The hay fever kicked in this year before I started mowing hay, the lateness mostly due to the rains. They originally said we were supposed to get six inches last Friday, then three inches, then two, and finally we got about 0.2 of drizzle, though I guess it did rain almost an inch as close as Fort Bragg. So I held off on cutting hay. The weather was only half the reason though. This year I decided to get most of the spring vegetable planting and cultivating done before haying, rather than juggling those activities the way I did the last three seasons. One thing I learned over those years was that I'm just not smart enough to concentrate on too many things at once.
The ryegrass and harding grass pollen was blowing in the Boonville breeze sometime Friday. I knew that because I was sneezing profusely, eyes itching, unfortunately using my T-shirt for a handkerchief in the circumstances.
“It's an excellent protein source,” said a visitor to the farm on Sunday. A few single dads had brought their kids over to pick up kittens, jump on the trampoline, and get hollered at by me for chasing after a couple heifer calves, upsetting them for no reason. Walking through the pastures, one of the dads grabbed a stalk of harding grass and was shaking it, the pollen billowing in green-yellow clouds as he demonstrated that the grass was “procreating,” he said.
I sneezed and cracked a beer. “Protein source?”
The guy was instructing his seven year-old son to shake as many harding grass stalks as he could get his fingers on to catch the valuable protein source in a salad bowl shaped like an old-fashioned satellite dish. “This pollen is really high in protein.”
There it was accumulating in the bowl like the nutritional yeast that hippies like to sprinkle on their popcorn. I was sort of thinking that milk and beef are really high in protein, as well, and it was high time to start cutting hay, but as I sneezed the thought occurred that perhaps when the harding grass pollen was blowing in the wind a person could go clean without eating and just live off the mucous. Better yet, I let that one go and followed everyone into the barn.
I had to let go with one hooter of a sneeze.
“Bless you, brother,” said one of the dads.
The whole crew was at the farm on a mission to adopt felines.
Five black kittens were born on a sleeping bag, nestled in the cradle between my upturned knees one night in April. I heard their high-pitched meowing the sound of bat screeches at about three in the morning, cursed and wadded up the sleeping bag, lugging it into the solarium and tucking them under the water heater. “Good God,” I said. I'd known this moment was coming, with a pregnant cat sleeping on my bed every night, but I had preferred not to conceive (sic) the inevitable.
It wasn't but a few minutes later, just as I was drifting back to sleep, that the mother cat deposited a mewing kitten on the remaining thin blanket between my legs. I had to give up the fight and let her lick and nurse them as she added one by one in my bed, eventually moving them over to the side in a clump of blankets that muffled the racket somewhat. They piped down and stayed up there for weeks without causing too much trouble. I think the momma cat licked up all their excrement because I never detected any until nearly the end of May. Then I moved them down to this futon on the floor, where the kittens actually stayed put.
I know you're supposed to spay and neuter your cat twice a year or something, but the funny thing is the program has been so successful in California that there is almost a black market demand for kittens. The mother and tomcat each cost eighty bucks as kittens when my ex purchased them from a Lake County program in 2008. Eighty bucks for a kitten, I thought, the last few weeks before we split up. We never went to battle in court, but if we had I would have accused her of insanity for paying $186 for two of them. That would have been my big beef. It was on the top of my list.
Five in the last litter, and they were all spoken for in days. I just give them away which is probably a mistake. If they're going for $80 maybe I should charge at least $50 under the table.
“Let me know when they're weaned,” said about ten people on my answering machine. “We'll come over, pick one out.”
“Are they weaned, yet?”
“No,” I said on Saturday. “They're still nursing like crazy.”
The next morning the kittens were darting all over the barn, fighting over cubes of a boiled beef heart. They were shitting everywhere. Their mother disappeared for 20 minutes at a time and returned with a fresh-killed mouse, dropping the rodent off for the kittens to scrap over. She was actively weaning them. She deposited one mouse after another in front of the five. It was almost easier for her to go out and catch a mouse than it is for some single parent to wander around the aisles of a grocery store and pass the credit card through to return home with a bag of grub for the young ones.