R. Perkins Blog

Nothing is so subtle, so absolutely imperceptible as the encroachment of age upon us…

Sometimes, I leave notes for myself in places I may one day revisit. Sorta like my own personal fortune cookies. Some are funny, some blunt, others are strange–thought proving–forcing my imagination into high gear. Whatever wisdom they provide, they almost always inspire me in some way. They make me laugh (who doesn’t need that?), ponder the weird, pull me out of a funk, or just make a good day…better.

The one here is my latest find. One of my favorites.

I like to push beyond my comfort-zone–do things differently, or just do something new entirely. There’s adventure beyond known boundaries. Also, the unexpected. I don’t know if I’m an enthusiastic explorer of the unknown, or if I’m just clumsy. Either way, my life requires lots of band-aids. Still, it’s a lot of fun.

The world surprises us with many opportunities for inspiration, but occasionally, it’s up to us to find it. I guess I like stacking the deck. Makes life easier.

Some time ago we decided to become goat ranchers. What does that mean? Well, for us it means building a decent fence (we have), a barn (we are), and acquiring goats. The barn is coming along, and it shouldn’t be much longer until we’re knee deep in goats. Barn construction

Barn progress

Just a few more days, and by days I mean weekends, and we should be ready. As with all our projects, this one evolved out of control, and became a monstrous creation compared to the semi-modest structure originally planned. Thanks to my step-daughter I’ve had great help on this build. Thirty foot long R-panel is difficult enough to handle, let alone by yourself.

That’s a lonnnng sheet

Anyway, updates will follow in the continuing saga of the Perkins goat project.

Oh yeah, boer goats, in case you were wondering. Although, I wouldn’t rule out a Pygmy or two. Everybody needs a few of those.

Should make for a good north wind block

This Memorial Day R. Perkins Blog would like to thank all the veterans for their service, and remember the fallen heroes and their families who made the ultimate sacrifice so that others may remain free. God bless, and be kind, everybody!

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Enlightened

Recently, I have reached the conclusion that I don’t know squat about gardening–more specifically, soil. Seems as though soil is everything…literally. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve caused an immeasurable quantity of collateral damage during my decades-long battle with the grasshopper population during their sporadic invasions.

I’ve been taught, as I’m certain many who garden are, that soil needs tilled regularly to remain loose enough to enable nutrients to permeate the area and allow for plant root growth. As it turns out, this is just not true. Roto-tilling and the repetitive application of pesticides, as well as steady treatments of chemical-based fertilizers are all chief causes of soil failure because these practices destroy the essential life within the soil; the microbes, of which I feel my garden and yard are mostly minus.

Pesticides have always been my go-to treatment for insect problems. For plant nutrition–chemical fertilizers. After reading “Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web,” a most informative book by Jeff Lowenfels, and coauthored with Wayne Lewis, I now understand that these are not sustainable solutions on either front. With every obvious insect death, or improved plant characteristic above ground, there are countless failures along the surface as well as within the soil. Just because a plant responds favorably to a meal of concentrated nitrogen, doesn’t mean success. As a gardener steeped in conventional methods of feeding and management, until now I haven’t given much thought to what happens beyond the manufactured diet I provide for my vegetables, or the chemical bath I’ve been giving invaders of the six-legged variety…or is it eight? See what I mean?

I’m Convinced

It’s time for education; experimentation. After reading Lowenfels’ book, a great many things are now making sense. Disappearing grass, compacting soil, and newly planted trees that just struggle and die are tell-tale signs that something is wrong at root level. I’m ready to address these issues and rebuild my soil by adopting an organic approach to gardening and lawn care.

Apple tree. Three years, and still struggling

My lawn and trees are the worst, but my garden hangs on well enough. Probably because I add truck-loads of compost each year, reintroducing bacteria and fungi, but I inevitably face a fungal foe, or the result of an evil nematode beating me to my tomato crop, and eventually I succumb, and…treat…with…chemicals. This returns me to square one.

Microbe deficit?

Using Lowenfels’ book as my guide, I hope to begin the healing process of my soil, and I’m eager to share my personal experience as things progress. I strongly recommend reading “Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web,” even if you’re content with your current gardening practices. It flows fast, and is easy to understand. For less than the cost of a hose-end sprayer filled with blue chemical fertilizer, I downloaded the kindle format and whizzed through it in only a few lunch hours.

