Creating a Home

Creating a Home. via Creating a Home.

“Soon Julia’s house was filling up with lost and homeless creatures of every description.”

“The dragon made toast and the mermaid washed the dishes. The folletti tended the fire, the goblins mopped up, the ghost was in charge of dusting and the troll picked out the music.”

Julia’s House For Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Fictional Problem Solving

Dandelion girl whirled and twirled through the field. Sunlight glittered on her dress.  She danced from flower to flower until she reached the pond. The cattail and the frog were waiting. Cattail was nice, just like dandelion, but frog could be mean. Dandelion didn’t know they were waiting…

Georgia considered her story for a few moments before deciding she liked it. The final version had to include all of the Latin names for dandelions and cattails, and at least three uses for each plant. The rest of the class would be writing boring scientific journal entries, but Georgia had pestered and begged until Ms. Becca relented, allowing her to submit the same report, with the same requirements, in the form of a fictional story.

“No more than four pages, ” Ms. Becca had warned.

Georgia grumbled with annoyance. It was more than the two page requirement given to the rest of the class, but it was less than the 10 she’d asked Ms. Becca to approve.

Tapping her pencil on the notebook, Georgia considered the list of requirements. The latin names would come later. Right now, she needed to explore the environment of the dandelion and the cattail.

“A dandelion can live almost anywhere,” the frog croaked. “But a cattail can only live along the water’s edge. Very restrictive.”

Cattail smoothed her long soft coat and stood as straight and tall as she could. “Frogs must live near the water.” She stated, matter-of-factually, and walked away without explaining herself. Sometimes that was the best way to deal with frog.

“Or other kids,” Georgia muttered to herself. Cattail would find a way to deal with frog and, maybe, that would help Georgia deal with Riley. Walking away hadn’t worked this time.

“CATTAIL!” Frog croaked in his loudest voice.

“Don’t shout at me!” Cattail growled back.

After a moment of silence, frog replied “now that I have your attention…”

Georgia stared at the page. The story was going well, but now she was stuck. Was it possible to say or do something that would make frog change? She very much doubted it.

She chewed on her last conversation with Riley and, briefly, considered using it exactly as she remembered it. The only problem was her memory was full of holes. She was so angry with Riley, she couldn’t remember what was said…exactly.

“…you made me a promise and it’s time for your to pay up.” Frog said, hopping back toward the water. “A promise is a promise.

It was very frustrating when she couldn’t help her characters. It was even more frustrating when she couldn’t help herself.

Summer Solstice Mourning

Summer solstice crept over the horizon like a cat stalking a cricket. Move too fast and the moment will jump and flutter away on noisy wings.The sun peeked over the trees and hills on the far side of the neighboring farm. The driveway momentarily moved from night-shadow grey to a deeper black as the entire world adjusted to the flow of light.

Georgia sat on the porch, glancing over her shoulder from time-to-time. Searching for adults had become a habit so ingrained it seemed more like a reflex. Watchful vigilance was something akin to blinking or breathing.

She was supposed to be in bed, like all the other children, but today was the first day of summer and Georgia intended to see it from beginning to end. She’d told her mother this over dinner the previous night, but the only response was a long sigh and a wordy lecture about things ‘they’d talked about.’

This was important. Her mother didn’t agree, but Georgia was convinced she knew better. Besides, what was so wrong about watching a sunrise and a sunset? There was no school and chores were always the same.

The first day of anything was special because it was different. Summer was special because it was…summer! The first day of summer? That was something extra special and Georgia was going to see every last minute of it. Even if she couldn’t convince a single adult to bake a cake with the words “Happy Summer!” in green and blue frosting.

The sun rose higher in the sky. The birds began their songs long before the sun showed her face, but now there was a loud chorus. It was the bird version of a traffic jam, with all of them fluttering about, chattering away, and occasionally diving down after a bug or a worm.

The last star was still visible in the sky. The smell of coffee floated out on the air from the nearest Wild Raccoon neighbors. Lights were slowly flickering on in different windows across the community.

A buzzer went off in her mother’s room a few moments after Georgia watched the last star disappear from the sky. As quietly as she could, Georgia slipped back into the small house she shared with her mother and younger brother.

