The Mushroom Farmer, Chapter 12

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-forever thus re-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 Gewürztraminer, 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.

Byoking in a winter wonderland

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky is the author of The Gift is to the Giver: Chronicles of a 21st Century Decade (Keppie Usage, 2022). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Sun, and Lit Hub. Mark’s essay, “Gritty All Day Long,” is anthologized by Norton and featured in Best American Sports Writing. He has been writing since his emergence as a gigantic music nerd in early-1970’s San Antonio, Texas. Stints as a regular commentator on public radio’s Marketplace and Internet 1.0 exec preceded a 20-year run as a public school teacher. Marko’s favorite writing topics include unorthodox pedagogy, well-intended gardening, and the intersection of baseball and urban bicycling. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he is working on a new book about his quest to play tennis on every free public court in LA.

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