Okay, first things first; lets see what there is to start with.

Trap Them Bugs

I need to establish a baseline so I can assess the damage caused from years of chemical applications. So, lets dig a hole, plant a quart mason jar, and see what kind of life (and how much) springs forth.

 

I get the feeling this will be the easy part; the calm before the storm. Waves of composting, mulching, turning, shoveling, and sweating are ahead.

With the traps set,  it’s time to wait a few days. It’s supposed to rain throughout the next week, and I don’t want to worry with tinting too many traps, so later on, when the weather is drier,  I’ll set a few more to ensure a good creature count. While the traps work their magic, I plan to read “Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardeners Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition,” the second book in a trilogy by Jeff Lowenfels.

Gardens past

I’m going to keep things simple for now. Garden first, yard next (we must prioritize). However, I couldn’t resist branching out to include one secluded spot.  A few hundred feet from our garden area is a pile of what remains of previous gardens. After cleaning each fall, we stack all the left-over organic material in a pile; not lasagna gardening, but rather a lasagna of gardens. Its simply been allowed to compost there, for years, untouched, until now. One trap had to go there. I’m curious what kind of life it will reveal. In a few days, we should know, and I’ll be excited to report on it. Until then, happy gardening, and if you decide to swap chemicals for a more organic approach, happy reading as well!  

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First load of onions this year.

I always over-do the onion crop. Time to share. Purple variety far out-performed all others so far. Still waiting on 1015–they will make another wheel barrow full. Radishes are prolific as well, and hitched a ride to the shed.

Onion Harvest 2016

Last years crop hit the sweet-spot. They lasted just until we replanted this year. I don’t recall the variety we planted, but they stored very well. This year we may need to practice our DIY skills and build a crib for storage since we’ve been blessed with a substantial crop.

A Few Yellow Representatives

Most of the yellow onions suffered an attack by a bulb mite, or other pest. They just rotted in the ground. I am still looking into this, but haven’t reached a conclusion. Gardening offers great research opportunities, and the internet makes this process loads of fun. There are just so many smart people on Facebook. (Heh). Seriously though, I love that there are so many groups established for gardening enthusiasts like myself. Keep up the awesome work guys! You rock!

Radishes Travel Well

If I were to see these at the local Farmers Market, I couldn’t resist them. The twine adds the perfect accent while keeping things organized. No garden is complete without a healthy roll of jute twine. And by healthy, I mean giant. It’s cheap, easy to use, and is eco-friendly. Just chunk it into the compost pile at year’s end. Speaking of end, that’s all for now. Happy gardening!

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Juliet tomato is always prolific.

 

Its been a weird year. Our three-day winter here in central Texas has mother nature standing on her ear. My fruit trees are still putting on leaves. Best me and Google can tell, this foliage delay is due to insufficient chill hours. I dislike chill myself, but I agree it’s a necessary evil. Why? Because I love peaches, that’s why. No chill, no peaches…no happy me. I’ll wear a coat for a ripe, plump, delicious Ranger peach any day.  Also, the persistent, low night-time temps have slowed the growth of most the garden plants, but a few just keep powering through. The tomatoes are leading the way. Might even get a red, ripe one this month. My record so far is June 1st. Okra and melons are dragging up the rear. Radishes never seem to give a flip. Even the seeds I dropped in-between rows while planting (tiny buggers) are giving it their all. I just maneuver around them. They’ll be ready to pull and eat soon enough.

Candela Di Fouco radish. An Italian strain.

Speaking of radishes, I love this variety I’ve tried this year. Spicy, like all delicious radishes, and fun to look at,  these carrot-looking beauties don’t mess around. My soil is loose, and has ample depth so they have all the room they need to explore and grow almost as straight as a candle-stick.

Rat’s Tail radish

Something else new in the R. Perkins garden is an above ground radish type; a Rat’s Tail radish. Look closely and you can see the edible seed pods which resemble a rat’s tail. Haven’t tried these yet, but doesn’t appear that it will be long before I do.

Cocolla Di Napoli squash.
Another Italian selection.

I’ve become bored with the standard “straight neck prolific” and “yellow crook neck” varieties of summer squash, so a few years back I began experimenting with something different. What I’ve discovered is that the Italian varieties are much more flavorful. There’s not much to see yet, but I predict I will harvest my first squash within a week. Updates will follow.

