Today has been a day of defeat, and a day of victory. It has been a day of tears and of laughter, a day of beauty found in unexpected places. Like Easter eggs in August.
Mon Petit Chou (My Little Cabbage)
I went out to water this afternoon (this is how all my good garden stories start), and at first I didn’t notice anything amiss. My acorn squash has gotten huge, and after struggling to support it well, I found it was tightly secured in its new spot. There were several small cucumbers growing that I hadn’t noticed before, and I found a couple green beans ready to pick. I moved along my little square foot garden until I got to the newest bed, and that’s when I saw it: my beautiful little cabbage, that I had been waiting patiently to harvest, had been utterly destroyed.
Clearly some varmint had sat there and feasted on my cabbage, eating into the center 3/4 the way around. I suspect that the culprit was a rabbit, though I haven’t seen any in the yard since we put our chickens out there. The chicken wire fence was pulled away in front of the cabbage, but there was no other damage that I could see. I was so upset! For weeks now I’ve considered harvesting that little cabbage, anticipating how amazing it would be with some onions and ground beef. Patiently I waited, tenderly caring for it, letting it grow. And now this!
Broccoli Fail and A Sad Harvest
Remember how I’m not a gardener? Besides the cabbage fiasco, my broccoli did something odd this year. Rather than growing as an even head, it grew individual stalks, long and spindly. They turned yellow early, and looked as if they might even flower. I wondered if maybe it was actually broccolini, but the other plants haven’t behaved the same way. I’ve been keeping an eye on it, thinking maybe it would even out. However, after the cabbage disaster, I was fed up.
With a sharp knife I quickly cut off both the cabbage and broccoli. I also picked a cucumber and a green pepper that I probably should have let grow a bit larger. I didn’t want to risk losing anything else to pests or predators! The weird broccoli went to the chickens, but since they have shown little interest, it’s headed to the compost bin next. This was my pathetic harvest when I was done:
A Surprise Turn of Events
Needless to say, I was feeling pretty defeated. But then I noticed that only Pepper was following me around the yard. She always stays close to me, but her sisters are usually nearby, and I didn’t see them anywhere. A quick peek in the coop soared my spirits: they were both in the nest box! The chickens are 25 weeks old now, and so far only Gypsy had begun laying. This is quite a bit past the average beginning laying age of 18-22 weeks. But lately Bijou has been acting very interested in what Gypsy does in there. Poor Gypsy has had Bijou practically sitting on top of her the past few days! Today was different though, and I knew it. Bijou was loud and restless, and she was panting – exactly the way Gypsy had behaved the day she laid her first egg!
I was hopeful that Pepper would start giving me eggs soon, but Bijou was a total surprise! I honestly had not expected Bijou to ever lay eggs. She’s an Easter Egger chicken, which means that if she did lay, her eggs would be a pretty blue-green color. But she is much smaller than my other girls, and she has some minor physical abnormalities. Her beak-eye coordination is a little off, and one of her toes points at an odd angle. She never grew any wattles, and her comb has always been small and pale. Still, I was happy to keep her as a spunky little pet, despite the lack of eggs. In the past week her face and comb had gotten a little redder, though, and she began doing the “submissive squat”. And now here she was in the nest!
Easter Eggs in August
I’m a professional birth doula, so it was hard for me to just leave Bijou alone to do her thing. I wanted to doula the chickens! I did leave them be though, checking out the window every few minutes to see if they had left the nest yet. After about half an hour the kids let me know they were out, and we all went to investigate. This is what we found when we opened the nest box:
Little Bijou had laid us a beautiful blue-green Easter egg. As I wrote in my post about waiting for eggs, most first eggs have deformities of some kind. But this egg is perfect, and the color is just breathtaking! It’s also quite a bit bigger than Gypsy’s eggs are, although I suspect hers will get larger in time. Here are some more photos:
I just can’t get over how pretty this egg is. Isn’t it amazing that God made chickens to not only lay eggs, but to lay beautiful eggs that feed our bellies and our souls?
Caught Off Guard
As I was making lunch today and stealing glances at the egg, amazed by such beauty in an ordinary day, I noticed the piano playing. The song was one we sang at church this morning, My Soul Magnifies the Lord. Two distinct melodies were being played, the main chorus and the lower bass part. I stepped out of the kitchen and my breath caught in my throat; my husband and son were playing together. There was no sheet music, and as my almost-12-year-old sounded out the notes there were plenty of mistakes… but the music they made together made my heart soar.
This morning another song had caught me off guard and made me weep. It’s a Vince Gill song, one you probably know: Go Rest High On That Mountain. My mom and a cousin sang it at my great-grandmother’s funeral more than 20 years ago. Unexpectedly my head was filled with thoughts of my great-grandma; of my aunt, her daughter, who passed away this spring; of my grandfather who I still miss dearly; and of the babies we’ve lost over the years. The song was so sad, yet so beautiful. It plain un-did me, and I wept sweet, sad tears of longing… Longing for loved ones, and longing for Home.
Beauty in the Unexpected
Today I experienced such a wide tapestry of emotion. I watched a young girl give her life to Christ in baptism. I held a fresh, warm egg in my hand. I caught a fish, and watched the sun melt pink over a lake. I shared s’mores with strangers, and laughed with four generations of my family. I cried. There were moments of frustration, of failure, of grief. And there were many moments of joy, peace, and gratitude. The one constant, like a thread woven through all of it, was God. He is there in the pain, there in the joy; there in our victories, and in our defeats. And He is there giving us moments of unexpected beauty… like Easter eggs in August.