Lisa Bondurant

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I spend my time raising kids, gathering eggs, cutting wood, scoping out trees for tapping, making syrup in the last days of winter, watching my garden NOT grow in the summer, writing, wishing that there were more hours on the clock for sleeping.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Longest Wait

The cool rains that sweep in from the west, quench the fields and bring the berry patches bursting back to life after the scorching cold of winter. Then the wait for the red sweet promise of Spring seems the longest, oh so very long...

...finally, finally it is hear!

Time to send in the picking crew.

Do we really have to share a box?

Picking with Grandma.

Quality control.

Quality control has a tummy ache.

4,000 new plants on the Showalter's farm
The field of next years hope...

...and the sweet Spring to can for the cold days of winter.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

M R Ducks!

M R Ducks!
M R not!
O S A R, C M E D B D I's?

   So, my son is obsessed with ducks! Ever since last spring he has been asking me for a duck. He saw them at the tractor supply store when we went to buy chickens and has been in love with them ever since.
 Just when I think he has forgotten about them, out of the blue he will ask "Is today the day we will get my ducks?" or suddenly say "Let's go mommy, time to go get them ducks!" or my favorite, he waits till the whole family is in the car and announces loudly to his sisters, with the excitement and voice of a used car salesman... "Guess what girls! We are going to get the ducks-Right now!. Isn't that great?"
"No! We are not getting a duck!," I tell him, "We don't need a duck. A duck would be a pain in the butt! A duck would have no purpose or use for us. No Ducks!"
 But he is undeterred, just tells me I am wrong and waits for another day to ask for ducks.
  Does my son know something I should  know? I guess he does! My garden has been over run with non stop, plant devouring," if I catch you, all you will see is my shoe coming down,' I hate you, you little ...bugs for three years.
I pick bugs off plants by the handful.I spread ashes and buy expensive organic bug repellents. I stomp and grind them into the ground, I scream and shake my fist at them...and they don't care!
...and then I remember something about ducks and bugs and happy gardeners and I feel all calm and giggle like a woman that has lost her mind.
"I need to get some ducks," I say dreamily.
My son looks up from his hole he is digging in the garden and smiles.
"I know," he tells me calmly.

"You don't need to worry no more, Momma!"

No more worries about slugs! Yes that is a slug on his finger, not a booger! ( this time)
No more worries about snails and stink bugs!
So, I ordered ducks! Mail order ducks from McMurrey Hatchury. Khaki Campbell are one of the best foraging ducks. Let's explain foraging ducks! The idea is to choose a duck that will not migrate when fellow wild ducks fly over, but instead  ignore the call of the wild and hang out in the garden happily chomping up snails, slugs, squash beetles and Japanese beetles, that want to happily chomp down your garden. That is what we call the foraging duck! The Japanese have been doing this for years. Khaki Campbell are a cross bred duck that originated in England, where it was raised for egg laying and does an excellent job as a bug hoover as well. The plan is to let them loose in the garden after the plants are bigger and watch out bugs! Some supervision is required to insure that they don't decide to eat the plants. That said I understand they will not mess too much with plants that are bigger and because they don't scratch like chickens, they will not rip up the beds. When the bugs have been decimated, they are easily herded back into a pen to play in a kiddie pool and await till next pest invasion.  
Yesterday the ducks came.

Oh the excitement!

"I can hear them peeping," he tells me. "Hey, why are they peeping? Them are suppose to be ducks", he exclaims.
"M R Ducks! C M E D B D I's?", I tell him.  He gives me the look, he only gets that mom is talking strange again.

Box full 'O ducks take their first look around the new digs.

Fresh home made electrolytes and they are up and running. Soon they will be moved to a chicken tractor in the garden.
 Size will matter, in a few weeks they will be big enough to take on the big slugs!

For now the garden awaits! The snails are unsuspecting!
I will update when the sluginators are released.

My son is so happy!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Finally! The Dinosaur Museum.