Those taters are looking good!

Except for those potatoes (planted on St. Paddy’s Day, of course) everything else is lagging behind. I tried planting early once during a mild winter, only to get wiped-out later, thanks to an April freeze. But gardening isn’t about rushing things. And in central Texas, we’re blessed with a long grown season; sometimes too long. I’ll be overwhelmed soon enough. Until then, I’ll water and pray for rain like a True Texan. Thanks for stopping by!

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Dave And Babe And The Rabbit Cage

March 26, 2017


We have rabbits–the latest chapter in our book of great adventures. Right away, we realized what a cool DIY opportunity this is. They arrived via a borrowed cage–a small cage–and we set out to provide Babe and Dave with more substantial accommodations. (They didn’t arrive as Babe and Dave. We had no idea how to sex rabbits–still don’t, but we think we got it right. I’ll explain later).

Within a few days, we transferred them to a cage we purchased from TSC. We figured that rabbits, being social animals, would enjoy each others company, so we left them together, and hoped for the best. For a week or so, they remained nameless, as, like I said, we had no idea what sex they were. Yes, as a matter of fact, we did look, but everything is pretty fuzzy down there, and they are pretty young, so we thought just give this flower time to blossom. After a week, full bloom. I caught them doing…things. They were promptly separated, and soon after became Dave And Babel, (Babe). We still can’t tell by looking, but nature doesn’t lie. Right? Well, not so fast. According to one of my wife’s coworkers–a seasoned rabbit raiser–rabbits aren’t particular regarding gender when the moment strikes. All the same, we’re running with the Dave and Babe thing.

Hurrah! This rabbit thing is moving forward. Rabbits sexed, and named. Now, we need an additional cage. With this additional cage, we needed a more sophisticated set up. Enter the fun part!

For only a few bucks, we purchased a bit of lumber, some chain and hardware, and soon had a handsome looking rabbit hutch. The cages themselves were the greatest expense at $40.00 each, but worth it for a roomy 30″x36″x18″. Do Babe and Dave think its roomy? Not sure, though they seem content. Just the same, we intend to build a larger, portable rabbit-run type cage that we can relocate periodically. This should offer them a choice of fresh grass, and the opportunity to feel the warm earth beneath their feet, and not just a thin layer of hay over cold steel mesh. This is the one aspect of caged pets that bothers me. I suppose that domestic rabbits don’t really miss what they have never known…maybe.

Recently, I conveyed our rabbit story-so-far to an acquaintance, who was eager to share her own hare– raising adventure. (Sorry, had to do it). Her story has one distinct difference–her rabbit is a wild-caught jack rabbit. Rocket. Raised since birth in a small cage meant for rabbits of the domestic variety, Rocket has undeniably enjoyed attention and a diet that well exceeds that of his brethren who remain forced to fend for themselves in the wilds of central Texas. Fresh water is continuously available, as well as alfalfa pellets, fresh bedding, and even the coveted Timothy hay for optimal dental hygiene. No drinking muddy water from a cow track, or casting nervous glances over his shoulder keeping watch for hungry, forward facing eyes as he nibbles on a low-hanging mesquite branch. Yes, it sounds as though old Rocket has it made in every imaginable way over others of his particular species. Just one thing really caught my attention. For the most part, Rocket seems content with his situation. However, occasionally, for no apparent reason, he just goes “crazy“. Hearing this, I envision a jack rabbit bouncing off the walls of a cage–an unfamiliar, terrifying confinement, the likes of which he has never known–in a desperate bid to escape, and return the freedom of the mesquite, bluestem, cactus, and dirt roads. But Rocket has never known these things. How could he? Or has he?

In my opinion, it’s simply genetics. Old Rocket is a hardy species, programmed to tuck his ears and bolt full-tilt-boogie into the underbrush at the slightest threat of danger. Or maybe, sometimes, just to feel the burn in his powerful hind legs, the thump of his heart screaming I‘m alive and free, and feel of the wind and the sting of slapping weeds on his fur covered face–all in a bid to remain sharp, focused, and strong. The overwhelming impulse that creates this ancient urge, ingrained within his DNA by his lineage, thrives just beneath the surface of Rockets thin, domesticated existence, while it remains buried beneath countless generations of selective breeding practices designed to subdue this instinctual urge in rabbit breeds like Dave And Babe.

