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These Essays Remind Me Of 2 Classics of World Literature + 1 Country Song

Our assignment here was to describe something handy that you like. I’m really taken by their specificity of description and depth of feeling. They bring to mind some other favorites, including:

Anecdote of the Jar,” a poem by Wallace Stevens.

The Aleph,” a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. In the original Spanish.

This Old Porch,” a song by Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.

The Mushroom Farmer, Chapter 17

Oh, the ramshackliness.

Zig-zaggy as a three-legged cabinet

Mid-torrent, the mf had struggled mightily to erect a shelter for his drenched hens.

Plan A had not panned out. The hens were walking chicken soup. How they felt about being so wet was, the mf inferred, perturbed. They would like not to be this wet nor so cold. I am just like these birds, the mf thought.

The mf also had thought the hens had managed their own natural shelter perfectly. That was Plan A. Roost inside the Pride of Madeira bushes. The Pride of Madeira maintains fleshy, canoe-shaped leaves all winter long, holding the leaves aloft on tall, strong, flexible stalks. The chickens work themselves into the nether reaches of the Pride of Madeira, where they hover above a dry floor of cushiony dead Pride of Madeira leaves. Cozy as shag carpeting.

Not so much right now, however, mid-torrent, a downpour filling the mf’s upturned baseball bucket and the green plastic water cannister, splash by splash by splash. The swimming pool is a peaceful riot of reverberation. The hens are soaked, though, and the mf actually cannot erect this fucking tent.

He just actually broke off half of a support beam, dang, snapped it off as though he himself, the mf, is the natural force to be reckoned with in this situation. Dang. The same mf — who supplemented the hen’s natural shelter with a hand-laid thatch of downed Canary Island palm fronds, first hacking off the needle-sharp leaves at the base with his machete — this would-be hen-protector snaps the beam of the roof he’s failing mid-rainstorm to erect over their heads.

Seething on the second and final step of the little stepladder, the mf takes a moment to reflect that he did not mean to snap the fucking tent beam in two. It is an occasion of his being too strong for his own good. Also, the ozone may be going to his head and/or he is dehydrated, which can lead to bad and/or deranged outcomes. Then there is the geometry of the coop, deliberately slanted to keep intruders off balance. The fine black plastic mesh stretched over the coop to repel hawks also plays a number on him. It grabs at the nub of his gray LA Rams beanie, ignoring the fierce horns of the Rams logo.

Off-balance as a cabinet with three legs, the mf strives mightily to raise high the fucking roofbeams, carpenters, whatever that’s even supposed to mean, the mf has literary associations where practical handiness is for other people. Everybody is good at something. The mf gradually realizes the problem is that he is simply not tall enough.

Five nine is good enough for most things but not for erecting this hen-protecting canopy. The mf hereby surrenders. He quits. That’s it. He’s been out-gamed by the rain, tip of the beanie, sometimes you lose.

NAW!

This is the mf we’re talking about. He goes and gets a step-ladder from the garage and goes another round with the impossible. So much grunting is heard. It sounds like urgggggggggh. It sounds like HHUHH. It sounds like un-vocalized, common human panting.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The mf clearly does not understand the design logic of this temporary structure. What emerges is not good, but minimally adequate. The dripping goes in a down direction on all four sides. There is a foursquare court sized dry area in the center. Here the MF places a two cubic foot cardboard box half full of pine wood flakes: the best manger he can muster.

And the ground isn’t muddy because the MF did have the foresight to lay down a good three inches of fresh straw all around. Good thinking, MF!

He leaves it to the birds to figure out if they want to try and get dry, stay dry. He has done what he can. The next morning, the birds are fine. He feeds them buckwheat, which they all like, Clucky the most. Now he is going to look up rain-proofing a chicken coop and find a better way.

The Mushroom Farmer, Chapter 11

“It’s raining,” said the mf to their friend Marfa, who was cleaning their oven. Oh Marfa: she cleaned like the wind, as neighbor Agnes had rightly declared.

Marfa looked up in surprise and doubt. Mr. mf was always joking. What did he mean? But this time it really was raining. You could see the splashes in the pool.