It was a small building, much smaller than the one they’d had when daddy was alive, but the Wild Raccoon farm was an entire world just bursting with things she’d never seen before. Safe in her room, sitting on the bed and watching the sky through the open window, Georgia closed her eyes and remembered her daddy. Remembered everything. His voice, his smell, the way his face turned red when he was angry and even more red when he laughed.

“Good morning daddy.” She whispered. “I miss you.”

As long as she could remember him, he was here with her. That was what they said at the funeral – and every opportunity for many weeks after. Georgia practiced remembering every time she found something amazing or beautiful. She wanted her daddy to share it and she wanted to make sure she never forgot.

The Wild Raccoon had many things to discover and, as long as she kept finding little things like he sunrise, she would never lose her daddy. Not for real. Not for forever.

Farmers Market

The first day of the farmers market was filled with expectation, excitement and disappointment. The Wild Raccoon had a wild plants, wild mushrooms, farmed mushrooms, dandelion wine, goat milk, goat cheese, meat and a few jars of honey.

Comparatively speaking, the Wild Raccoon was simply bursting with produce. Most of the other farmers had jars of honey, jars of jelly, and lists of produce expected to arrive later in the year.

An Amish family, whose booth represented an entire Amish community, was equally full with homemade pasta, quilts, breads, jars of jelly and honey.

Practically everyone had honey.

There were a very small number of customers, most of whom were looking for tomato plants, hostas, flowers and other things for their yards and backyard gardens. Three greenhouses, the local master gardeners society and one CSA made a point of preparing for the summer gardens. After July 1st, the CSA would return with produce for members-only. One of the greenhouses would also return, with pots of flowers for sale- and racks of cards describing services offered to people planning weddings, funerals, birthdays, and anything else that might involve a lot of people, catering, and some form of extravagant party.

Bobbi sat in a folding chair and watched people milling around. A few regulars stopped to say hi, some neighboring farmers chatted about the usual things, and the kids providing the music clumsily clawed their way through a ‘performance experience’ under the watchful eye of parents and music instructors.

In July, the market would be crowded, the music would be lively and near-professional, and the produce would be in large supply. Somehow, the launch of the market always felt more like a dress-rehearsal, with the actual performance occurring several weeks later. Bobbi had religiously visited opening day at the farmers market for many years before joining the Wild Raccoon. Even while living in large metropolitan areas, she would seek out the market and browse the booths in the cool spring air.

It was the moment when she felt…really felt….the change from winter to spring. It was wonderful and anticlimactic. Every time, she would leave, empty-handed, thinking the market should be something bigger, more vibrant, filled with people. Something truly marking the passage of the season and the anticipation of markets to come.

Sitting in her chair, watching people interact, she wondered if markets used to be places where farms hired summer help and made deals with other farms and local businesses.

Probably.

Yet, it wasn’t the job fair atmosphere that was missing, it was the oh-thank-gawd-winter-is-over celebration. It was the release of energy that comes from finally being free of cold weather confinement. Live music and old fashioned dances. Brightly colored clothes. Showing off…

A violin hit a particularly ear-splitting note as the kids finished their concert and Bobbi flinched, despite sincere efforts to mask her reaction. The crowd of relatives and fellow students clapped, took photos, and started milling-around, making small talk and generally breaking up to leave.

Ah well.

Perhaps, someday, she would find someone who agreed with her. Maybe the market would become more lively on opening day. Or, maybe, the market would always begin the year like a seed in the earth: small, quiet, unassuming and fully prepared to create something entirely different in a few weeks or months.

Writers Block

There were enough people at the farm to rotate through the chores, allowing every adult at least one day of home-work per week, in addition to days of leisure. The majority of residents at the Wild Raccoon had private pursuits and ambitions, usually in the areas of writing or the arts, so home-work was a near-sacred practice.

Bobbi had two home-days per week, primarily because her work in the orchard and farm-forest could be done alone during in long stretches of work. Outside of pruning during the winter, addressing damage year-round and picking in the fall, trees have no real schedule. Therefore, Bobbi evaluates the work needing to be done and schedules long days up on the hill, where she just digs in at sunrise and works until sometime after sundown. The chores in the barn are a nice break in the routine, but those are required of everyone and, therefore, rotated through all able-bodied adults.