Thinking of this pushes me to engineer the rabbit run–a temporary, day-time, semi-wild environment which will allow Dave and Babe to entertain the primal, instinctive aspect of their genetic blueprint. It’s next up in the story of Dave and Babe, and I’m certain they will love it. I know I’ll feel better.

 

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Seven years ago I decided to improve my health. So, I quit smoking, started running, and began spitting out anything that tasted good. I’m now convinced that cardboard forms the basic foundation for all healthy food. (Pssst, hey, Kashi, the packaging goes on the outside of the food). Since this realization, I’ve included spitting out bacon to my list of things to quit. (It’s a vegetable. It’s good for you. It’s a vegetable.)

I’m still not smoking, and I continue to exercise, but I keep having to reset the weight loss thing.  Healthy nutrition is a difficult thing to dial in,  especially if you cling to silly beliefs like, “the calories don’t count if no one sees you eat them”. This works pretty good with broccoli, but chocolate muffins, not so much. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m wandering through the dark wood. I’m in there bumping around, tripping over everything in my path–the tread mill, the elliptical, anyone near me in my body pump class–making a mess out of it all as I search desperately for that sunny meadow that lies beyond. Sorry, I’m pretty sure that analogy is off.  I’m not a fan of Dante, or even Shakespeare, but I do know Homer pretty well. Homer Simpson, that is. For some weird reason, he makes me hungry for Cheetos and beer. Doh! Maybe that’s my problem.

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I do feel it’s important to occasionally try to better myself. The fact that I focus on self-improvement around this time of year is only coincidence, not an effort to set unreasonable goals based entirely on an annual fad. Or because I’m too broke to do anything else following the holidays so it’s easier to starve myself. Ok, maybe a little bit of that last one.

Actually, it’s because of a temporary extinction event called New Year’s during which a certain tribe of people disappear. While I’m busy not openly identifying my insecurities, thereby painting a target on myself, everyone who is usually questioning my previous lifestyle changes is busy doing just the opposite. These are the people who spend at least eleven months of the year scrutinizing my actions. Why do you workout? You don’t eat cheese burgers? Who the hell doesn’t eat cheese burgers? They wear shirts with captions like “Eat Right, Exercise, Die Anyway” or “Body by Bud“, as in weiser. They make statements like “You know, you could be in the greatest shape of your life today and still get hit by a bus and die tomorrow”. Yeah, well, ok. Maybe I’ll become a bus driver. Problem solved.

During the next two weeks, or maybe a month, give or take, these negative Nancys, (or Nellies, or Neds, or Normans, whichever you prefer), will be busy with their own self-esteem projects, perhaps as a self-imposed penance for being largely nonsupportive of their more disciplined friends. These are the people who, while occupying the same room as me and a plate of fudge brownies, cookies, or maybe a platter of deep fried…anything, will goad me to “eat just one because it won’t hurt me”. They are the people I refer to as the “JO WHY”, my personal acronym for Just One Wont Hurt You. Did I mention that many JO WHY are fond of beer?

These are usually made up of two specific groups;

  1. Family members, e.g. grannys, papas, sweet old aunts or big sisters that obviously have some dirt on the Keeblers.
  2. Close friends and coworkers who are out to sabotage my every effort because I’m making them look bad.

Group one, though supportive, are the most evil. With only a simple kitchen and the most basic of ingredients they can conjure taste bud tingle-licious baked goods and deep-fried sumptuousness. Group two, well, don’t worry guys. I’m certain wrangler will manufacture a 13mwz with a stretchy waist band one day.

In their defense, I must admit that they’re correct, just one won’t hurt. But, what’s the time frame on that logic? After ingesting just one of anything lip-smackingly, grease-wipenly, nap-takenly delicious, how long until I can have just one more? Ten, fifteen, thirty minutes? Two days? Is anybody looking?
After a couple of minutes of research I found a few answers;

  • Fifteen potato chips (because you can’t eat just one, right?)–Jump rope, 12 minutes.
  • One slice of pizza–30 minute bike ride.
  • Coca Cola–55 min walk.
  • Glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut–mow lawn for 26 minutes.

