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Possumhaw: Gather the hay while you may

 

Shannon Bardwell

 

Sitting on the homemade bench, my one hand rested on Rex's head. My fingers moved slowly and absentmindedly around his neck and over his long ears. The other hand held a book while I read to him. It was early morning and the sky was overcast, and I was accomplishing two tasks at once, maybe more. 

 

If you're going to have pets, or children, or a spouse, you should spend time with them. If you don't, in time they will become difficult and unruly. And so, I feed and read aloud to the rabbits. I would think we should both know the Psalms by now. 

 

Twice a day I forage for the rabbits. I worry that winter will come and feeding will be more difficult. Those who know better say that clover thrives all year long and that I can plant cool weather crops, lettuces, chard, strawberries and more. I think about cold winters and worry. I like to worry ahead of time so I don't have to wait 'til the last minute to worry. I began to glean hay in the fields. 

 

Sam bush-hogged the field, leaving the milkweed for butterflies. We've seen one butterfly, but we were not sure if it was a monarch or a viceroy; even the birds can hardly tell the difference. A butterfly enthusiast friend says butterflies prefer hotter weather. We will wait. 

 

It was a sunny day when I began to gather the hay. Using discarded king-size pillowcases I shoved the hay inside. Paper bags are almost impossible to find, and plastic bags will hold moisture. I should have waited longer to let the hay dry. Later, I found mold. This would not do. 

 

I emailed Bryant Wiygul and asked for "farm girl lessons." Bryant offered hay from his barn but said to bring Sam in case of snakes. Though appreciative, neither Sam nor I found this option attractive. Bryant responded to the email saying it was best to wait several dry days and then turn the hay over and wait a few more days before gathering.  

 

The second batch of hay was dry and green and full of seeds. The rabbits loved it. I have six more pillowcases to fill. I am the ant, preparing for winter. 

 

While I sat on the makeshift bench and read, the rabbits nibbled tender lettuce, strawberry leaves, a small leafy pear branch, clover, an assortment of mints, a carrot and a sliver of apple. Then I heard a swishing sound. I turned to see three white ducks waddling ridiculously toward me. They had crossed 100 yards of field.  

 

Their appearance was disturbing. The ducks have decided they do not like waiting on the rabbits for their own food and readings. I shooed them back to the lake and safety; I poured their corn and cast their bread on the water. I reminded them we do not live by bread alone.

 

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.

 

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