By Sarah Busching
While McKaleigh naps, I heat sugar, milk, and butter on the stove and make pralines, using up a half-empty bag of pecans. The whole house smells like caramel for the rest of the afternoon.
We spent this morning weeding, trying not to pull up any of the peas or carrots in the process. McKaleigh tracked in a lot of soil, so now the floors are muddy. I haven’t been able to get them clean. It’s easy enough to post a photo without floors in it, though.
When she wakes up, I feed her milk and a snack: a hard-boiled egg and some blueberries. Eggs are her favorite food, although it might be because “egg” is an easy word for a seventeen-month-old.
I put on our shoes so we can play in the yard. My daughter loves to collect the lichen-covered bark that litters the grass and to help me water the raised beds with collected rainwater. Lichen and leaves make a really pretty photo. Crows caw, and hawks shriek, and she tries to mimic both noises. I can’t get the dirt out from under my fingernails afterwards.
In the evening, just before Hunter returns from work, we feed the chickens table scraps and scratch grains. For dinner, I cook pasta with squash, serving it with rustic bread that I baked yesterday and a jar of homemade pickles. Hunter doesn’t do the dishes, even though we just had a healthy discussion about labor division. I try to wash them, but the longer I work, the worse they look. I leave them to soak overnight.
The next morning is rainy, so I give McKaleigh a metal bowl and a wooden spoon to play with. She bangs on it for minutes at a time, banging and banging and banging. I swallow Tylenol because the baby growing inside me is giving me blood-pressure headaches. The banging continues. I take the bowl away.
The Tylenol doesn’t really help, and I end up vomiting, my daughter watching from the doorway. I couldn’t eat anything for breakfast, and last night, I actually only ate the pickles and bread. The cooked vegetable smell made me nauseous. I’m already in my second trimester, but I haven’t posted about the fact my pregnancy nausea hasn’t ended. Being sick is supposed to be a good sign, and I don’t want to look whiney.
It stops raining by mid-morning, so we put on our rainboots—they look especially cute with my ruffly maternity dress and McKaleigh’s prairie-style sundress—and go out to play. We put on our wide-brim hats for a photo, but take them off before playing. She stumbles in her boots and falls down almost immediately, coating her knees in muck.
Another chicken is dead. I must have missed her when I was shutting up the coop last night. But the fox hadn’t.
“Dead,” I tell McKaleigh.
“Dayyyd?” she exclaims.
The ground is muddy where I dig the grave, and it stays that way, even though the rest of the yard is drying out quickly. I post a photo of the day’s eggs, speckled with a little dirt and feathers, but I don’t mention the dead hen. One post about that was enough, the last one being fairly recent.
We started keeping chickens just before our daughter was born because it’s really important to me to grow and make as much of her food as possible. There are so many toxins in the food mass-produced for babies. I try not to give her plastic-packaged food, although sometimes it’s just unavoidable. But a lot of her diet is natural, clean foods, things that I make on our property. And it’s good for Hunter and me, too, since it’s rebalancing our guts’ microflora.
“Dayd dayd dayd,” McKaleigh says to herself.
I melt chocolate and milk in the crock pot after dinner, thinking Hunter (who I still haven’t told about the dead chicken), and I can watch a movie with our hot chocolate once McKaleigh is asleep. After I stage a photo of the mugs, though, my elbow somehow knocks them both to the floor, and the sound wakes up McKaleigh. Hunter goes up to quiet her down while I try to get the chocolate off the floor. It should easily wipe off tile, but instead it streaks brown everywhere, and I have to give up, leaving stains.
Apparently, Hunter notices there’s one fewer hen when he walks to his car in the morning because he texts me about it. I don’t respond.
Every photo I take today shows a filthy home. I don’t know how the mud has gotten all over; it hasn’t rained that much. None of my pictures are usable. I tell McKaleigh we’re going to have a “clean-up” afternoon, which she doesn’t understand, but she does get excited when I take out the dustpan and brush. Even though her little fingers can’t accomplish much, she’s occupied while I scrub. I can at least post a photo of clean-up time because it’s all right if there’s mess showing in that sort of scene.
But everything is just getting dirtier. I’m so frustrated I forget to start dinner, and there’s nothing cooking when Hunter comes home. McKaleigh and I are streaked with baking soda and vinegar, and our clothes are soaked in grease. The floors and the walls are the color of the chicken’s yard—I’ve forgotten to feed the chickens—and I can barely look at my husband.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” I whisper.
“Honey, you’re leaking,” he says.
I look down at my hands, which are, in fact, leaking the filth that’s swamped my home. My fingertips drip mud onto the mop handle. I’ll never be able to post a photo of this.