That’s a grand total of 123 minutes of won’t-hurt-me. Added to my normal daily exercise regimen, work, then factor-in the over-fifty age group variable, hmmm… carry the 2… yep, I’m no math whiz, but I’m pretty certain that’s gonna hurt. Also, I’m now aware that I have a 4.61 doughnut yard.

Lucky for me, the JO WHY focus their primary efforts around the holidays. After New Year’s they’re almost non-existent until the Fourth of July when they show up heavily armed with charcoal grills, loaded with bratwurst and stuffed jalapeños, and styrofoam coolers brimming with beer.

That’s alright, because by then I’m ready to subscribe to the JO WHY logic. At least for a while. I’ll head to the river, pitch a tent (actually, it’s more of a negotiation. The tent will agree to stand, but the door zipper won’t work. I think it’s in cahoots with the mosquito population) and I’ll stay for a while. And why not? I’ve worked hard for it. I’ve lost weight, and I’ve accepted bacon as a vegetable. Hurrah!

So, hand me a brat, a beer, and later, maybe I’ll even fabricate a smore… or three. And I’ll dance around the campfire as I take my (temporary) place among the JO WHY.

[Photo by R.Perkins]

[Photo by R.Perkins]

A Floating Cow, and some Beans on the Bayou (Brownwood Riverfest 2015)

August 16, 2015


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I came for the raft race. An audacious event, open to all; a distinct challenge that tosses aside centuries of maritime expertise in favor of redneck ingenuity…an adventure, requiring only a scrap heap, and the desire to coax from its depths a raft-like object capable of floating at least long enough to cross the finish line.

As I steered my challenger into the dust-choked parking area, I imagined a group of self-proclaimed raft-wranglers (good ole boys and gals), waiting anxiously at the bayou’s edge, eager to launch their crude, but capable crafts. Countless sleepless nights behind them, they stand, pondering the hours spent laboring over sketchy designs scribbled out on walls in chalk, or simply drawn in the dirt on cement shop floors like a child’s doodles on an etch-a-sketch. This is it! I parked in the first slot I found, then hurried into the park.

Engulfed by a thick fog of fine sand, I battled my way through the oncoming traffic–automobiles that lumbered like clumsy hippos through the combination entrance/exit that curiously provided only enough room for one vehicle to pass through at a time. Approaching the gate, I uttered a quiet thanks after emerging from the parking area unscathed, paid my two dollar entry fee, then rushed down the sidewalk. As I neared the designated raft race area, my excitement quickly faded into disappointment. With less than ten minutes until race time, there was only one entry afloat, and no others waiting impatiently on the bank. Ok, maybe things were running a bit behind schedule. I could busy myself elsewhere for a while.

Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

A few dozen steps later, I found myself admiring the vintage automobiles The Heartland Cruisers’ had on display. My heart is always captured, and my gaze transfixed anytime I encounter a row of gleaming, restored vehicles. Whether it’s the graceful swell of a fender gliding over a chrome wheel of a sports car, or the nostalgic boxy theme of a classic pickup, I stand in awe before the roots of the automotive industry. Each creation is unique, and every feature evident of our early exploration into the usefulness, and marketability of the automobile. I must admit, the specimen that aroused my interest the most wasn’t glinting sunlight from chrome accessories, or drawing me into my reflection with a deep luxurious shine. It was instead, an old, green, rusty ford truck. Sometimes, a patina shines brighter than turtle wax.

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After my brief visit to the automotive display, I maneuvered through the maze of vendors then over to the pavilion area to check out the live entertainment. As I drifted through the crowd, I encountered a woman brandishing a spoon. “Would you like to judge beans?” She asked.

“What do I have to do?”

“Eat beans,” she said.

I briefly contemplated the profundity our short exchange. Finally, an opportunity to demonstrate one of my many hidden talents. I’ve gone essentially unknown, and unappreciated as a professional bean eater for years, and now my skills would be put to good use. I’ve had beans for lunch and dinner more times than I could count, and have been acutely aware of their awe-inspiring properties as a breakfast food for most of my adult life.  A bubble of pride swelled inside of me. This was my duty–what I had been born to do. “I believe I can handle that,” I said.

With that, she led me to a table where the other professional bean eaters were already seated, then she left, with her magical spoon still in hand, in search of more judges. Shortly, there were six of us. (That’s a pretty darn persuasive spoon). I didn’t know anyone, and with no introductions made, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe one of them went by the name Wendy, or Tootie. That’s just how my mind works.

