Today has been one of those days where I make fabulous use of my PhD and more than two decades of experience as a highly trained scientist, six of them as a full professor.
It started at 7 am, when the dog I had not wanted Spouse to get because I knew exactly how this would end up going begged me for a walk because Spouse can’t get his nose off the grindstone far enough to take the dog out for more than 1-2 walks a week (which is fewer than the number of times Spouse is managing to spin the wheels of his racing bike, but never mind). So that was the first hour of highly skilled labor I delivered today.
Then, after breakfast, I spent two and a half hours taking care of the neighbors’ alpacas. They’re very apologetic about the situation, but, still, is a situation, and there is no one else around here willing to bail their butts out without being paid for it. In short, the husband works 3+ days a week in Berlin and the wife, who normally takes care of the alpacas when the husband is away, is the sort of person who will, for instance, manage to be the only person in Germany who has ever managed to catch Dengue fever here in Germany (presumably, because she was living near the harbor in Hamburg at the time, from a mosquito fresh out of a shipping container fresh out of the tropics). In other words, when the pair went to the beach two days ago, guess which one of them promptly stepped in a hole dug by a little kid and ripped some ligaments (or maybe it was a tendon?) in her ankle.
The high-tech, super skilled labor I performed over there entailed changing the water in all seven of the water buckets (a slow process involving a lot of schlepping in watering cans), cleaning out the lady alpacas’ stall, collecting the poop from two of the three pens, and giving all three groups of alpacas their alfalfa, hay, vitamins, and minerals so there will be poop for me to collect tomorrow.
Then I waited for Spouse to get home from whatever roof he was on this morning, or whatever it was he was up to in the solar power and heat pump business, so I could cook him lunch (whee, fun), since Germans like a hot lunch and then eat open faced sandwiches for dinner. But Spouse neither showed up for lunch nor called to say that he wasn’t coming. So I ate my own lunch and then cleaned up the kitchen since there was apparently a commercial insurance broker coming later to make his or her best offer.
Then I made the chickens their lunch (wet breadcrumbs mixed with pulverized anise-flavored oystershells, which is the only way I can get them to ingest enough calcium to keep making eggshells), changed their water, and collected their eggs, and then just decided, fuck it, we’re going full peasant today and spent the afternoon weeding the garden, turning over the compost piles, and digging out two unwanted and awkwardly situation yucca plants that never get enough sun to flower. Now I have a big bucket full of yucca root and it seems a shame just to chuck it into the trailer to get hauled off to the waste recycling center to get turned into compost along with the ton of stuff we need to trim off the hundreds of tons of trees that are closing in on the garden. Surely, I could peel the and boil them or roast them or something. They are edible, right?
Now I need to get much backside back out of my chair (I came in to eat some dinner) and spend an hour or so watering the garden because it’s so insanely dry and warm with a warm, dry wind here right now, I’m even having to water the weeds and all the trees in our yard are choking up and dropping their leaves, even the trees that have weathered the previous 50-70 years with no problem. The elderberry tress are all a lost cause, the birch has already had half of its leaves shrivel up and drop off (and I’ve been watering it every day for a month already now), the yew’s needles are turning yellow, one of our apple trees’ leaves have turned such a shocking yellow, Spouse is worried the tree is dying, and even our regal, old beech’s leaves are starting to burn.
But, first, wow. The farmers around here can be real jerks. Never mind the one I call Kuhmann (not that I’ve met him and not that he’s the one who keeps 600 cows in a shed close enough to the local church to bath the churchyard cemetery in an unholy stench) who, in his official capacity as assistant mayor of our assemblage of settlements, has been posting racist conspiracy theories to the local WhatsApp group, our beef farmer at the end of our street!
To make a short story, long, G, our across the street neighbor who made the mistake of deciding to spend Feb-May in Brazil this year, instead of Nov-Feb, and thus got stuck there, finally made it home and has been out of quarantine now for about a week. Even though he’s retired, he has been working almost as around the clock as the un-retired farmers around here, literally making hay while the sun shines (well, the others are also harvesting the wheat fields from 6:30 in the morning until about 11:00 at night) and now I know why.
When I was taking care of the alpacas this morning, U, the beef farmer up the street, came over to put the most seriously injured alpaca in a choke hold (not really a choke hold) while I irrigated its wound, sprayed it with blue spray (which sort of functions as a mixture of antiseptic and bandage), and then gave it two doses of antibiotic because one of its deep slash wounds had gotten infested with maggots who didn’t settle for just eating dead flesh and bacteria, but were burblingly burrowing into fresh flesh, creating a much bigger, rounder wound than had been there before. Afterwards, U, who was on her way to the doctor’s herself because, as she informed up, livestock antibiotics aren’t suitable for humans, and she also had an infected leg wound, took a moment to catch us up on the local gossip, which is that some fellow bought the farm (not figuratively) next to her husband’s. This person, despite having not been formally trained as a farmer (which, around here, is something like a 3-4 year process that runs through a vocational school), intends to, as she rather uncharitably put it, “play farmer”. So the guy asked the local farmers here for help (I presume he offered to compensate them) showing him the ropes. But apparently, only G, fresh out of quarantine, has offered his services, a fact U was delivering as a condemnation of G.
Okay, I will give you that G is a very special character. Even I am normally slightly appalled by him (although I have also been shocked by the extent to which certain other of our neighbors make fun of him in a very mean girls kind of way). He’s a guy in his late 60’s who, despite having the best wife you could imagine having (friendly, kind, hardworking, loyal, and so cheerful she whistles while she works, just like Snow White), still goes out to the disco every weekend to ogle the young twenty-somethings (his own daughter is 47 or 48 and is such a diehard metal fan, she goes on 2-3 heavy metal cruises every year). He also hates to go to parties where there aren’t any women under 35 and has been known to drive drunk and to hide his car in the bushes and run across the fields to avoid the police barricades set up specifically to catch him. He’s loud, he’s a hoarder with at least two barns and a potato cellar stacked floor to ceiling wall to wall, and his 50+ year old diesel tractors can’t be anywhere near current with their once-every-two-years emissions and safety certification, not with the fumes that waft over and invade our house when he idles them in his yard.
But he plays cards with his MIL because she is in her 90s and bored a bit shitless because she’s nowhere near as motile as she used to be and not much of anything (besides gossip and alpaca slashing) goes on out here in the sticks. And if you have a problem with him, you can go to him and talk to him and come to a mutual understanding. And then every once in a while he’ll go and do something that’s more decent than what anyone else here does, simply because he doesn’t give a shit what all the other farmers think about it and he doesn’t abide by any rules or conventions he doesn’t agree with and he actually has generally given it some thought.
I actually hope that the rumor that he’s selling his house and the barns and all the fields that he owns and decamping the family into town is not true. He makes for a funky neighbor, but not in a bad way, and it will be weird not to hear his wife whistling while she rakes leaves or hangs out the laundry.