As my son and I happily made our way across the wet parking lot, hand in hand, he said ‘I can smell Spring. I can just smell it. I smell dirt.’ I did too. And we two had a new, hopeful kind of joy beginning to grow within us, just like the seeds we were starting in our living room for our garden. We were ready for spring. Were not all our neighboring residents ready? That was day before yesterday. And today, it is a snow day.
Last night, as I walked to the coop to close the chickens in for the night, the wind blew so strong it made that enormous sound of a menacing engine approaching. A loud, dark groan wove its way through the forest. Wet matter, a cross between rain and snow, was coming down nearly sideways. I liked the drama. I felt like a pioneer woman securing her farmstead, taking care of things, making it safe. In our language here, I was being ‘Mommy-Daddy’. With my farm coat, western-style hat and bare hands (it was just a quick trip to the coop) I enjoyed my role. I found it was less poetic when I collected eggs, some covered in fresh, unfrozen poop, and had to wrestle with the catch on the coop door, which was covered in ice. In fact, I was a little tired of it all. It really was unending. With chickens, one must always be around, both morning and nightfall, to let the chickens out or in. If you are tired, and let yourself off the hook – just once – you may lose a bird or two, and even the whole flock, to predators. I have my new groove, and I don’t mind. Most days.
Today it is March 7th, and it is a snow day. I’m glad I fashioned a little lean-to structure over the platform bird feeder outside our kitchen window before our last big snow, for there is a puffy pile of snow atop it, some 8 inches high. The titmice (oh-so-cute with big, black ‘love me’ eyes) and friends come in under the shelter and find seeds easily. I wonder, why don’t they stay longer? Why don’t they take a load off? I would like to see them gather, as if around the water cooler, to eat and chat and rest awhile. But no – they dash in and out again, many flying with their seed to crack it on a branch of the maple tree above our house. And the squirrels – the bane of so many feeders of birds – I don’t begrudge them their seemingly greedy behavior today. I see a squirrel, biting off large chunks from the suet feeder, and I stay myself. My knee-jerk reaction is to shoo them away – and truly, if there weren’t a foot of snow on the ground, I might. But today, my heart feels for them. How can I shoo away a creature who is just trying to feed her empty stomach? I can’t. In fact, I grab a block of suet, chop it into pieces and place it outside the kitchen door.
I’d come in to dry off, to rest and get ready for the coop walk. Today it’ll take some doing. The muck around the door sill is no doubt frozen, and I may have to whack at it with a sledge hammer before I can open it. The bedding in the nesting boxes is tired and wet and needs to be changed. The overall smell of the coop begs for a good spring cleaning. While that will have to wait, I need to do my best to dry up the place. It’s getting full – of, well, you know…. I have been adding bedding material – straw, wood chips – during the winter, and now the floor of the coop is raised up so high it spills out when I open the door. I must find a new routine for the next wintry season. But for today it’s the band aid approach. More wood chips, some tasty alfalfa on top. I can hear Bald Mountain, the mixed breed rooster, crowing. I can hear him from inside the house. (Sometimes I must use ear plugs if I’m wanting to linger in bed a few, peaceful minutes.) I’ve rested enough. It’s not spring yet. I’m off to the coop now, and this time I’m wearing gloves.