Thanks to the damage caused by a particularly powerful storm and all of the orchard work it created; Bobbi was sitting at her desk, staring at her laptop, thinking about how nice it was to have three whole days of home-work time. Three whole days to really focus on her novel.

The clock ticked, the birds chirped and the computer remained untouched. Three whole days.

Running over all of the story lines that she’d been playing with while working in the orchard, Bobbi scrolled down the text-dense page. All of this writing was done, late at night, after a hard day’s work, knowing she had to get up and do it all over again the next day. All of it just flowed out of her finger tips while a portion of her brain worried about getting enough sleep and losing ideas while completing chores and…

Nothing. Right then and there she had nothing except three days. Three whole days.

Sighing, Bobbi picked up her cup of tea and went to sit out on the small porch area outside the only door to her tiny home. It wasn’t as nice as the big communal porch, which provided entry to the farm kitchen, but it was outside and away from the desk.

Fine. She thought. If my brain won’t write, I’ll just let it sit empty for a while.

Sitting on the porch swing, she focused on her breathing and used classic meditation techniques to empty her mind of all thought, just absorbing the world around her and trying…really trying….to stay in the moment.

It was blissfully peaceful for a few moments, then the thought-banishing game began as words and images started creeping their way to the forefront. After 15 minutes, the thoughts turned creative, but Bobbi kept banishing them to silence. 20 minutes later, she was sitting at her desk, typing away.

Just had to tell myself “no, you are not allowed to do this.” Bobbi thought with a chuckle. Works every time.

Mentoring Georgia

The farm forest had a lot of debris that needed to be cleared. Bobbi worked steadily, moving fallen tree branches into piles along the edge of the orchard. She’d already located, cut and stacked the larger items. Now she just needed to clear out the smaller stuff in preparation for moving the entire stack down to the woodpile behind the barn.

She also collected fresh wild edibles and stored them in a large cooler. Foraging wasn’t the objective, but wild plants provided a steady income for the farm. It was best to be prepared for anything nature just happened to hand over.

With her head down and her mind on wood and low growing plants, Bobbi was unaware of Lisbette and Georgia climbing the hill – until Georgia shouted a greeting. The shout caused Bobbi to jump and hit hear head on a tree branch. Rubbing her head, Bobbi returned the greeting as she walked down to meet them at the cooler.

“Georgia loves the books,” Lis said with a smile. “She can’t stop talking about them.”

“I’m glad,” Bobbi replied, silently noting one of the smaller books sticking out of Georgia’s back pocket.

“You didn’t have to leave them on the porch,” Lis teased. “We will answer the door.”

“It was late,” Bobbi stumbled. “I didn’t want to wake anyone up.” Or find herself dragged inside for a cup of coffee and another hour (or two) of conversation when she was already dead tired. Late night social visits were common around the farm – and something Bobbi simply did not enjoy. Thankfully, Lis appeared neither surprised nor offended.

“Georgia asked if you could be her mentor.”

Lis was known for being direct,  a trait Bobbi admired; but this caught her off guard.

“You’re the only person she’s requested.” Lis added in a manner common among the parents on the farm. It was a gentle, firm, this-is-final, implied-decision tone that Bobbi found equally perplexing, fascinating and annoying.

Mom voice aside, the request for a mentor was a big deal. All of the children living on the farm had to have one. It was one of the few hard-and-fast (actually written down) rules the farm had. For families, it was one of the primary reasons behind decisions to join, or not join, the farm.

Georgia had been through four mentors already. It was clear she was not going to work well with any adult she did not choose herself, which was something Bobbi silently admired. The entire family had been under a lot of pressure to help Georgia choose, because she couldn’t run around the farm, unattached, indefinitely.

Which brought this around to the real issue – being a mentor. If Georgia was assigned to Bobbi, she would also be assigned to chores on Bobbi’s watch. No more hopping around from person to person. Georgia would be expected to follow Bobbi around and learning what Bobbi knew, until it was time to either change mentors or begin working on her own.

“Are you sure you want to work up here in the farm forest?” Bobbi asked Georgia. “I don’t spend much time down by the pond.”

