Archive for the ‘Farmer Nyel’ Category

Talk about a one-armed paper hanger!

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Farmer Nyel, Coop Cleaner Extraordinaire

We’ve all heard the jokes about being “busier than a one-armed paper hanger” but I don’t know of an equivalent saying about a one-legged coop cleaner.  That was Farmer Nyel yesterday — taking on a way over-doo-doo (ahem!) project.  It took most of the afternoon and involved a spade, a shovel, a scraper a five-gallon bucket, a large compost container, a battery-operated drill, a catspaw, fresh wood shavings and a lot of tongue-biting by me.

During the first part of Nyel’s project, I had a small job of my own — cutting and hacking at the blackberry brambles, the bindweed, and ivy that have worked their way into the chicken run during the current growing season.  Nyel’s theory has always been that the girls will make short work of the greenery (although maybe not the stickery ones.)  Wrong!  And of course, we also think that we should be getting eggs (at least occasionally) from these lay-abouts.  Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!  They obviously don’t know the Chicken Rules — not the Rules According to Farmer Nyel, anyway.

Inside the Coop

The worst part of Nyel’s job was wrestling the dropping board out of the coop.  It’s big.  It’s bulky.  It’s poopy and  uncooperative.  Plus it’s old and rotten and fell to pieces as he was pulling it out of the back “clean-out door” and (I might add) trying to keep his balance at the same time.  It was scary.  My offers to help got a very sharp response in rather negative terms.  So… I left the premises like any sensible wife would do.   The chickens had left long since — another example of fowl wisdom extraordinaire.

Shortly before dinnertime, the cleanout and repair work had been completed.  Praise be!  Farmer Nyel even accepted my offer to refurbish the nest boxes and the coop floor with wood shavings while he headed into the house to put away tools and clean himself up.  By the time I called those ungrateful chickens home to “slip between clean sheets’ (well… the chicken equivalent to that lovely fresh bed feeling) I was really happy the day was over.  Mostly I was pleased that our one-legged coop cleaner had, once again, allayed our fears and proved that he was up to all coop duties as required.  What a guy!

Thank-you Egg!

And… this morning, guess what?  A thank-you egg!  Sometimes those girls really amaze us.


That damned walrus!

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Farmers’ Bulletin No. 2130
U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1959

For some time now in this household, a periodic topic of discussion has been “downsizing.”  Not for traditional reasons as in we are considering a move to smaller quarters.  No.   And not even for reasons of kindness as in whoever comes next shouldn’t have to deal with all this — although that is part of it.  No.  The real “reason” has something to do with Lewis Carroll and Alice Through The Looking Glass and that pesky walrus of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” fame.  In a nutshell (or in this case, perhaps, an oyster shell):  “The time has come…”

We are beginning ever-so-slowly to purge the back storage area where several shelves of vases and partial sets of dishes and extra waffle irons that might-be-useful-someday reside.  And then there are boxes of my folks’ photographs — so many people we wouldn’t know even if names were on the back.  Which, of course, they aren’t.  And all those boxes labeled “Sydney’s School Stuff” that I sure was going to go through for book-writing fodder.  And on and on.  There are also a lot of books — mostly paperbacks or thrift store finds belonging to Nyel — that there wasn’t room for in the house.  He hasn’t looked at them in twenty years which, of course, is neither here nor there when it comes to getting rid of them.

Edited by the Staff of Yanke Magazine, Dublin New Hampshire, 1971

Even I am having trouble relegating some of those titles to the Friends of the Library box.  So many of them conjure up memories of something incredible Nyel has been able to jerry rig or build or repair — a tool he’s made for singular purpose or a formula he’s applied to solve a particular problem.  The time he found a way to repair my grandmother’s old Oriental carpet.  Or the deer hide he tanned using cow brains he ordered from the butcher at Jack’s…  The memories are endless and just seeing the book titles conjures up a story or two.

It’s not so much that he’ll never need to build that stone wall.  Or even want to.  And it’s certainly not that we couldn’t find most of the information on line.  No.  It’s just that the walrus was right.  It’s time.  I wonder if either Nyel or I will ever be totally convinced.

Farmer Nyel and Mr. McGregor

Saturday, April 17th, 2021

From The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

As I mentioned (or at least implied) in my blog of a few days back, I feel very much at one with Winnie-ther-Pooh when I am outside planting mastershalums.  While I have been busy at that endeavor in the South Garden, Nyel has been working on planting more traditional salad ingredients in containers in the Kitchen Garden.