Reverberating.

You might immediately wonder: “HOW ARE THE CHICKENS IN THE RAIN?”

I am getting to that.

They are fine.

11 out of 10 nonplussed. Not even aware that it’s raining; the mf could just be sprinkling water on the compost again, to bring up the worms ‘n grubs ‘n all the crawlers. For the hens to gobble. The hens were not at all worried. To them, the sound of rain is like the scent of broiling beefs are to me.

11 out of a possible 10 for non-plussedness

The mf had been on the verge of llevanda una caja bastante grande al the coop, pensando, “Oh tal vez ellas requieran una big box de projectarlas de la lluvia.”

But then he remembered duh he had built them an entire rain-protection unit out of fallen Canary Island date palm fronds.

Yes.

The mf had been working up to something: made a plan, followed through; now, it was working.

The mf feels very proud. He doesn’t always need to feel proud. This is a recent accomplishment and not a moment too late; the need to feel proud can make a fella come up with some pretty weak excuses. Belief is mainly a matter of convenience, not truth, or so the mf ha hido pensado hace muchas dias, semanas, meses.

Still, the mf believes the chickens are sitting pretty. He had hand-machete’d the palm fronds clean of needle-sharp bristles. Oh, that was good fun. Hand-machete’ing is really the only way to wield a machete, and the mf does enjoy his wielding.

Be sure to loop your pinky through that little string on the bottom. That’s what it’s there for — to keep your machete from flying out of your grip mid-swing.

It’s bad enough to lose your bat mid-swing. You really don’t want to lose hold of a mid-swing machete.

Okay. That’s just one of my pet peeves. Machetes: put the little string around your pink.

Also, wear gloves, long pants, long sleeves. This shows respect to the machete.

That said, the mf surely crafted a fine thatched hut for his beloved hens. Oh, they are his feathered friends all right. All those murmuring bird sounds.

The Mushroom Farmer, Chapter 12

Poinsettia bouquet with
bamboo bark bow

Things happen and continuing happening; for example, after further machete action upon long, long, 12-feet or longer poinsettia stalks, the mf cuts a poinsettia bouquet for Marfa. She loves and cares for flowers, it would not surprise the mf un poquito if Marfa nurtures each of the machete-cut stalks in peat moss or other starter and grows herself an entire poinsettia canopy.

Friend&family-love thus proclaimed, the mf returns his restless attention to the chickens, who are doing perfectly fine in the rain and require nothing. Some red lights might warn him against bestowing unwanted, unneeded help. The mf does indeed have multiple bike lights that would blink red admirably, if he could just keep them charged. Since he hasn’t the trick, those lights are all pooped-out and anyway, it’s just an expression, red lights don’t actually go off when you are about to do something unwise.

What happens actually looks like nothing but sounds like applause or like steak sizzling. The stirring of a notion that might throw things into disarray stimulates the joyous curiosity to see where the pieces scatter.

In love with straw

Not that the mf is on the verge of evil masterminding a globe-threatening scheme. Nah. He just wants to lay down straw, that’s all. It’s a new thing for the mf. He does not know the difference between straw and hay. That’s the kind of farmer this mf is.

That said, he falls in love with spreading straw, and furthermore, having spread straw and fallen in love, he gets it. Straw is for spreading; hay is for eating. Got it! The mf loves to celebrate when he has learned something, especially something that has been a long time coming. He celebrates by spreading straw! It is now a winter wonderland of straw in the chicken coop. The brown, black, and gold of his chickens’ feathers, the syncopated white of their molt, the glandular red of their combs, all now pop against the fresh dry color of the straw, stimulating the mf to want to drink wine, always spo-di-o-di, and also Riesling and Gew├╝rztraminer, the straw-flavored wines.

Speaking of dry, it is dry as a bone beneath the thatch of Canary Island date palms. They do seem to have contributed to the natural dryness of the hen’s secret habitat within the Pride of Madera bushes. The hens really have it all worked out for themselves. Their henhouse is set between two mature Pride of Madera bushes, each its own wilderness of bramble, and even more closely set between two mature and hard-pointed agaves. It is not impossible that a possum or skunk or snake or hawk or fox could penetrate, but the hens have lasted this long. They roost inside of the bushes at night, effectively disappearing from the mf’s world into the recesses of their micro-forest.

