To my neighbors: A poem

How many times can a man mow his lawn
Before the grass turns brown?
Yes and how many times can he whack his weeds
Before he’s cut them all down?
Yes and how many hours can he spend blowing leaves
Without just moving them around?
The answer, my friend, is too goddamn many.
The answer is too goddamn many.

Why I don’t like the metric system

For the benefit of Canadians, Jacobins, progressives, engineers, and stuck-up stickybeaks of all stripes, I herein explain why the metric system is inferior to traditional systems of measurement for those who work with their hands, think with their right brains, and prefer not to resort to a calculator for every little thing.

Metric vs. traditional systems

First, I don’t like the term “metric system.” Either it refers only to the meter and ignores all of the other units of measure (which is silly), or it implies that it’s the only system that is metered (which is also silly). What is commonly called the metric system is part of a much larger system of measurement known as the International System, or SI. (The abbreviation is backward because it comes from the French, and they do everything backwards.)

The SI is all decimal, and its units, which include familiar ones like the watt and the second and less-familiar ones like the joule, are all interrelated in a very nice way that I won’t trouble to explain here. (You can read about it here.) It’s a very nice system, for many purposes — but not for all purposes. (I’m unnecessarily familiar with it from having been, at some time late in the last century, a theoretical physicist in training.)

No s’mores for you

I fenced in the new garden area today, the once-wooded space I looked at two years ago and said, “You know, we could cut down some of those trees and put in some more garden beds!” It was supposed to take six months, but the cutting down of scrubby pines and the hacking away of undergrowth took more effort than I expected, and so here we are two years, an electric chain saw, and a shockingly large brush pile later. But now finally there are five raised beds with seedlings in them, a dozen dwarf cherry trees, and space for a plastic table and chairs and, soon, a fire pit. And the fence, which makes the whole thing look deliberate, instead of a clearing in the woods in which some logs happen to be laid out geometrically. The fence says that I’ve mixed my labor with the land and the land is therefore mine, in a way that John Locke and the whitetail deer are bound to respect.

Of course we don’t want to be ugly about it, so Sweet Babboo planted morning glories all along the fence for the neighbors. We’ll put up some bird feeders for the birds whose cover I tore down, though the several biggest trees are still there, too big for my puny chain saw and too expensive to pay someone else to fell. It is still a pretty rustic space, equal parts English garden and backwoods homestead. We just need to “funk it up,” as Sweet Babboo says, with some handcrafted lawn ornaments, and get something to ward off mosquitoes, and then we’ll be able to sit out there in the evenings and toast s’mores in the fire pit and watch the tomatoes grow. And our neighbors with nice lawns will wonder about the weird people with the ducks and the concrete gargoyles who insist on hanging out in this space with no grass, but it’s the South so they’ll be polite and tell us how nice the morning glories look. But if they don’t sound like they mean it they won’t get any s’mores.

Objets d’farm

On my drive into town each morning I pass a piece of land that was once a working farm. (Nearly all the land I pass was once working farmland, but this piece was quite recently a working farm.) For several years it was posted for sale, until not long ago someone bought it. This land is close enough to two towns that I knew it must be too expensive to farm, and I watched, every day on the way in to work, to see what would happen, whether it would become a hobby farm or be carved up into lots or left as “open space.”

Then a single house went up. There would be no major development here. Then the meadow was mowed again, which was not an improvement; I preferred the wildflowers to backyard-length grass. Last winter a set of paddocks appeared in the cleared area. Now I understood: this was to be a horsey farm.

The festival of bolted lettuce

Like an anatine eucharist, only without all the talking.

Today in central North Carolina began the greatest of all celebrations known to duckdom: the Festival of Bolted Lettuce. For three days and three nights, the ducks feast upon lettuces of all kinds, eating their fill of the tender greens.

Duck brooder

The crib, also known as Kathy’s study. (More photos are available below.)

We brooded the ducklings in Kathy’s study, in a baby pool about 4 feet across. At four days old they were jumping up and getting their heads above the top of the pool, so we cut up a cardboard box and duct-taped it into a fence.

Sermon for a spring afternoon

Friends, I am here today to tell you that you have sinned.

Now, I don’t pretend to know what is in each of your hearts. But you know what you have done. You have referred to rich desserts, anything called “Death by Chocolate”, as “sinful.” You have forgone the gifts of grape and grain, believing them to be the work of the Devil — as if evil had the power to create! You have believed those purveyors of misery who told you that the pleasures of the body are evil indulgences.

ducks emerge from their pen

Barnyard revolution, part 2

ducks emerge from their pen

Photo by Kathy

I believe the duck revolution has been quashed.

All day Friday, Eddy and Patsy squawked at each other. When we let them out in the yard Friday evening, Patsy tried to round up the flock and make them go where she wanted. Except for Sybil (who quacked in agreement), no one paid any attention. They went right on hunting for bugs where they were.

That is probably when Patsy’s plans began to unravel. Without popular support, no revolution can succeed. Saturday saw only the occasional argument. On Sunday morning Eddy, asserting her dominance again, led the flock into the grazing pen without my orders. It has been quiet since. Relations in the flock appeared to have returned to normal.

I would make another snide comment about the dismal lack of anatine intelligence, but it occurs to me that this matter was settled after only a week, with no bloodshed and (as far as I can tell) no hard feelings on either side. Meanwhile Israelis and Palestinians, Catholics and Protestants, Sikhs and Hindus, Muslim and African Sudanese have been at each other’s throats for decades, centuries, millenia. I’ll defer judgment on anatine pacifism until I see how our ducks respond to a second flock, but having read the newspaper this morning I’ll keep mum on their intelligence as well.

Fomenting revolution in the barnyard

Eddy has always been in charge of the duck flock. She was the largest as a duckling, the first to get all of her adult feathers, the first to finish molting. She appears to be the smartest of the bunch (not that any of the ducks are particularly smart). She takes the lead when it’s time to go into the pen in the morning or into the house at night; if a duck is lollygagging off by herself, Eddy checks on her to make sure she’s all right and eventually rounds her up. She seems to be a good leader, as ducks go, and she doesn’t even seem to abuse her power by taking the best slugs.

It appears that we may have a revolution in the making. This afternoon Patsy harrassed Eddy mercilessly, chasing her around and squawking at her for the better part of an hour. Sybil, always a follower, joined in and pecked Eddy or no apparent reason. Normally if one of the other ducks gets uppity, Eddy gives her the business, but not today. Kathy felt so bad for Eddy she gave her some chard from the garden, after which Eddy waddled over to Patsy to quack at her about it.

Patsy is the duck who once spent the better part of a week sitting on a pine cone. Now Patsy has always seemed to like me best, but she is just not that bright. (Yes, yes, there’s probably a connection there. I’ve heard it.) So I really do not need to see Patsy in charge. Sybil would only be her toady, but this is the duck that always stands around squawking at everybody; even second in command is too much for her. I’m sure all the other ducks think Eddy’s a narc because she always leads them into the house when I round them up for bedtime, but that’s what I want. I want a nice, quiet, reasonably intelligent, calm, well-mannered duck in charge, not some pine-cone sitting duck who for all I know is out back reading Marx right now.

Could be my imagination, but these ducks seem to be getting bitchier as they get older.