The next day as soon as he was done feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs, he thought, he’d ask Willow if they could use the still together. When he went into the kitchen for the compost she looked up with a smile from where she was chopping carrots and getting a pot of stew ready to set on the stove.
“Ah Wind, I was thinking about you only a moment ago! Do you want to use the still with me tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow?! Couldn’t we use it today?” he asked.
“Well, I’m going to bake a blueberry pie to take to Sugar Plum’s today. I want to visit with her and thank her for her thoughtful gift. How about we go together?”
“Hmm”, he said, “I suppose I can wait till tomorrow.”
“Excellent! In the meantime would you pick blueberries for the pie?”
“Sure thing Mum, happy to, though can it wait till I’m done with the chickens?”
She nodded and he went out the door with a basket for eggs and the compost, calling, “Chik chik chickeeess!”
The chickens heard him and ran from the bushes to eat the treats he scattered on the ground. He filled their water trough from the creek and gathered the eggs then was back in the kitchen where Willow was cutting flour and butter to make piecrust.
“We have a broody hen Mum”, he said while getting a basket for blueberries, “It’s the most amazing thing, when she got up to go eat another hen came by to sit on the eggs . . . they even take turns laying eggs in the pile!” And so saying, he was out the door again, his eyes sparkling joyfully.
He walked down the driveway and onto the road when he remembered the letters he’d found; so he turned around and went back home.
“Done already?” Willow asked, surprised to see her son.
“No, I came back to get Rose’s letters since I’m going to her farm,” he said, “Where did you put them?”
Willow smiled and said, “Night Sky dropped them off on his way to town this morning Wind, but I did forget to send this bottle of tincture for her so you can take it. It’s right there on the counter, the milk thistle.”
“Oh, right then,” he said and put the bottle in the basket, then giving his mother a hug he was out the door once more calling “Bye!”
He walked slowly to Rambling Rose Farm. The waters in the creek sang happily. Sparrows came and went from a thicket of knotweed. Bees, ants, and butterflies were hard at work amidst globes of pink milkweed, some were still buds with skins stretched clustered together and others were like stars having burst open sparkling and sending out the sweetest scents into the air. Down low he knew there must be mushrooms: he could smell them as he passed through their homes. Off to one side, where the woods met meadow, he saw a mother deer and her fawn grazing, then before he knew it he was at the farm. He went up the steps to the porch that wrapped around the farmhouse. He walked toward the back and looked in the kitchen door, calling out “Rose . . . ”.
“I’m over here by the rose bushes,” came an answering call.
He set the tincture bottle down on a table on the porch and went over to the bushes. Rose was picking shiny rust colored beetles from the leaves and flowers, dropping them into a bucket of soapy water. She looked up at his approach and shook her head.
“The beetles are terrible this year!” she said, hugging him loosely with one arm, “Look at all the roses Wind, they’ve chewed right in and out of the buds, ah ah!”
Whispering Wind looked at the leaves and raggedy holes and bitten up flowers and buds. Most were covered with metallic beetles cuddling one another comfortably on the plants.
“They sure look happy,” he said.
Rose scowled at him. “Yes they sure do!” she agreed, “I’m out here two sometimes three times a day picking them off, I’ve even been coming out at night to see if that makes a difference, there seems to be no end to them!”
“That’s odd, surely there’s something to keep them off the roses?”
“Trouble is Wind, I don’t know where they’re coming from or what they are. I’ve never seen these before and only the chicken’s seem to eat them . . . if I take the bucket over and toss them out, but they can’t fly into the bushes to feast on their own, so there you have it”, she sighed, shaking a stalk over the bucket she held up under the blossoms. He watched as ten or so beetles dropped off into the soapy water and stayed submerged.
“Well Mum sent me over to pick blueberries, so I’d best get on to them. I left a bottle of milk thistle tincture on the table for you,” he said.
“Thank Willow for me, I’ve got to get up there to visit with you all someday, but so far it’s just been work, work, and more work for me! Now this with the beetles, really, how am I to harvest any roses for the apothecary in town I ask you? She ordered a few pounds already and I just don’t know if there’ll be enough with the damage these beetles are doing!” she shook her head and scowled some more, muttering to herself as he walked on past her, hiking up to where the blueberries grew.
Rose had a field on a hill where the bushes grew in rows. Behind the blueberries she had rows of cherry trees growing till they backed up against the woodland. He’d already picked those four or five times this year and their season was over. He loved picking fruit here. The breeze blew cool on the hilltop, carrying the smell of flowers and earth upward. There was a spring box with cold water for splashing on the face or drinking when it got too hot. And the view! He could sit and look out over the fields forever. It was like a tapestry rolling out to the mountains rising up out of the clouds into the blue sky in layer upon layer upon layer of blue, lavender, and grey hues.
He began picking blueberries his mind wandering. Rose let folks come and pick their own berries five days of the week, it helped her to run the farm by herself as she’d been doing since her husband, Russ, left her a couple of years back. After he was gone the farmhands left, one after the other, and she didn’t seem to want to hire any more help. He remembered Russ fondly: a tall man with large aquamarine eyes that shone kindly, he wore his silky hair pulled back in a thick ponytail and could often be found drumming or throwing a frisbee. In the fall they’d have a bonfire, for the thing Whispering Wind remembered most about Russ was he loved to gather and celebrate at the drop of a hat; what fun that had been! He’d loved going to those and dancing around the flames with his friends, Lightfingers, Sally, and Suzy; the last time they’d filled hot coals into old cans with holes punched in the bottom and taken a walk in the dark. It had been exciting! He was wondering if Rose would have a bonfire again, when he noticed a beetle on a leaf. First he saw one, two, then three, and before he knew it they were multiplying right before his eyes! He was alarmed and went row to row:: everywhere he looked it was the same, hordes of beetles on the leaves and clusters of fruit.
“Does Rose know?” he wondered.
He finished picking the berries, one in the basket two in his mouth, all the while thinking on this beetle infestation that he was in the thick of. When he was done, he drank some cold water, then climbed up into a cherry tree to look at the mountains and think it over. He hung upside down and swang for a while singing a rhyme he made up:
“Beetles shiny beetles will you please go on your way,
Go out of Rose’s garden and find somewhere else to play
Somewhere there is something growing in big happy yields
Go out of Rose’s garden and find those food filled fields
Please shiny beetles hear my asking song
Thank you little beetles for flying on a long . . . . . .”
As he sang he imagined a soapy wave rushing over the bushes. A gigantic enormous gargantuan soapy wave that came rolling over the bushes and down the hill drowning everything in soap, soap soap soap, bubbling and frothing higher and higher and then: it subsided and lay on the ground with thousands of dead beetles on the grasses and an army of chickens feasting on an all you can eat beetle buffet! Ah, yes, if only he could come up with some way to make a soapy wave like that, how wonderful would that be!
In the meantime, he jumped out of the cherry tree and headed back to give Rose the news. When he got to the farmhouse she wasn’t there, so he hiked on back home with the blueberries for his mother. She was gone. On the chalkboard was a message for him, “Come to Sugar Plums with blueberries!”