“Self-sufficient hens. Here’s to ’em,” piense el jardinero de hongas. El tiene orgulloso de su gallinas, and tambien de su pomelos. I mention the grapefruit because part of me is still thinking of straw-flavored wines. Grapefruit grows ultra-healthily at the edge of the coop, the leaves Neptune green, the flowers aromatic as Aphrodite. The mf has been cultivating this grapefruit tree for a decade and is double-dang orgulluso that this tree now bears brain-sized grapefruit, heavy lobes, the juice superb with vodka and Cointreau.

The Mushroom Farmer, Chapter 11

“It’s raining,” said the mf to their friend Marfa, who was cleaning their oven. Oh Marfa: she cleaned like the wind, as neighbor Agnes had rightly declared.

Marfa looked up in surprise and doubt. Mr. mf was always joking. What did he mean? But this time it really was raining. You could see the splashes in the pool.

Reverberating.

You might immediately wonder: “HOW ARE THE CHICKENS IN THE RAIN?”

I am getting to that.

They are fine.

11 out of 10 nonplussed. Not even aware that it’s raining; the mf could just be sprinkling water on the compost again, to bring up the worms ‘n grubs ‘n all the crawlers. For the hens to gobble. The hens were not at all worried. To them, the sound of rain is like the scent of broiling beefs are to me.

11 out of a possible 10 for non-plussedness

The mf had been on the verge of llevanda una caja bastante grande al the coop, pensando, “Oh tal vez ellas requieran una big box de projectarlas de la lluvia.”

But then he remembered duh he had built them an entire rain-protection unit out of fallen Canary Island date palm fronds.

Yes.

The mf had been working up to something: made a plan, followed through; now, it was working.

The mf feels very proud. He doesn’t always need to feel proud. This is a recent accomplishment and not a moment too late; the need to feel proud can make a fella come up with some pretty weak excuses. Belief is mainly a matter of convenience, not truth, or so the mf ha hido pensado hace muchas dias, semanas, meses.

Still, the mf believes the chickens are sitting pretty. He had hand-machete’d the palm fronds clean of needle-sharp bristles. Oh, that was good fun. Hand-machete’ing is really the only way to wield a machete, and the mf does enjoy his wielding.

Be sure to loop your pinky through that little string on the bottom. That’s what it’s there for — to keep your machete from flying out of your grip mid-swing.

It’s bad enough to lose your bat mid-swing. You really don’t want to lose hold of a mid-swing machete.

Okay. That’s just one of my pet peeves. Machetes: put the little string around your pink.

Also, wear gloves, long pants, long sleeves. This shows respect to the machete.

That said, the mf surely crafted a fine thatched hut for his beloved hens. Oh, they are his feathered friends all right. All those murmuring bird sounds.

Worms (between the lines of age)

I have long loved worms, and it does not take my wife rockin’ out to “Heard it in a Love Song” while making pizza for din-din to make me remember. The connection?

Undulation.

Oh worms and the life they lead, pooping for a better tomorrow. Who among us could ask for a higher calling? I have recently learned, from Kathleen Blakistone of Moonwater Farms, that worms have both male and female reproductive organs. They need more than one worm present at the moment of friskiness in order to reproduce. Worms live for 15 years, unless interrupted by chicken bill.

Meanwhile, there is a duffel bag involved in “Heart it in a Love Song,” my wife has just assured me. We have ourselves a nice big green duffel bag. Often it is filled with my green-screen equipment: the broad cut of felt, the extended piece of felt. The country rock flute — that belongs to “Heard it In a Love Song.”

We segue from that into “She’s Gone,” of the simmering, understated hi-hat intro. We know the whole thing is about to blow. It’s very un-worm in this way. Worms are the ultimate keep-on keepin’ onners. Not Hall & Oates on “She’s Gone.” Oates is about to blow his top. The pizza is almost ready. I have only begun to record here my love and respect for worms.