Letter to my Daughter
5 August, Sunday
There’s a chipmunk that scampers about and makes a good living in the garden out back of the house. Actually, I only presume he finds things to eat there since I’ve never seen him eating tomatoes, cucumbers or green peppers. Whatever he finds to eat it makes him look healthy and sassy.
I’m not much for gardens or anything that requires weeding. I prefer not pulling plants from the ground. It is also a tedious chore, much like painting walls. I think some people find it relaxing and I will leave these pastimes to them. I would prefer raising chickens, I think, although the neighbors probably wouldn’t share my joy in watching animals scratch about. Were this my backyard I would enclose it all with tall chicken wire. It is a quite large yard. I would tear out the lawn and garden and give the area an irregular terrain with gradual slopes, shallow depressions and small dune-like shapes. I would plant tuffs of wild grasses and a variety of wild flowers. I would then introduce a flock of egg-laying hens with a rooster or two. The chicken wire would have to extend several inches into the ground to discourage predators from digging under the fence. I think I mentioned last week that I saw a large fox in the area. They would absolutely feast on chicken.
I would have to build a henhouse I suppose. I would want to design it for ease of cleaning, if that is possible. Birds are incredibly messy. They’re filthy, actually, when enclosed. They’re just not meant to be boxed in but I’m thinking now about winter. It gets cold here, as you know. I think chickens probably need protection from the cold. I might need a roost with a space heater of some sort. As you can see I don’t know much about chickens. Then there are the baby chicks. They undoubtedly need special care. I suspect chicken feed is based largely on corn. This year’s drought has really raised the price of feed. That’s OK. We’re just pretending anyway. This isn’t my yard. There won’t be any chickens here. Besides, raising chickens must really tie oneself down.
Still, I think it would be interesting to watch chickens scratch about and have their little ones follow them around. It’s the kind of relaxing observation one gets from watching fish in an aquarium. Animals are best watched while they go about doing what it is they normally do and are totally unconcerned by the presence of a human. Plants don’t hold that kind of charm for me. A garden is like a stage backdrop but without having any actors. Animals demonstrate curiosity. They display technique and various degrees of problem solving ability. They show concern, satisfaction, weariness, boredom, excitement and all shades of awareness at being alive. Plants sunbathe. They perk up with rain and wilt in heat. I do like the drama when they are thrown about by wind. Other than that, though, they sunbathe. Were I selling plants at the fair I would sell fully mature cornstalks, each coming complete with a hamster in an exercise wheel.