Before me was a score sheet with instructions outlining the specific traits that qualify a sample of beans as being superior to all others. They would be graded on a scale of one to ten, taking into consideration such qualities as texture, appearance, smell, and of course, taste. Hmmm, in my professional bean eating opinion, none of these need individual consideration…unless there’s a tie breaker. Beans must have a “wow” factor. That’s to say, all these winning bean traits come together in one big magical moment the instant they make contact with the taste buds. Whenever I put a spoonful of beans in my mouth, I either want to follow-up with another, or spit it out. And if I go back for seconds, well, that particular version of the american musical fruit may just be a winner.

Sixteen bean-filled spoons, and half a dozen crackers later, my task was over. Yes, the wow factor did strike a couple of times, but most offerings presented themselves in various degrees of ordinary deliciousness. However, there were a couple that would have benefited from a visit by the spice fairy.

After I submitted my score sheet, my attention shifted back to the raft race. I hurried back across the park, arriving just in time to watch last place clear the finish line. I scanned the shoreline for a possible winner and spotted a torpedo-like craft laying on the bank. That’s it. It appeared unstable at best, heavy, and certain to sink straight to the bottom and bury up in black, bayou mud if only the slightest bobble were made…but it looked fast. At a glance I could sense the dedication involved in creating a raft with just the right measure of speed and instability. A raft that could take you across the finish line in first place, or straight to the bottom if you so much as sneezed, or chanced a look back… my kind of raft indeed. Seriously folks, if it’s safe, (whatever it is) is it really all that much fun?

I may have missed out on most of the raft race, but I met some wonderful people, witnessed a floating cow, seen some great cars, ate some damn fine beans, and I am proud of the opportunity to add “bean judge” to my list of lifetime accomplishments. Thank you, lady with the spoon. Yep, I’m ready for next years Riverfest at Brownwood, Texas. See y’all there!

Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

 

 

 

 

 

Stability

May 11, 2015


Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

My wife and I used to travel…a lot. Not so much any more. Nowadays, our adventure schedule remains whittled down to a few short weekend excursions sprinkled throughout the summer months, and one short family vacation during which we spend hours standing in line. In the past, I’ve been all too eager to attribute our lack of adventure to our age. Recently, I’ve realized that this just simply isn’t true. In fact, older people tend to travel more if anything at all. I see these brave souls prowling the interstates and back roads on their Harleys and in their RVs, stoking the fires of adventure with the kids inheritance and searching for all those missed experiences deferred for family life during middle-age. Armed to the teeth with bank accounts bulging from abstinent lifestyles, and saddlebags, and fanny-packs swollen just slightly larger than a sixty year old prostate, they trudge onwards wielding their testosterone gels with great exuberance in search of that certain road with that odd little Bar-B-Q joint/bar where they shared that other joint with that strange hippie couple thirty-odd years ago. Retirement seems to create a restless stir in the hearts of the older generation. So, what is it then that tethers two fifty-ish people to their home? Did we travel before because we just didn’t have anything better to do? Maybe. Were we searching for something? If so, what? As I look around this place, I see a possible answer: stability. And how is this defined?

From my front porch I can see a garden. It needs tended constantly. There’s always a beetle or an aphid that begs discouraging, or a previously unknown blight that sends me to my laptop and off into the land of Google in search of an accurate identification and an organic method of control. Blessed with substantial rainfall, watering isn’t a problem this year.  Most years, however, it isn’t like this, and regular irrigation is a must to insure that fresh, GMO-free produce will fill our bellies. I order seeds from reputable heirloom seed companies, established with the express interest of preserving pure strains, free from harmful GMO genetics. After planting a rare variety of tomato from a seed no larger than a flea, and nurturing the tender sprout into a mature plant, I find it difficult to sleep at night if I’m away from home for more than a couple of days. (Obsession? Possibly.) The fertile garden is also a perfect arena for competition among plants. Anything utilizing resources from the garden soil that doesn’t offer a tasty return for its human counter-parts earns classification as a weed, and indifference is the only fertilizer weeds require. In my garden, however, they can also grow fat on steady applications of nitrogen via worm castings. If I don’t visit the garden for a couple of days, I return to find my veggies struggling on the loosing end of a power-grab. The annual family vacation is always punctuated with a vigorous plunge into the garden, and a cardio inducing weed scramble.