   For a very long time I have considered home schooling, as an alternative to public school. These days we have so many options available to assist. There is an online home school academy, online home school groups to join and sites to assist in testing. Whether the choice is made to home school or continue in public school, there are still many tools available to strengthen and enrich every student's life. With a little searching, a parent or student can quickly find online tutors or services available like  http://thewritingfaculty.comto bring in that extra little bit of help needed for fine tuning academic skills, like writing. 
Let's not forget one of the best and most proven ways to enrich and excite the learning experience for minds of all ages, museums! How easily it is to forget these old favorite that have been around long before the computer or internet. Sometimes it takes a little nagging like "When are we going to the Dinosaur museum, huh? When, when, when? Tell me, tell me, tell me! When?"
"OK! Momma, just stop nagging and we'll go!"
So close and yet so far we had not ever taken the kids to the Smithsonian Museum of Nature History or what is known in this family as the "Dinosaur Museum." 
This is the name decided on by all three kids, that have already declared their major to be paleontology before finishing elementary school, well one is not even in school yet. I look at them and shake my head, at that age I was trying to decide if throwing mud pies at my brother was a risk worth taking, (I decided it was, I regretted that decision ) not deciding my future career. Perhaps they have decided early because they can see the clear result of choosing to throw the mud pie and not planning better! But any way... we went.
Smithsonian  Station, Metro tunnel

First stop the Metro.
"Ooooh, are we underground with the worms now?," My son asked.

Half hour later we climb out of the worm tunnel and for the first time the kids see the Washington Monument.
"Wow! Wow and wow!", they said.

Smithsonian Castle

"Is that where we are going? Oh, I hope so! I hope so! There maybe be fairies and princesses and dungeons and moats and..."
 I broke the bad news, "No, not going there."
"We are going here!" I point them the other way. 
They glance over their shoulder at the castle and back again, a little disappointed. They are still just kids, maybe the mud pies are still am option!

Then they spot the petrified wood, with squeals of delight off they run... 

...this is the biggest fossil they have ever seen! They explain to me what time period this came from and what was or was not living at the time. Good grief, I try to remember if they said Devonian or maybe Cambrian period, maybe Jurassic..."Oh no!"... I think I have totally missed it and I start to panic..." they will test me later!"...I decide to fake it, so I just smile and nod my head like I know it all and look at them like 'I'm am glad you got that right finally.' This works very well for me when out gunned!
After ten minutes with the tree, they sigh and look like they have just experienced the best and the day has ended very well indeed! There is more we explain and they are finally convinced that this is not the highlight of the visit, there is more to see, but we need to go inside.

Only slightly impressed, it still has skin and flesh, not a fossil. They are also worried that this is the elephant from the zoo and that someone killed it to put in the museum. They look at me with sudden panic in their eyes and say we have to leave for the zoo now and check on all the animals, someone maybe taking them and killing them for the museum. Some quick and unexpected damage control is needed and we move quickly out of that room.
Finally we get to the good stuff and all that is said is...




Terror Bird
...and "Wow!"
Notice how their vocabulary shrunk with the more they saw? I think I even saw one of them give me the 'Just nod your head and pretend you know what you are looking at', face!


"Under water fossils too?!"


Sharks too! This is just icing on the cake!

I loved it! The kids said, "That was really exciting and a whole lot scary!" At one point I had a person climbing onto each of my shoulders at the same time.
62 foot 3D T-Rex jumping at you with surround sound roars was a bit much for some, but the Dad said he would recover, eventually!

We ended with a last look to the Capital. 

My oldest was not impressed, "Oh, that is just where all those politicians that have no clue make laws for us."
I was not sure how to respond to that.

My youngest said, "Let's walk back to Virginia now. This has been a very long walk, in a big long day!"
As we rode the worm train back to our car he asked, "What will we do tomorrow?" 
I said, "Maybe we will make mud pies."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Wild Heart That Called Her Home

   So wild was her tiny heart that beat beneath blue gray feathers, that her feet were ever restless. I think it was the whispering of her DNA that told her of adventure and wild places she needed to find, for she was always searching for them.

