Losing the Plot, and Getting the Flock out of There

Reader Contribution by Jane Gripper
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There was a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach during spring, as I fought the natural planting urge that comes to every gardener each spring. Instead of planting vegetables, I found myself “losing the plot”. Some might say that I lost the plot years ago! To be more specific, I was losing the vegetable plot. We were preparing to leave the rental home we had lived in for three years in Carmel Indiana, to move back to Kangaroo Valley, Australia. Along with dismantling the raised vegetable gardens, homes needed to be found for our beautiful and faithful “flock” of layers, and a “layabout” bunny, who gave us nothing but love!

We found a home for the chooks on a farm not too far from us in Carmel. It was a teary trip in the car with the children concerned that the “girls” wouldn’t be as happy as they were with us and the chickens clucking indignantly, wondering why they had been plucked so rudely from their idyllic suburban abode. The new home indeed was not ideal. For a start there was a rooster (our girls had no experience of men, and were quite naive as to their ways). Secondly, the electric fencing which was designed to keep the chickens contained, and protected from the resident bullmastiff, proved to be no obstacle to our (highly intelligent) girls, who walked straight through the fencing, following us as we left them. Returning home, the garden, bereft of our much loved gallus domesticus, felt very lifeless to us…. I mean…what’s a garden without chickens???

Pulling apart a vegetable plot is also a sad task, especially when there is still a beautiful crop of nearly ready garlic. Naturally it was the best crop I had grown yet! No problem, out it all came, despite the fact that it still had at least 2 months before it should have been pulled. The kale, which had surprisingly survived the Indiana winter, was unceremoniously left for the chickens and rabbit to munch (actually, I’m not sure that chickens “munch”, more like “snap”).

I had procrastinated so much about “losing the plot” that I found myself shoveling soil from the beds, during the week that I should have been inside packing up the house. The veggie garden edges and soil were carried around the neighbourhood to begin new homes. Wheelbarrow loads of the rich organic soil, which had been built up over the three years with added chicken and rabbit manure, have been reinvented in new gardens. The garlic was distributed at our final fling garage sale – free with every purchase!

Unable to prioritize the pack up of the house, I found myself “escaping” to the garden – dividing plants, mulching watering…anything but packing and cleaning. Of course, working in the garden gave me a chance to reflect on the three years that we had had in the USA. So it was whilst dividing the hostas that I thought about the 16 amazing National Parks we had visited during our time in the USA. As I turned the compost into the garden, I chuckled to myself at the interesting characters we had met during our travels. Straightening the crooked garden edging brought to mind how far Carmel, Ind. had come in the last three years…Carmel now has curbside recycling! Watering the newly planted yews, I wept about the dear friends we had met in the USA and would now be leaving behind. There is nothing quite like a garden for contemplating, analyzing, reminiscing…in fact, a garden is so much cheaper than therapy!

So here we are, on the “other side” of losing the plot, this “old chook”, having come home to roost, now has to reinvent the plot on our five acres of fertile soil in Upper Kangaroo River. The old hen house has been restocked with an interesting covey of chooks who all sport US state names, in honor of our time there. “Texas”, is our BIG, beautiful rooster. My only problem is turning the seasons back upside down, so really, I can now have the Spring planting that I missed in the USA…look out garden, here I come!