Georgia shrugged. “I like trees,” she said, unconsciously placing a hand on the book in her back pocket.

It was only three words, but Bobbi had a strong feeling that it wasn’t about the trees, it was about the conversation in the barn. Georgia liked talking about the frogs, myths and possible stories that came out of those ideas. She liked the books.

“Yeah. Sure. It works for me.” Bobbi said. “But I’ve never done this before. Do we have to fill out a form or something?”

“In blood.” Lis said, deadpan, nodding her head as though this were common knowledge. Then she burst out laughing. “I have no idea,” she admitted. “I’ll ask around. Georgia, it’s time for you to get to school. Thank you Bobbi, we really appreciate it.”

As Georgia and Lis walked back down the hill, Bobbi noticed Lis was unusually…relaxed. Georgia seemed to be a little lighter too. Trying to find a way to connect with, and fit into, a new community was tough; particularly when the kids were having a hard time.

It will work out, Bobbi thought to herself, firmly banishing ever present doubts, and returned to gathering wild greens.

Moon Over Home

Everyone needs time away, time to do his or her own thing, without chores or errands to worry about. That’s what town-time was all about, just getting away from the farm for a few hours and doing…whatever. A truck full of adults (and one teenager) were now headed back to the farm after an evening away.

The truck was quiet. The truck was always quiet. There was something about the drive home after town-time that left Wild Raccoon-ers silent, contemplative, and strangely respectful of one another. Bobbi often found this communal quiet to be eerily similar to the temporary, polite silence often found in a very early morning church service.

The truck pulled off the paved road and started down the dirt path that acted as long, dusty and bumpy driveway for the Wild Raccoon and two neighboring farms. The moon provided enough light to drive without headlights, but the truck followed it’s own artificial path, heedless of the power of nature.

Parking the old tanker of a farm vehicle and cutting the engine, Rick leaned on the steering wheel, nodded to himself and muttered “Home” with noticeable satisfaction. The spell was broken. Everyone tumbled out, started chatting about the evening, said goodbys, offered one another coffee, and generally dissipated across the farm.

It was late. Bobbi knew she needed to get some sleep. The to-do list hanging over her desk was always longer than any reasonable human being could hope to accomplish in a month, much less than a day, but it was there and the sun would be rising soon enough.

Yet, the moon was so bright that it almost blotted out the stars. Breathing deeply and closing her eyes, Bobbi welcomed the feeling of just being there. Opening her eyes, she took in the sky full of stars and breathed, deep, again.

The first time she visited the farm, it had been a night similar to this. Looking up at the sky, she’d seen so many stars, shining brighter than most suburbanites and city-folk knew possible. It was not the first time she’d seen a night sky free from the greedy upstaging of street lights, but it had been a long time. So much light spread across so much space could be both frightening and awe-inspiring.

Now, she relished the sight of the stars whenever the clouds were polite enough to move out of the way. The stars wrapped around the entire farm like a glittering blanket. This drew her back and welcomed her in after every voyage away. This was home.

 

Book Hunting

Bobbi rode into town with three adults and one teenager. The teenager was desperate to get to the skateboard ramp at a local park before nightfall. The weather was finally warm enough for outdoor activities not involving ice and the park was filled with parents, children and teenagers. The truck had barely slowed down when Andy jumped out with his skateboard tucked under his arm.

“Andrew!” Shouted Rebecca. Andy stopped, turned and glared the do-not-call-me-that-in-public glare. “We’ll be back to pick you up in two hours. Be here. Be ready. Or, I will send your mother looking.”

This threat actually had some teeth. Andy’s mother was a local police officer. His fathered had been living at the Wild Raccoon since the divorce. Andy moved between households according to a standard visitation arrangement.

Andy rolled his eyes, made a vague lukewarm promise to do as he was told, turned, dropped the board and left us behind as fast as his skateboard and carefully maintained teenaged image would allow. His arrival was met with shouts, hoots, one or two back slaps and renewed energy on the ramp.

“Those ramps are dangerous.” Becca muttered. “I don’t know why his parents let him do that.”

Rick laughed. Somehow, Rick could laugh in a way that either invited additional laughter or left others knowing they’d just been insulted.

“Shut up Rick,” Becca snarled.

