Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Napper in the Rye

Yesterday I drove out to my friend M's land in Michigan. If you recall, this is the place where the land is lovely but the house needed a can of gasoline and a lighted match. After an exorcism. M's cousin and I were trying to dissuade her from putting any money in the house. Sensing she still had hopes that a solar panel and some paint would cure all the house's ills, I'd convinced her to have the house inspected so that she'd have an idea of what needed to be done. My rationale was that hearing it from a professional would be more convincing than hearing it from me. I often find that is the way.

I agreed to be present for the inspection to ask any questions that needed asking, and to provide general support. I'd also agreed to help with some planting.

The land is now quite lovely, being in total summer bloom: the trees are fluffy and huge, the grass is green and long, and wildflowers are everywhere. The hill and land behind the house and pole barn was thigh-high with vegetation, which M told me was rye. It had been planted before she bought the place.

First I helped her put in a few dwarf trees. Fortunately, the earth is sandy so the digging went easily. M believes in shamanic approaches, and informed me that she'd asked the trees where they wanted to be, and they'd told her.

"OK." I said. "Just tell me where they want to be. I'm the chick with the shovel."

You may think this sounds kooky, but I've become accustomed to city folk who decided to Go Rural and apply all sorts of mystical approaches to farming. There are devices to capture and direct energy, biodynamic preparations that border on voodoo, and any number of fairy beliefs. Some of it is fun to think about, some makes its own sort of sense.

And some just seems like an excuse for people to not put their back into it or avoid reading a book on how to plant trees. 

So I planted three trees and dug 4 beds for asparagus, and at some point during this I lay down in the rye and took a power nap. Sleeping in a field of rye in my dirty overalls with the sun overhead and a fragrant breeze blowing was marvelous.

As for the inspector, if you imagine Dewey from Malcolm In The Middle as a bald 70-year-old man with a deliberate, measured manner and crisp plaid short-sleeved button-down shirt, you've got the idea. He slowly went through everything he'd found, showed us around the property, pointed out the dangerous electrical work, the sagging floors that needed attention to the joists, the need to replace the chimney and furnace, the bird holes in the exterior walls. He described the method of construction, and why it's not used anymore (it gives the house no strength and is a firetrap).

I think the deciding moment may have come when he calmly pushed his screwdriver deep into one of the outside boards and mentioned rot.

Nothing he said surprised me, absolutely nothing, but it was good for M. to hear it from a professional. At one point, she stopped asking how much it would be for each repair and asked how much it would be to demolish the house. The price range she got was pretty reasonable, so it looks like a tear-down party is in the future.

But I loved being out there, digging and planting and snuggling the neighbor's cat. On our ride back from lunch, a wild turkey hen crossed the road in front of us with her babies and after I'd left, M called me to tell me a doe had come out of the woods to watch her.

I'll be back soon with my tent for an overnight.



SP said...

You know who you are? My Antonia. Or Rosasharn Joad. One of them field hos.

JC said...

Well, after I kill a snake, float my dead baby down the river, and breast-feed you, I have to get back to picking peaches.

SP said...

None for me, thanks. I still got strawberries on the terrace.

JC said...

Look, I ain't trying to be funny or nothing, and I think you're a crackin' bloke, but at the end of the day, when all's said and done, we know you have Squirrel Trouble, which means you're a big liar. Fair play.