My wife is the best wife in the world. I know that’s a shock to many of you ladies out there who’s been told by their husbands that they are the best. Those gentlemen are well-meaning and we have to give them credit for giving you encouragement. Ahhh, all kidding aside, my wife is wonderful and I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world.
“Are you about ready for dinner?” It’s later in the evening and I am completely engulfed in building a chicken coop. The evening shadows are getting long and the sky is golden. Jennifer, my wife, has come out to offer a kindly reminder that she and the 10-year-old are hungry and for me to find a stopping point.
“Okay, let me finish this one thing and I will come in.”
She pauses for a bit of added pressure. She knows that the “one thing” will last till dark and hearing a hungry boy ask, “Is it time to eat yet?” one more time may test her patients. She looks about at the progress of the homestead as I continue to measure a piece of siding with an angle cut that is giving me a headache. “We’re really putting it together.” Then she corrects herself, “I mean you’re’ really putting it together.”
“YES!” I say with much approval seeing the three pieces of wood fit perfectly together. Then I “hear” her. The “you’re really putting it together” comment bothers me. “What?”
“You’re really putting it all together. I’ve done nothing out here.” She says modestly.
“No. We’re putting it together,” I remind her.
“I haven’t done anything.” She’s not defensive. She’s genuinely offering me encouragement and a very nice complement. We kinda let that subject hang pending the tool pick up and animal feeding I still needed to do before dinner. And, with the chores of the night followed by a family prayer and then sleep, it didn’t come up again. Still, the “I haven’t done anything” comment weighs heavy on me. She has done everything; she just doesn’t realize it.
Harvesting the Grass
When I harvest the grass with my self-propelled grass combine (ie mowing with a lawn mower), I often will go and go and go without stopping. My grass it usually kept high compared to the neighbor’s lawns. This benefits me in many ways. One: I don’t mow as often and two: I don’t have to water as often. Many times between mows my grass will go to seed. I push a half acre each mowing; it takes awhile. And “awhile” is plenty of time for a good thirst to kick in and a good sunburn to form. It’s not long before my wife starts walking up to me with a nice cold glass of lemonade and a tube of sunblock. I’ll get hydrated 2-3 time per mowing. She may not have been behind the mower but the chore was definitely a “we” task.
Did she help mow the lawn? Sure she did. Without my wife, I’d likely end up suffering from a really dry mouth (or heatstroke) a killer sunburn (speaking literally rather than figuratively). If I stopped every time I got thirsty or took time to put sunblock on, it’d take away from time to get other chores done.
Home for Chickens
I’ve always wanted a really nice chicken coop. I don’t know why I didn’t settle for the box-on-sticks coop or the store-bought version. Maybe I get it from my father; if there’s an easier and standard way to do it, I’ll pick the harder and fancier way every time. On our little homestead, there’s me, my wife and our 10-year-old. The boy will help sometimes but when I have a complicated part of a project to do and my two hands are not enough, my wife comes to the rescue.
The coop stands about 8 feet high. Setting the roof by myself would have resulted in my falling off the ladder, getting hit in the head by the hammer and then being chopped in half by the falling board. The scene would have been a mess and an all day to clean up. Thankfully my wife comes to the rescue and holds up the far side of the roof board and I nail and secure the other side. Thanks to her, I am proud to say that I am still alive and in one piece. There were many times while building that coop that I could not do by myself. So, who built the coop? We did.
Just Chop It Down
The previous owners of our homestead planted these mugo pines (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinus_mugo) about six inches from the driveway’s edge. As you can imagine, the once, small, volleyball-sized bushes have grown into about ½ the size of a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle…EACH! The in-ground irrigation system probably functioned very well when the mugos were small. But, now the water just hits the branches (and one (we discovered later) didn’t even pop up).
Dry and dying areas in the lawn began to come about when the summer turned up the heat. After trimming back some of the mugos from the drive to have the blacktop sealed, a couple of sprinkler heads were discovered and both were buried in with the mugos. My plan is to cut them ALL down and put things like herbs and grasses along the drive…you know…more of a Southwestern Idaho, high-desert look that has both aesthetics and it palate-pleasing qualities. Those mugos have deep, wide and established roots that have begun to “bust up” my driveway. They have to go! So, my plan is to cut them all down this fall or early next spring. For now, I needed to “free” a couple sprinkler heads and get the water going where it was originally intended to go.
One Sunday after church I geared up for the battle. I got my shovel and purchased some extenders to first dig up the sprinkler heads, screw in the extenders, move the watering heads out farther in the lawn and away from the mugos and let the water flow freely without a wall of pine needles. It was going to be a chore!
Chop, chop, chop. Crunch, crunch, crunch. After 30 minutes into it and making NO progress to speak of, my wife comes over and asks, “Sweety, whatcha doing?”
“I need to move the sprinkler over so the dying grass can get water.” I responded.
“Well, just cut the bush down; you plan on doing that anyway, right?” To her, this was a no-brainer. This digging was going to eat my entire Sunday afternoon up. She had come up with the most simplest solution. “Just cut it down.” Genius!
They say two heads are better than one. But in our relationship, I can’t say that; I’d be giving me too much credit. You see, here in my later 40s, I have realized (and have become quite comfortable with the idea) that my wife is so much smarter than I am. “Just cut it down.” Who comes up with that? Obviously not me. Because I would have dug and chopped and dug to get that sprinkler out. After her observation, insight and suggestion, that dying and dry grass was getting a nice, cool drink within 30 minutes.
What are you going to do with TEN chickens?
We have seven chickens. Two are laying right now on a pretty consistent basis. The other day we got a HUGE triple-yolk-er that was delicious (I only put it down in my calorie calculator as “one egg” but that dude had to have the calories of two eggs if now three). I got those chickens from a good friend from work. She gave us three total. Another friend gave us five, much younger buff orpingtons (one turned out to be a rooster now lives (hopefully) with a lady in Boise). So, we have seven birds.
“Why not round up and get ten,” I mentioned one morning during our patio-coffee-time that my wife and I dearly enjoy.
She was tactful in her response; she always is, “Ten hu? Well, how long do chickens lay eggs.”
That question is difficult to answer. How long DO chickens lay eggs? A hen will live for 7-10 years…some live longer and some live for fewer years. A hen will likely lay eggs her whole life with the frequency of laying tapering off gradually. My smart wife’s question was more a statement to help me along a thought-pathway. What she meant was: “Why get all the hens this season and producing WAY more eggs than we may need later to have a flock that tapers egg laying and we end up having to buy eggs again after the chickens get old? Why not get a few new birds each year to help ‘pick-up’ the egg laying?”
It’s kinda like succession planting. If I had to compare a chicken to a plant, I’d say that a hen producing eggs is like a tomato plant producing tomatoes. You wouldn’t necessarily plant tomatoes like you’d plant corn. A corn stalk makes an ear or two of corn and then…done! You’d want to plant a few corn stalks, then plant a few more later so all the corn does not come in all at the same time. Chickens are kinda the same but not…if you know what I am saying. A hen will only lay so many eggs in her lifetime. Then, like the corn…done. So, if you add to your flock every year or two, you’ll have a steady egg production. I know this and my wife knows I know this, but sometimes I need to be reminded of what I know. You know?
My wife is the best wife in the world. She and I both are working hard to make sure our little homestead is the best ever. I couldn’t do this by myself. I am not smart enough for the complex issues and she’s not strong enough to pick up the big rocks and wheelbarrows full of dirt. We make a perfect homesteading team. Plus, she’s pretty easy to look at.
Love at first sight since 1994.