The next stop was downtown. The truck stopped in front of a gleaming, glossy bookstore with it’s own coffee shop. Both the bookstore and the coffee shop were big-name franchise businesses. They stood out from the rest of main street in a we-clearly-are-not-from-around-here kind of way.

“You sure this is where you want to go?” Becca asked as Bobbi ducked out of truck.

Bobbi shrugged. “This is where they sell books and the library is just a few blocks over. I promised Georgia a book.” Bobbi paused a moment, considering the two hours ahead of her. “Pick me up at Reckless.”

Reckless Dive was a classic small-town combination business. It was a music store, music academy, performance space, coffee shop, and tattoo parlor – although the tattoo portion was publicly defined as a separate business renting out previously unused space.The tattoo artist operated out of a room with a private entrance, located in the far opposite corner from a similar space utilized by the music academy. As a result, children learned to play the violin in one corner, while sober, ID-holding adults permanently embellished patches of skin in another. It was Bobbi’s single favorite place to hang out. It was also located downtown, which meant it was a short walk from the monstrosity laying before her.

With a wave, Bobbi left her companions and stepped inside the glass doors and bright lights. It was like leaving behind the little town and entering into a world made up entirely of giant malls. Music, toys, gift-set pens, electronic devices and the smell of coffee met her just inside. There were books, too. Massive numbers of them. Yet, the store didn’t smell like books, it smelled like coffee and…that combination of cardboard, plastic, disinfectant and newness that seemed to accompany all chain retail businesses. She supposed it was the effect the company was striving to achieve.

After wandering around a few moments, Bobbi started feeling restless. She only had two hours in town and the evening’s live music at Reckless was already well underway. Grabbing a teenager with a name tag that said ‘Stacy’ she asked about the existence of a magic frog and water book. The teenager barely managed to keep from rolling her eyes, but didn’t bother to hide her smirk before asking if Bobbi had bother searching the internet before coming into the store. Apparently retail bookstores expect patrons to do homework before asking for help.

After Bobbi admitted that she had not thought of that, the ‘helpful’ employee directed her to the children’s section with a “probably over there somewhere.”

Feeling particularly angry, Bobbi wandered toward the children’s section, seriously considering going home empty-handed. She was half-way through a reasonably justifiable excuse when a woman bumped into her.

“Oh, sorry,” the woman said, but remained closer than courtesy generally allowed. Bobbi would have scurried off if the woman weren’t giving her a mischievous grin in between looking around the store like someone trying to avoid the police. Under normal circumstances, Bobbi would have taken all of these things as signs it as time to escape, but the woman was so extraordinarily matronly and gleeful in her game, that it was impossible to avoid being swept up in the fun.

There was also something very familiar about this woman, although Bobbi couldn’t place her finger on what or why. The glasses hanging on a chain around her neck, the overly permed hair and the hand-crocheted sweater pulled over an overweight, constantly moving frame were hard to miss.

“You’re in the wrong store,” the woman said in a clandestine whisper that strongly suggested she spent many hours reading spy or mystery genre books. Taking another look around, to make sure no one was watching, she reached into her pocket and handed Bobbi a card while using her free hand to pull a random book off a shelf and making a show of looking over the spine. Bobbi, took the card and slipped it into her pocket while doing the same.

This was fun.

Without another word, she returned the self-help book (Make Those Shoes Work!) to the shelf and slipped out of the store and headed for Reckless. When she was out of sight of the store’s gleaming glass windows and it’s infuriatingly unhelpful staff, Bobbi pulled the card out of her pocket and took a look: Bette’s Book Emporium. It was located on the same street as the public library.

The store was small with a large square wood front that was strongly reminiscent of wild west movies. The sign was hand painted. The front window and glass door were sparkling clean, but the display consisted entirely of piles of books and cats. The cats were living house-cats with brightly colored colors, each with a tiny silver bell. There were at least four of them moving among the books or sitting on top of piles of books and observing the happenings inside the store, or outside the window.

Bobbi pushed open the door. A tinkling bell sounded at the back of the store, announcing her entrance.The smell of old books and dust permeated everything.

The woman sitting behind the counter was thin and wearing a very old hand-knitted sweater. In every other way, she was the mirror image of the spy-wannabe who passed along the card.

