Today the neighbor boy, Clay, came down to do some more weeding in my flower garden in front of the atrium windows. I never did get around to planting anything in there, but it has provided quite a few flowers this year, some purple coneflowers, several different kinds of rudbeckia, and one mum that persists in blooming every year since I planted it in 2002. He came to the door and told me he was done. "What do you want me to do next?" he asked. He should have said, "Well, I'm leaving."
We went to the Moop, short for the Movable Chicken Coop for those just joining this blog, to give it a thorough cleaning. If you've ever cleaned out a chicken coop, you know that he should have left when he had the chance. It is in the back of an old panel truck, wheel wells sticking out of the walls, a trough down the middle of the floor, and very close quarters - lots of nooks and crannies to clean in and around. A half hour with a small broom rake, a snow shovel and a spade, and it was as clean as it was going to get. Next, we spread fresh wood shavings inside the Moop, cleaned up the waterers, refilled the feeders, sprinkled some grit in a pie pan, and then were off to the compost pile with a wheelbarrow full of feathers, old wood shavings and chicken manure.
Clay still had a little time to work before he had to leave, so we headed for the herb garden. I went out with him, since he is not always sure of the difference between a weed and an herb. It is companionable working with Clay. Our conversations are interesting. Clay tends to take everything literally and frequently wants to know why I ask him to do something a certain way. I have learned that I must be very careful when I give him instructions. Tonight as we weeded together, he asked, "Is this the herb garden?"
"Yes," I said.
"I thought it was, but the other night you said you wanted me to work in the herb garden, but then when I got here, you pointed to the flower bed by the house, so I thought that was the herb garden."
"Well, I changed my mind," I answered.
"How do you decide what I am going to do each night?" Clay asked.
"I walk out of the house and whatever bothers me the most is what I ask you to work on."
"I see," he said. "So that is why we did the chicken coop tonight, because it bothered you. How often do we have to do that?"
"About every two weeks," I said. "It's nasty work, but it's so nice and clean now, and smells so fresh."
"It still smells like a chicken house."