Today it was romaine lettuce starts and  I wondered if he was feeling at one with Farmer McGregor.  Probably not.  And probably not with Peter Rabbit either, although I do know for a fact that he is considering some sort of fencing to keep his garden safe.  Not from rabbits, however.  From our chickens.  We know that they will not even stop to clap and cheer when they get wind of those lettuces and cucumbers and I don’t know what all.

Lettuces About To Be Planted

For right now, while we are planting all these tasty seeds and baby greens, the chickens have not had access to the greater garden.  They are shut up in their run — much to their disgust, no doubt.  But as I told them, they are really not to be trusted.  And, besides.  They have only given us three eggs in the last month.  Perhaps constant proximity to the nest boxes will give them the urge to leave us an egg or three.

Which also makes me wonder if they have become confused with all their backyard roaming.  Have they been laying eggs under the house?  I’m definitely not going to belly under there to find out.  But if we start getting eggs on a regular basis, I might send a visiting kid or two under there for a look-see.

There’s never a dull moment in Oysterville!

Fee Fi Fo Fum! And how his garden grows!

Sunday, March 28th, 2021

Nyel’s Magic Beans

The stalks on Nyel’s magic beans from Timberland Library look stronger every day.  Soon they will be ready to move outside, so Farmer Nyel spent a few hours yesterday ‘mid pots and tubs in the Kitchen Garden getting their bed ready.  He also transplanted chives and parsley that had run amok and tidied up the tubs of bay and mint while making room for onion sets and lettuces.

My brown thumb and I looked on in amazed appreciation.  Mostly, I’m stuck at the Fee Fi Fo Fum stage.  I really do believe in the giant at the top of the magic bean stalk and I was just a tad disappointed to learn that these give-away beans from the library are going to produce bush beans, not pole beans.  I just can’t imagine a giant (or anyone else) living at the top of a bush bean plant.  Not any more than I can imagine that one of our chickens might lay a golden egg.  Just not possible.

Farmer Nyel Among His Garden Pots

And, do I want to take my chances on a goose?  That would be a resounding “No!”  My goose experiences are a lot like my rooster experiences.  The first geese I ever encountered in the flesh were a small flock being marched along the Neckar River on the outskirts of Heidleberg, Germany.  We were staying at a little inn there for a few weeks and I had taken two-year-old Charlie down to the waterside behind the inn’s garden.

We heard the geese before we saw them and, as they emerged from around the bend, it was like looking at a fairy-story-come-to-life!  The goose-girl drove them from behind with a very long stick — which was all very good and well until the gander spied little Charlie and perceived him as a threat!  Out stretched his wings and out stretched his neck and he rain honking like a New York taxi right at us!   I scooped up my son and ran back to the garden while the goose girl yelled at her misbehaving fowl.

“To Pastures New” by James Guthrie

So… maybe it’s just as well these are bush beans.  Wasn’t it up at the top of the beanstalk that Jack encountered both the Giant and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg??  Or do I have my fairy tales scrambled?  It wouldn’t be the first time.

Huckleberries! A Labor of Love!

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Nyel’s Secret

Nyel “disappeared” for a couple of hours the other day.  I thought he was down communing with the chickens and, as it turned out, that was part of it.  But, mostly, he was picking huckleberries — the little blue kind.  They are his favorite.

It took about two-and-a-half hours for him to halfway fill a large yogurt container.   “Between their size and my arthritic fingers…” he said.  It is definitely a measure of how much he favors huckleberries!  I, for one, have neither the interest nor the patience.

2-1/2 Hours Steady Picking

Nyel, on the other hand, has been watching and encouraging this little bush (if you can encourage a bush) since it first volunteered itself down near the chicken coop.  Year before last he got a few berries — just enough to whet his appetite.  Last year, however, he was “otherwise occupied” recovering from St. Vincent’s Hell and I doubt that those huckleberries even crossed his mind.  So, by this year, the bush and he were both ready!

Ready for the Freezer

He’s picked two “batches” so far.  Both have gone immediately into the freezer and he tells me there will be more.  Meanwhile, there would be an even greater number if he could stand up long enough to pick them or (heaven forbid!) if I would pick at least some of the ones he can’t reach from his wheelchair.  I’m thinking about it… Maybe if he had a plan for those little morsels I’d be more willing.  But, so far, he’s just waiting patiently to see how many he can accumulate.

