Just Plain Busted

Sometimes, unlike the situation with the busted pipe I recently blogged about, it’s just plain impossible to turn a lemon into lemonade.

We have several grape vines growing right behind the house, along a fence that subdivides the property. As these vines are so close to the house, I’ve been able to give them lots of attention the last few years. They’ve gotten plenty of water, and I’ve been able to protect them from Japanese Beetles. They’re far and away the healthiest vines on the property, because they’ve been close enough to get so much care.

Until this morning, when I went out to do the chores and discovered one of them had been utterly destroyed. It was only six feet from the back door, and our dog Scooter always sleeps at the foot of it. At first glance, it looked okay…just a little wilted.

But something was wasn’t quite right, so I took a closer look. The roots had been totally dug up, and the two stalks of the vine were snapped. Even quite a bit of the bark had been stripped off — almost like a deer or goat had attacked it. But a deer or goat would’ve devoured the leaves first; and besides, all the goats were secure. And deer never come this close to the house. And since when has a deer or goat dug up a vine from the roots?

I couldn’t prove it was Scooter, but I was highly suspicious. It also could’ve been Tabasco, who’s always digging up everything on the trail of mouse and rat nests. Between Tabasco’s digging and Scooter’s chewing, it could’ve been a team destruction effort.

This particular vine didn’t have a lot of fruit clusters on it, but it was the principle of the thing: I’d planted this vine, watered it, weeded it, pruned it, and cultivated it for years. It was beautiful, and it was thriving.

Sitting with the sheep later this morning, I had the chance to reflect on the vine and what the incident might be trying to say. On a farm, this kind of thing happens all the time: you spend months or years caring for some living thing (be it an animal, a bush, or a crop), but it’s a living thing. You go to bed and everything’s fine…and come out the next morning and it’s dead. We’ve had more than one beautiful ram drop dead from bloat or parasites. Sometimes there is a dead hen in the chicken house in the morning; no sign of struggle or predation…it just died in the night. In the blink of an eye, we’ve lost two different dogs to collisions with cars. I came home one afternoon and surprised a hawk devouring one of our ducks in the driveway. Our first mother goose sat on a nest for weeks, and her eggs were nearly ready to hatch, when I came out one morning to discover coyotes had torn her to pieces like a feather pillow.

I could continue this this list, but you get the picture: to have a farm is to have a constant education in the virtue of detachment. As you toil and “husband” your livestock and produce, you must never succumb to the temptation of admiring that handiwork and thinking it was all your own invincible doing. Because it can all be taken away overnight. This is something I was largely insulated from when I lived in the city, as I think is the case for most city-dwellers. But the things of this earth, even the ones that you’ve worked so hard to care for (and perhaps especially those things) really are passing away. And that’s a good thing to reflect on. We sure get plenty of chances to do so on the farm.

And now I’ve got to take these grape branches and feed them to the goats.

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