 

Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

As I ponder the garden, my pug brushes herself against my legs. Lucy gets impatient:  if I don’t rub her, she rubs herself…on me.  She is  another facet of our stability–an irreplaceable, high-ranking member of the Perkins family unit. A pug certainly wouldn’t have been our breed of choice, but we really weren’t allowed a say in the matter. She was a gift from a patient at the dialysis unit where my wife works. I often feel that her presence here strikes a more profound note that what was originally intended.  Fundamentally, a pug is the same as any other breed of dog, but due to limitations imposed upon this breed by their respiratory systems, they don’t catch frisbees, hunt, or make acceptable jogging partners. This runs converse to the pug’s personality, which is as unrestrained and outgoing as the most athletic of canines. They are also sensitive to certain skin disorders and allergies that demand diligent observation and treatment practices. Where they do excel, however, is with the one aspect of human existence that we all crave; companionship. Above all else, pugs are lap dogs that require frequent human interaction to remain healthy in mind and body.

Despite Lucy’s high maintenance needs and incessant snoring, she quickly found the path to our hearts,  snorting the whole way. The constant, undying daily affection she provides her humans, offers us insight into the patient/nurse relationship that thrives within a caregiver environment. She has never made mention of it, but I know my wife must feel that her efforts on the dialysis floor inspire love and appreciation in the hearts of the patients whom she cares for each time she sees the gratitude in Lucy’s actions at home–her weird happy bark, her odd smile, her quirky tap-dance on the laminated floor as she anticipates her bacon snack. Even after we return home from the briefest of journeys she is bursting with joy. I prefer to believe that this sense of excitement rises also in the souls of those dependent upon my wife’s return to the clinic four days a week. I’m sure they’re not jumping out of their chairs and doing the bacon-snack dance, but I’ll wager their hearts are leaping just the same.

Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

Perhaps the most common anchor used to moor couples to familiar surroundings is the decision to become parents. Alright, maybe it’s not always a conscious decision, but just the same, you’ve just swapped standing-room-only for waiting rooms and I-cant-feel-my-ass-anymore wooden bleachers. Also, anything with a kickstand just got listed on eBay. It’s not the children themselves that weld us in place so much as the subset of responsibilities that we inherit when we expand our gene-pool. Most recently, my sons drivers education has been the focus. I don’t recall this being such a complicated process when I was young. I learned how to drive, I passed a test and received a license. When did all these government employees get involved? After being forced repeatedly, and somewhat impolitely, to prove that me and my family are actually Americans (been here all our lives, not that it matters) I emerged feeling oddly unwelcome in my native country. In the end, however, what I choose to take away from this experience is a greater appreciation for the efforts put forth by my own parents as they prepared for me all the proper credentials necessary for a life on my own.

Stability isn’t necessarily defined as a house, a dog, a garden and a family. I suppose it’s any lifestyle that secures us to familiar surroundings. It could just as easily be a job that keeps us on the go. While many long for the open road, others marvel at the patchwork quilt passing 30,000 ft. below them while en route to their next business meeting, and ponder all the diaper changing, time clock punching, birthday party planning, and methodical yard work that keep it neatly sewn together. For these frequent flyers, perhaps that’s where the real adventure exists.

When summer is in full-swing, the Perkins family will install the sprinklers in the garden and adjust the timers. Lucy will make new friends, and long for her old ones during a stay at a local kennel, and her favorite flavor of Blue Buffalo dog food, her allergy meds, and bacon/cheese treats will be in adequate supply. The calendar hanging on the walls at our jobs will prominently display a successive row of x’s in honor of our short absence. Alerted caretakers will bid us the time-honored, oxymoronic advisory to “have fun, and be careful”. We will cram a slightly reduced version of our worldly possessions into the SUV, leaving a cubby hole for each of us to occupy. Then, resembling a scaled-down, upgraded, and much more jovial version of the Joad family, we will coax the overloaded Envoy down the road, not in search of, nor in leiu of, but rather in wonderful celebration of our stability.

Cheyenne Garden Gossip

Gardening on the high plains of southeastern Wyoming

Natalie Breuer

Natalie. Writer. Photographer. Etc.

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