I don’t know if he can train the chickens to help him.  That could be easier than counting on me.

Another Rooster? Please God, No!!!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

The last time we took a mean rooster to the Poultry Auction in Chehalis we both said, “Never again!”  So why, you might ask, is it that a young rooster is coming to join our flock today at three o’clock?  Why indeed?

It started five or six months ago with a conversation with our friend Nancy Allen.  Nancy has had chickens — hens only — for several years now.  I’m always interested (and gobsmacked) by her chicken stories — five snacks a day including cottage cheese and meal worms, baby chicks roaming her kitchen etc. Her chicken philosophy is the polar opposite of Farmer Nyel’s.  I find her chickens-as-pets approach fascinating and appalling at the same time.

So when she called to say that she had acquired four Rhode Island Red chicks but Phil said she could only keep two and she offered the other two to us, I was reluctant.  For starters, since Nyel has become incapacitated mobility-wise,  I now have 100% care of our little flock.  I am not an enthusiastic farmer, chicken or otherwise, and I find the daily coop duties more than I can handle.  In my mind, the philosophy around here is “attrition is good.”  Getting two more girls and coddled ones at that did not have much appeal.

Beautiful but Mean

But… Farmer Nyel looked at me with big eyes and… we said, “okay.”  Nancy said she’d like to wait until the hens were laying successfully so it would be a few months.  We said, “okay.”   But a month or six weeks ago, Nancy called to say that one of the hens was quite a bit larger than the others and she was suspicious.  “No roosters!” I said.   “Well, we’ll watch her and see…” was the response.  Last week the word was, “He’s definitely a rooster.  He’s begun to crow.  But he’s very sweet…”  “No roosters!” said I.

Nancy was persistent.  “He’s very very well behaved,” she said.  “Not at all aggressive.  Won’t you come and meet him and see for yourself?”  Meanwhile… Farmer Nyel was looking at me with big eyes.  So… I went to meet Mr. Rooster yesterday and learned that 1) Nancy wanted to bring him to Oysterville that very afternoon and 2) that the hens were not laying yet so it would be a while before the hen could join our flock.  “Laying those first few eggs can be traumatic,” Nancy said.  Gobsmacked, I said nothing.

We finally agreed that the rooster would come at three o’clock this afternoon but only if accompanied by one of the hens.  “Could we fix up the coop so they can see the others but be separate from them for a while?  They say that’s the best way to introduce new members to the flock…”  I said I’d see what we could do.  I didn’t mention that the last time we did the slow (five day) introduction trick, one of the new hens was pecked to death the first day of togetherness.  My hope is that the Mr. Rooster will protect his lady friend…

But the greater hope is that there will be no pecking at others at all — especially at me.  I do not have a good history with roosters.  And I don’t have a Plan B.  Stay tuned…



Waiting for Wednesday

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Nyel on the Move

Day before yesterday it was sunny in the afternoon here in Oysterville.  It was a Wednesday.  Yesterday it rained.  Today it is raining.  And the forecast says it will be raining until next Wednesday.

We are waiting for the sun breaks, whether they only come on Wednesdays or not.  That’s when Nyel can go outside and commune with his chickens and other garden denizens.  He could probably get outside on rainy days, too, although his “all terrain” wheelchair is electric and getting it wet is not recommended.   Not that communing with wet  chickens sounds particularly appealing, anyway.

When Nyel headed outside with his book  Wednesday, his plan was to sit in the sun and read.  He invited me to join him in the south garden and so out we went.  We were only halfway there when the girls spied us and trailed along behind.  Shyly.  We think the wheelchair is a little overwhelming for them, but they made it clear that they wanted to say “hello” to Farmer Nyel.

Farmer Nyel and His Girls

We thought an offering of food might help — chickens can’t resist a tasty morsel or two — so I went to get the can of scratch.  Sure enough, as soon a Nyel rattled it, all their shyness evaporated and they were eating out of his hand in no time.

Next Wednesday maybe he’ll see if one or two of them would like to ride around the yard with him.  It will make quite a picture, don’t you think?  “Man in Wheelchair with Chickens” we’ll call the portrait.  Could be one of a kind!

Farmer Nyel is back on duty!

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Nyel Approaches The Coop

Yesterday, Nyel completed a trip that he began on February 28th.  That was the evening (my birthday!) that he fell on the way out to the chicken coop to collect the day’s eggs and say goodnight to the girls.  It was the evening he fractured his hip which ultimately led to several surgeries, many weeks in the hospital, and, ultimately, to no hip at all.

