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Stepping High

August 2012

Dawn caresses the parched farm…

Greetings Friends of the Farm,

Around 5 AM, before sunlight, all is right — peaceful — on the farm. The noise of traffic has not yet started, the chickens are quiet, although some of them have already flown from the perch to the ground. Those early hens just stand around, thinking, most likely. Overnight, whatever bit of moisture is in the soil has sneaked up into the plants and plumped them so that they are almost perky. Datura’s blossoms, still fully open — although their perfume was spent during the night — reflect whitely the glow of the moon. They mark my path around the farm house, as I walk on down to the road to get the newspaper (am I the only one who still does this?) The moon, almost full, is my elusive guide. This is a good start to the day.

Shown in late afternoon, this is my trail to the road…

“Pick up your feet,” Little Dove’s voice whispers in my ears, and I do so, for to walk slovenly surely leads to stumbling in the dark shadows cast by the trees. A cat, I suppose, suddenly backs away from the path — afraid I might tread on it (and surely I would have come close, for it is that dark under the trees) — a lingering spider web pulls its film over my face. Suddenly, the neighbor’s spotlight spoils the dark and blinds me momentarily as I step onto the gravel driveway, under the treeless sky, with its five stars. Holding up a hand to shield my eyes from the unnecessarily aggressive spotlight, the natural contrasts, nearly-light (provided by the moon) and shadowy-dark, are more pronounced now, and the path contains only sneaky dips where car wheels have compacted the stones. Lift up your feet and you can cushion those surprise falls and rises. Walk like a fine-bred horse.

It’s good advice. I lift my head and shoulders as well as my feet, gaining back the 1/2 inch I’ve lost with age, feeling good, generating energy for the day, for this will be the softest, slowest part of it.

At 6:30 AM, we’ve been at work for half an hour — mostly, at getting ready to be at work. Planning tasks, collecting tools and gloves, letting out the pet hens, Babette, Spotty Dottie, Boss Chick, and Toesy (the Little Toe). Marissa, the esteemed assistant farmer, lets out Toes first, to give her a chance to peck around the gate (the best tidbits are under the gate you know), and a chance to be ahead in her endeavors, and ahead of her tormentor, Babette. All the rest of the hens rush out into the Run, trying to be first for the worms.

Babette, preparing to leave the perch

for a day of tormenting Toesy: Who? Me?

Alas, there are few worms out there. Of any sort. It’s not worm weather.

Instead, it is late August on the farm, even if the calendar says mid July. The seasons have been on speed dial. Okra, a precocious adolescent in June, bore blossoms and pods while only a foot tall. Tomatoes came fast, as did squash and beans. And sooner than usual, they played out. But in the reality of this year, they were on schedule, for the late spring freezes, the early and enduring heat wave, the harsh constant wind and virtually no rainfall advised them to work on the seeds of the next generation, before it was too late.

Above, four feet tall okra exhibits late season bolting stalks with frantic production of pods…

Pears cover the trees, blushing under wilting leaves. They will be small, a hassle to peel, so they’ll be best just sliced thinly for a salad or pie. The intensely sweet figs are over, early, and though there are late figs on the trees, they are only a tease, an unpleasant, dry tease. Not even the birds want them now.

Two of these pears will fit in your hand. Larry says they are already sweet, almost two months early….

Trees everywhere in Texas are in danger now, although our tall pecans have their feet reaching for the retreating water of our shallow aquifer. One large 1930s specimen however, the Driveway Pecan across the drive from our mail box, is taking the heat hard, exhibiting dying branches way up high. When the end comes for this tree (it has not felt well for several years), it will be a difficult one to bring down. So huge, so near utility lines, so sad.

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