“Can I help you?” she asked and Bobbi felt like she was talking to an ultra-helpful librarian – which was when she put the pieces together. The bookstore spy worked in the children’s section at the library.

Pulling the card out of her pocket Bobbi explained what happened, which caused the woman behind the counter to fall into a fit of laughter so deep and heartfelt that Bobbi was chuckling along.

“Bette loves playing spy games,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes. “She’s the only Bette in town who actually likes that awful place.”

“Other Bette?”

“There’s four of us,” Bette replied with unbridled pride. “Four bookworms who also happen to be retired librarians and school teachers – all named Bette. We opened this store to feed our habit.” She said this last sentence in a whisper, as though she were passing along a particularly scandalous secret.

Sighing with relief, Bobbi leaned across the counter and explained that she had a particularly difficult request. Bette’s eyes twinkled.

“Hit me with your best shot.” She challenged. “Go ahead, try it.”

After passing along Georgia’s request, and the circumstances surrounding it, Bette, tapped her finger against her lower lip a few times, deep in thought, and started muttering to herself while shuffling through books. Every one in a while she would make an exclamation, knock over a book or scold a cat. But, before long, she returned to the counter with an armload of books.

The two of them spent the next half hour examining and discussing the books Bette managed to find in the labyrinthine of shelves, boxes and carts. Bobbi select four very different books, and then added a scientific field guide on local frogs for good measure.

“I am never setting foot in that other place again.” Bobbi said as she paid for the books.

“Oh, the Bette’s will be please.” Bette laughed.

There was still 45 minutes of town-time left to enjoy the music at Reckless. It was an excellent evening.

Girl Talk

Bobbi was finishing up with afternoon chores in the barn when she noticed Georgia watching her work.

“Hey Georgia,” she said while tossing one last shovelful of crap (literally, crap) into a waiting wheelbarrow.

“Hey.”

Silence.

Bobbi wasn’t an expert in anything, much less 10 year old girls, but she couldn’t help thinking Georgia should be more talkative. Partly because she was Georgia and partly because she was a 10 year old girl. Wasn’t there supposed to be some kind of obsession with glitter, nail polish and various forms of electronic communication?

“What’s up?” Bobbi asked, just to fill the air with something other than the sound of work.

“Nothing.”

One word answers.

Maybe she’s super-advanced and moving from giggly 10-year-old right into angsty teenager, Bobbi thought. Then she tried to remember her own youth, tween and teen years. No glitter, nail polish or obsession with talking (via electronic devices or in person). The Mother’s Curse immediately came to mind: I hope you have a child just like you someday.

While no one had ever cursed Bobbi (to her face) and she’d never had a child of her own, she was beginning to think the curse would be laid upon her door (regardless). Yet, if the curse were true, then Georgia was here because she was just like Bobbi.

What DID I do back then? Bobbi pondered while filling a large trough with water. Georgia moved only enough to afford a better view of the water filling the container. The animals were outside, bleating, neighing, snorting and stamping to be allowed into the barn where the evening feed was waiting. At the Wild Raccoon, everyone ate the evening meal in some form of community gathering – even the animals.

“After dinner, I’m running into town to pick up a few things, do you need anything?” Bobbi asked, carefully fishing for information.

“A book about the Wild Raccoon.”

“A book about wild raccoons?”

“No, a book about THE Wild Raccoon. This place.”

Bobbi considered the request for a moment. “I don’t think that book exists. What, exactly, are you looking for – history, maps, wildlife, something else…?”

“I want to know why it’s called the Wild Raccoon.”

Bobbi indulged in a small moment of elation. She actually knew the answer to that question! “The farm has been around for a long time. Originally, it was a trading post, then it became a farm and a trading post. Either way, the primary item being bought and sold was fur. Back then, Raccoon fur was popular and this was the best place to find large quantities of good quality skins. So the trading post and the farm became known as the wild raccoon. Later, the farm moved from the kind of farming we do now into fur farming. They raised things like minks and ferrets with marginal success. At one point, someone tried raising raccoons, which is possible but difficult for many reasons, most of them social. But that was soon followed by the decline in fur sales and the anti-fur movement. So the farm went back to being just a regular old farm, but the name has always remained the same.”

