the juice of the feeder. Moving his face closer, then farther and closer again, the effect of a circus mirror distorting his face, a wide grin forming on his beak, he turn to look at me. His eye brows, close to the top of his head, Marty waggled them at me then made his eyes open as wide as he could, making me spit out my tea before I laughed so hard tears came to my eyes.

Laughing I said, ” Ya little weirdo ! I can’t catch my breath. Stop it.”

Marty’s grin curled as he clenched his toes around the feeder perch, leaned toward me and waggled his eye brows as he made his eyes seem to bulge out of his head.. I had to sit down before I fell over laughing, just barely getting my tea sat down on the table before I dropped it as well.

Ma looked up curiously again, Marty far enough away from her, she couldn’t pick up his antics when she started telling us about Jen rooing sheep; the act of parting the wool fleece for use from the fine short coat that, of course, the sheeps keeps to start all over again. Rather than shearing, they are able to roo the fleece, literally tugging by hand, separating the ready wool fleece from the new coat, as slick as scraping icing off a cake, from several of their sheep which is amazing. No cutting so no second cuts to come up, making an ever closer flawless fleece. All in ever ongoing breeding efforts from Whispering Pine.

While both Marty and I sat listening to Ma about it, Hollywood and Lass also came in to the feeders and on to the lecture.

Lass, watching over Ma’s shoulder quipped “Whoah… that would fill ALL our nests and still have bunches for Ma to spin…into super fine yarn to make hummie woolies. “We all turn to look up at Lass, who shrugged, “ What? Just sayin.”

Marty and Hollywood looked to one another, rolled their eyes….which, once again, sent all of us into fits of laugher at Marty’s googly eyes.

Geeze guys, give it a break.” Marty grumped

We will when you do.” Lass giggled .

All three hummers flew off, Marty chasing the other two as they all flew over the top of the house.

Hummie

I walked out the porch door only to see Hummie himself sitting on the fence by my office window.

Well Hey there Hums! How are things going down in Gotham?”

Well, Warmer than up here. Hey Da. I am getting too old for the cold crap so I set up new kids to watch over you and Ma in the cooler weather.”

Yeh, Lass was up here most of winter and Hollywood stayed here. I had told Lass to head down to the Brownstone to hang with you and the rest of the clan. She was too dang stubborn to come in, though she actually came in for a moment and then flew back out. Hollywood, ban from the Juniper apartment by Lass for watching sketchy Net Geo hummingbird shows….from South America…”

Oh, I heard about it..We ALL heard about it. She came through the door ranting about him drooling over little females with fancy plumage ..and all. She said if he wanted to watch those floozies , then he could just wait until she left, kicked him out of the apartment to think about it, for a couple days before she made it down to Gotham.”

Ha! He cheated. He would sit over the door to the house inside the porch all day. I had the main door open and the storm door cracked open enough that he got constant heat, not a lot but better than sitting out in the snow storm…Plus, he may not be able to see the TV but he could listen. I asked if he wanted to come in, he looked in really quick but said he was fine where he was.”

Tricksy that boy is. She wasn’t happy that when he came in at night, he was warmer than she was, sitting in the den all day cept to grab a drink every so often. Said he didn’t learn a thing….. Personally, seems to me he learned quicker than we ever did.” Hummie said, grinning. I simply nodded, grinning.

So..What have you been doing all winter Hum?”

Hummie grin, looking side to side to see if anyone was listening. I grin as well, mimicking him then lean in closer to hear.

I was watching Net Geo. “ He whispered, waggling his eyebrows at me. We both chuckled.

What did Mrs. have to say about that?”

It keeps me out of her hair, so she’s good with it. Besides, she knows that I come home to her, not them. And you Da? What did you do, not having to drive in every day. “

I smiled, ” Well, I tried to work through some of the inside projects as well as doing some big cleaning jobs I couldn’t do in the short amount of time I normally had here, always on the road or working. Or clearing the road. Also started baking again. I ran into a great pizza dough recipe that we tweaked, so now we have pizza a couple times a week, for the now anyway. Did a little work on music.. Stuff like that.”

So not bored then.. I saw you did some burning while I was gone too.”

Oh yeah. “ I laughed. “ You know how Ma hates fires. I had to keep them small and put them out early before the winds would come in. Looks like I am done for the season already though, between winds and worries. “

Gawhhh.. I bet Ma was uncomfortable.” Hummie said, nodding sagely. ” Well, looks better. I saw you fixed the fence and entry too… Lil Red tractor still being a jerk? “

Lil Red runs when Lil Red feels like it.. which is never during a time he would have to work. “

Lazy….still has its chains on I see.”

Yeah, too busy still to worry about something I have to get running to simply put it in the shop to do more work on it right now. That could take days just to get it in to work on it alone. With the Spring winds and down into the 20s as well still, I just haven’t felt all that ambitious towards it…I get so much more done on things that do want to run so that I can get this list of mine down to present instead of jobs that have been on the list for almost thirty years. “

Well..Lil Red is a dick…he can just sit there for a while yet then.” Hummie laughed.

