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  • Ken Ilgunas

Spring at Acorn Abbey

(The road to David's home is lined with flowering pear trees. They only flower for a couple days a year.)

I’ve been living at Acorn Abbey for over two months, finishing up my book and working on a variety of outdoor projects.

Here’s the Garden. The perimeter of the fence is 400 feet long. It’s 8 feet tall, and you can sorta see the fishing line I tied across the garden to keep aerial predators from attacking the chickens. I mixed in a dump truck-load of compost, hundreds of pounds of organic fertilizer (chicken poop), several bags of lime, and a bag of powdered kelp. The other big project I’m currently working on is creating an irrigation system, which involves a makeshift dam in a nearby creek. So far we’ve only planted onions and lettuce.

We had a tragedy at the Abbey last week when Ruth, our Golden Comet chicken, passed away from an unknown illness. We buried her, and in her memory we planted a flowering cherry tree on her grave.

Patience is our last remaining chicken. Because chickens are social animals, Patience has had to find ways to compensate for the loss of her friends, namely by paying extra special attention to me: demurely rubbing her wing against my calf, stepping on my hands whenever I’m sitting in the orchard, and even holding still and presenting her tail feathers to me, coyly giving the okay to be penetrated. “She’s in love with you, you know,” David says.

The chickens are as much pets as they are egg-producers, so I can’t help but feel sympathy for the poor girl. So it’s our goal to fix our diminishing chicken population problem.

We tried to raise a few chicks on our own last spring, but they were killed by predator that had successfully broken into the coop. I gave the coop a thorough inspection, and found that a lot of the downstairs wire had rusted, rotted, and come apart, which probably made it easy for a raccoon or weasel. I decided to renovate. I decided to make it into an impenetrable fortress. So I removed all the old wire and triple layered some of the more sensitive spots with new wire, making sure to leave no gaps for predators of any size.

I also dug a trench four inches into the ground, filled them with rocks, and put even bigger rocks on top of them, to keep out burrowing predators. I double-dare any predator to try to break in. We will probably buy more baby chicks at the local mill later this spring.

Here are two of the neighbor’s horses.

Holly, a local dog, is always eager to greet me on my jogs. She has unorthodox style of cuddling, in which she leans her back into my stomach so she can sit like a human as we sit-spoon.

The Abbey from the rear.

Squirrel scratching chest on deck.

Red-bellied woodpecker.

Pear trees in dusk light.

Pear tree flowers up close.

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