“Why are raccoons social problems?” Georgia asked, her face and eyes taking on the animation Bobbi had become accustomed to seeing, which was a relief. The pseudo-teen angst was more disturbing than she realized at first. She opened her mouth to reply but changed her mind. “I tell you what,” she said. “At dinner tonight, ask both Erik and Aletta that question.”

“Erik doesn’t like kids.”

Bobbi rolled her eyes. “Erik gets crabby when has to talk to almost anyone. If you stand up to him and demand an answer – like I know you can – he’ll be nicer to you. I know, because I’ve done it.”

“Mom says I’m not supposed to talk to adults like that.” Georgia’s voice took on a sully angst-ridden edge, which was the information Bobbi had been looking for.

“Erik is old, but he’s not an adult. You can tell your mom I said that.” Bobbi stopped to consider this advice and wondered if she was going to regret it. “You don’t have to talk to Erik if you don’t want to. I’m not trying to get you into trouble. But you should talk to Alletta. She’ll appreciate the question.”

“Will you be there?”

“No, I’ll be in town with the rest of the errand-running crew. Tomorrow we can talk over dinner. As for tonight, the offer is still open – is there anything you need?”

Georgia gave this very serious consideration. “A frog book. But not a regular frog book, one about magical frogs or magical water. I know witches use frogs in spells and some frogs turn into things, like princes, which is weird, but it’s only some frogs, not all of them, so I think, maybe, it’s the water and not the frogs that makes the magic. Is there a book on that?” As she spoke, Georgia’s voice, face and hands gained momentum and animation. Whatever was clouding her mind was banished by the thought of magic frogs, or magic water or, maybe, just plain magic.

“I will go to the bookstore and the library.” Bobbi promised in absolute sincerity. “I honestly don’t know if this book exists, but if it does, I will find it and do my best to bring it home.”

Georgia smiled wide. “Thanks!” She said. “What do you think? Are the frogs or the water magic?”

Bobbi finished the rest of her afternoon chores while discussing the finer points of mystical frogs and potential magical elements. It was a fine way to make shoveling hay a little more fun.

Compost Chemistry Crisis

Every adult living and working on the farm was sitting in a tiny room, drinking bad coffee and talking about compost. Not just casual chit-chat or even nuts-and-bolts planning. They were talking, arguing and even philosophizing about the most minute details.

Bobbi had a headache. It was a tension headache. It felt like sharp pointy nails poking into key areas of her spine and neck. It sounded like bees and mosquitoes buzzing in her ears. Seriously, imaginary bugs were buzzing in her ears. They were saying things like ‘you almost failed chemistry’ and ‘you’re to stupid to understand basic chemical reactions’ – over and over and over again.

When Bobbi came to the farm, she expected everything would be very…well…farm-like. She liked the geeky nature of the people who lived here. Correction – she LOVED the geeks who shared this space with her. She often spent many an hour doing exactly what every other person in the room was doing right at that moment, on topics covering anything and everything. Else. Anything and everything else.

As a gardener, Bobbi didn’t mind composting. To her mind, it was all about raising worms. Feed the worms and the worms poop plant food. Simple. Earthy. Elegant.

This was not worm poop. This was chemical interactions between decomposing materials that may, or may not, attract worms and insects within specific phyla, thereby resulting in chemical excretion more suited to….

Oh dear lord.

It was high school chemistry all over again, and Bobbi was reliving that horrible final exam that nearly cost her a high school diploma.  She wanted to stand up and scream “worm poop!” But that would make her crazy, instead of just plain stupid.

“Roberta, what you think?”

The room went gone silent, all eyes were on Bobbi and all she could think was: Roberta?

“Who’s Roberta?” She asked. Another heartbeat of silence passed before the room burst into laughter.

Daniel was new to the farm. He was a hired hand and an intern, living at the Wild Raccoon for the summer. After much snickering and guffawing, someone informed him that ‘Roberta’ is known as Bobbi. Only Bobbi. He apologizes and Bobbi manages to slip in a half-joke about the worms being happy with the food and the farm plants being happy with their poop.

The residual chuckling is followed by a mass decision to leave for the night. The meeting breaks up and the chemistry crisis is over.

For now.