Grinning, I said, “ Too true. You’re pretty mellow Hums.. What’s up with that?”

Meh… Saving it up for when the family all come up here for Summer vacation…Not to mention all of the other hummingbirds that come in and pester the clan.”

Good idea. Won’t be long before the Black-chins, Rufous , Calliope ,Allens and Broad-tails come in..never know if any of the others will stop by too. Course, most of the odd ones just make a pit stop. But yeah… Soon the place will be humming.”

Phhttt very humorous … I am getting worked up just thinking about them Rufous. They always pick on the new babies.” Hummie grumbled as his face turn red.

Still plenty of time before that Hums. You just have to deal with your own kids and grans for now. “

Hummie’s face turn bright red in an instant. “ Gawwhhh.. Tell me about it. Locked up with the horde all winter, having them up here soon is going to drive me crazy.. Nesting, Courting, having babies.. Training the babies… ugghhh..and then the others will show. It’s going to start almost any time now.”

Yeah.. I already have three feeders running and going empty every few days. Soon as it warms, I’ll have to pull the storm windows for the porch so that we can put up two more of your feeders.”

Don’t forget to clean up my garden and get those feeders in too.”

I rolled my eyes. “Its’s on my list.”

Move it up the list. “

You’re nagging. “

You’re lazy.”

Yeah? well…you’re…..small.”

Ooohhh ouch.” Hummie rolled his eyes. “ So’s Ma.”

Good one, I’m so telling her you said so.”

I’m soooo scared.. You call her Pocket Mom.”

Gawhhh.. Go yell at your kids er somethin'”

We both laughed as he flew off to go heckle Plum Boy, who had just come to land on the fence .

Grinning, I walked back towards the door to the house, when I was swarmed by Hummie’s kids, chasing one another around my head, arms and legs.

Goofballs. “

Final Thoughts

Well Things are still cool up here.. and windy. We had snow again yesterday and in the 30s yet again today.

The winds bringing in the cold snow and rain and then running it all back out and down towards the Blues was blowing hard enough that it did some damage to the shop and soo loud while it pummeled the house non stop for days that Ma and I had to just short of yell to one another to hear each other. Cranking the sound system up did little good as the freight train continued to roll over the house….and then, the winds calm and it was once again quiet, if chill. Birds all about once again. The deer came back in and coyote kids hit their runs once more.

The indoor nursery filled even more space this week and everything that I just transplanted.. needs transplanting yet again even though I am tripling the size of pots each time.. Definitely a far cry from what we have been dealing with till now. We are grabbing pots again today for the next transplant….

Last week seem to be mostly making runs to Gotham and Hooterville, where the weather was beautiful, only to get home to said winds.. This coming, I will also be making multiple town runs in both directions. I am doing more driving these two weeks than I have all winter I think.

Red Ranger seems to be running just fine after being down most of the winter..So I must have figured something out there. The jeep is super happy to be putting in the miles, she likes to go for drives.

Blue is pouting because for a while there, she got all of the attention and she love 4×4. Blue’s bed is set up to slide things in and out. Red is the reverse. The bed is like friggin super glue, I toss whatever in place and it doesn’t move till I climb in and carry it out, which is why I have to use Blue to haul soil. With her I can just toss it all in the back , then slide it all out when I get home. Red, which also has a shorter bed, I have to toss whatever in, just up in the bed, put it in place, hop out and do it all over again and the reverse when I get home which kills my knees and lower back, so Blue is in charge of soil, which she doesn’t mind, she likes to ” Go for a ride.”

Ma is, of course, spinning and, of course, she gravitates towards Whispering Pine’s Shetland. The quality so so freakin high that Ma and Mama wheel, groan when they spin it.

Ma goes through a lot of fiber as she spins and knits the quality you have all seen and read about. Ma is no slouch when it comes to either spinning and or knitting and Mama wheel spins whatever Ma wants without any changes other than tension . No fancy fliers or bobbins.. One set up can spin from bulky to near cobweb .

Ma is spinning a bit of Whispering Pines’ ram and skirting , which is softer than the lamb best she normally finds from other venders. We were amazed when it came in.

At less than a gram; 14.2 grains, of fiber, Ma spun up 12 yards, 2ply at 40- wraps per inch. Not because she tried to, but because her and Mama wheel simply spun it that way. The wool tells the two of them how each fiber should be spun and this turned out amazing, once again. If it were possible, I know Ma would go exclusively with Jen when it comes to wooly bits..

With, I believe around 20 sheep to roo fleeces from, and around another 40 or so to shear, however, I don’t think that’ll happen soon.. Other people want the Soft Shetland as well..duh… Best of the best.

Well, as I sit here finishing up, I hear Ma making work noises , which means that I’d better get out there and get to work again as well, no rest for the lazy.

The sun is shining , the breezes have calmed down, birds everywhere and deer in the yard…It looks to be

Just another day on Zen Mountain

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