This time, it was broad daylight and he approached the coop from his regal position on his new electric all-terrain wheelchair.  He had gone out the garage door, up the middle of the street (well, it’s Oysterville!), through the gates that barricade the cannon, and over the expanse of abnormally mole-ridden lawn!  He had done it with the singular nonchalance and aplomb that I associate with the bearing of kings!

Farmer Nyel Back On Duty!

An electric wheelchair!!!  Can you imagine?  We certainly couldn’t — not in our wildest dreams.  And then, for reasons that will probably always remain mysterious, we were handed a huge check from unknown benefactors.  They must be people we know — why else would anyone just give money to a little old couple from Oysterville?  To say we were gobsmacked — both of us — doesn’t begin to describe it.

And then… how to honor this gift in the best possible way?  Weeks before, we had briefly considered getting Nyel a sturdy electric wheelchair so that he could safely resume his rightful place on the property as “Farmer Nyel.”  But we had discarded that thought almost immediately.  Too spendy and, perhaps, not really necessary.

But, now?  The more we talked, the more it seemed like the perfect idea.  And so. yesterday, Farmer Nyel was back on chicken duty!  And rhododendron-trimming duty.  And if he’s not careful, mail-fetching and even grocery-shopping duty!  (I jest, but the batteries — two of them — will take him twelve miles before they need to be recharged.  I’m sure Jack’s is only about five miles away…)

We are SO grateful for the generosity of whoever you are out there!  You have no idea how the atmosphere in and out of the coop has changed!  Overnight!  The girls and I are ever-grateful, to say nothing of Farmer Nyel.

It’s not easy outsmarting a chicken…

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Somewhere we have (or had) a big roll of black netting.  I’m not sure why Nyel got it, but it occurs to me that I can put it around the plants and over the dirt in our geranium pots and that might discourage those naughty girls from making a mess on the porch.  It’s another of those “when I have time…” things.

For today, I’m hoping that,  by leaving the sprinkler on in the south garden, I can discourage them from doing their dastardly pot pecking at least for today.  I’d like the porch to be fairly dirt-free for Nyel’s homecoming.   I can’t do much abouot the swallows, though.  Nyel will not be happy to see them (or their mess) and I’m sure the feeling will be mutual.


On the other hand, it would be great if the ladies would come greet him when he arrives.  His plan is to walk the length of the porch with his walker (rather than in his wheelchair) as he can manage the step up onto the porch and the second one into the house that way.  He told me yesterday that he’s been practicing going up and down stairs during his therapy sessions!

Another session with practicality in mind was in the “kitchen area” of the gym at the Seaside facility.  Yesterday the therapist had him stand with the kitchen counters as support while he got dishes and silverware  out of cupboards and drawers.  “So I can help you in the kitchen,” he said with a twinkle.  Obviously, he hadn’t told the therapist who is the head chef in this household.  “Help, hell!” was my response.  And we both laughed out loud.

I haven’t actually asked him what his goals will be once he gets home.  But I suspect that returning to his cooking duties will be one of them.  I plan to talk about that on our way home today.  I can still hear the pride in his voice when he told me Friday that he had met all of his goals at rehab.  “And more besides!” thought I!

As for arranging for Nyel to be met by his girls… That’s my immediate goal and I think I have a plan that will work.  Stay tuned…

…and maybe a little sunshine, please?

Monday, June 17th, 2019

 At The Oysterville Church

The Shasta daisies in front of the church have been out in all their glory for several weeks now.  They are spectacular — a fact that I have repeatedly told our own Shastas which are right across the street.   However, ours are still tightly in bud and, in this gray and misty-moisty weather, are probably intending to stay that way for a bit.  Maybe they are a different variety.  I suspect, though, that they are just stubborn.

Farmer Nyel planted them along our south porch years ago and they come back every Spring to brighten our days and to draw the eye away from other garden imperfections.  We eagerly await their arrival each year and I had hoped that this year, especially, they would burst forth a little early.  I thought they would make a suitable setting for Nyel’s homecoming tomorrow.

At Our House

But,  it turns out that daisies are a lot like chickens.  You can’t really count on them and they certainly turn a deaf ear to suggested behaviors.  Oh well…  I know that just being back at home in Oysterville will be excitement enough for all of us here on the homefront — daisies, chickens, and me!  To say nothing of Farmer Nyel, himself!