Like her sister Blondie, she would hop and flutter up to a feeder, then a roof edge and squeeze out a small opening in the hoop house roof to catch the first rays of sun that spilled over the Eastern mountains. She would spend many happy hours chasing bugs through the yard, playing 'evade the predator' with our lazy dachshund (the closest thing to a jaguar she could come up with was a cat & dog) and finding new places to hide her khaki green egg from me. To play the game of chance with life, as if she lived wild...
Blue's egg- second on left

Then in late morning when I would walk out to feed and water, she would dart out from  under the old pick up truck and race beside me to the hen house. Every time she made me laugh!
"Hello Blue," I would greet her. "Didn't make it back home to the jungle today?" She would cock a sharp black eye up at me as if to answer "Nope! But tomorrow  I will try again, Feed Girl." 
As she raced to keep pace with my stride, I saw something in that shining eye that always amazed me, intelligence! Where our domesticated chickens have had so much of there smarts bred out of them, this little chicken still held tight to something very precious, her wild jungle ancestor's DNA. The smarts to evade a predator, to scavenge for her own food, and to blend into her surroundings. The smarts past down from her jungle ancestors in South America, the Aracauna. These lessons of survival had served her well for over 1 1/2 years of her adventurous life.
As we neared the hen house, Blue would dart here to a barrel, there to a clump of grass, then pop up by the hen house door and look back up at me, waiting.
"Do you want in now?" I would ask and she would scurry backwards to allow me to swing open the wooden door and then dart inside as I warned her again of the dangers of being out. "Really, Blue, it is so much safer for you inside." I had been losing hens every night to a predator, fox or maybe even a coyote for I had found large, unclear tracks in the chicken litter. But Blue seemed unworried. She practiced her jungle skills everyday after all.

The other morning I walked past the old pick up and no small blue friend darted out to greet me. I called out to her, but stillness was all that answered. I found the first of her blue gray feathers scattered along the path to the hen house and then a lot more near the hen house door. Blue would not trot beside me again, would not tell me stories with her dark and shining eyes again.  A year and a half she had been smarter then the predators of our woods, for even if I did not let her in through the door, she would scramble back up to the roof and squeeze back in the hole she had come from.
We had very heavy rains & winds in the mountains this week and the small opening in the plastic she depended on, had gathered rain water and closed tight. She had no way back from her wild world to the safe world and so had hunkered down next to the door to wait for me. This is where the hunter found her and I lost her. 

I ranted and cussed the coyote or fox and kicked at the ground. I was angry as I had ever been, not just for the loss of a tiny khaki egg, but for the friend that always waited for me and the stories she told me with her eyes and darting games of hunt the bug and out smart the sleeping wiener dog. I was angry for I would miss the trips of fancy she had taken me on, in her imagination of the wild life she knew she was meant to live.
I was angry for having cared so much for a chicken, whom I had only bought to lay eggs, not to take me on adventures to wild jungles, in far off lands.
Now I will allow myself one last flight of fancy before I lock away for good any idea of ever dreaming with a chicken, that somewhere below the crest of this hemisphere, deep inside the emerald green jungle, Blue trots beside the ancestors that called her back to the wild life, where the jaguars are real and exciting, but never will catch her.
Blondie, sister of Blue

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sergeant of the Wildflowers.

My father hated to mow! Not the mowing part, but what it cost him. He loved the wildflowers that bloomed in our mountain yard. When the lilacs and dogwood bloomed, it was time to stop mowing.
wild dogwood
                      He would put off mowing for as long as possible. Only when the snakes began to feel too comfortable in our yard or children complained of the tall grass tickling their noses, did he finally mow, and cuss! My mother once talked my father into spreading a Weed'N Feed. This killed all the wildflowers and the grass grew so much that my father mowed and mowed and cussed and mowed and get the picture! Never again did any kind of weed killer touch his precious wildflowers.

Our yard without Preen or Round-up.

moss & violets

If my father were still alive he would be very happy right now. Our mower is broken and the grass is two feet tall. Wild creeps in from the forest edge like a stealthy hunter. Creeping in to reclaim the land that was once owned by all the little wild things and not held captive by the mower's whirling blades.
Perhaps wild is not so bad...

weeds & tiny things

I drive past perfect lawns that would make an old general proud, if that general was a blade of grass.
 But never do I drive past a yard that would make an old Sergeant smile                                   
happily... he watched wildflowers dance in the wind...

dandelions & violets

...but I live in one that did!

wild geranium & moss

"old stumps are beautiful," he said.
Virginia Creeper & Dandelions

white dog tooth violets

    Oh my, I think there is another Sergeant of the Wildflowers!