The days may be getting incrementally longer, but we are headed into deep winter now. I always find the clear, brilliant blue skies of January a sort of consolation for the cold that reaches fingers deep into my lungs and bones. I’ve been on vacation for a week now and have one more week left. I’ve been busy cleaning up my den to make hunkering down feel cozier.
A brief catch up before launching into chickens and stuff. Life piled up for a couple weeks. My dad died Thanksgiving weekend. It was a surprise, but not really. He was cremated and didn’t want a service or gathering of any sort, so we honored his wishes, difficult as it was. And I found my own way to remember him that could not have been more perfect.
Then we got a foot of snow. Then it was all washed away a few days later in unprecedented weather—55F and thunderstorms. Southern Minnesota had 16 tornados; first time in recorded history we have had tornados in December.
Then there was a great big women’s bike race on Zwift. It was 54 miles. I raced with my team and finished 50 out of 130, and my team finished 15th out of 32 teams in our category. Not too shabby.
And then getting out cards and letters for the fast approaching holidays and meal planning for Solstice. Oof. It’s been nice to breathe a bit and follow my own schedule.
With the oven working again, I got to make the Solstice cake. And it was so worth the wait! We had some coffee flavored oat ice cream on the side (store-bought). I thought the pudding was going to end up on the bottom, but the top turns into pudding, which makes more sense. Served warm, it is a little bit of heaven.
I ordered my garden seeds from two different places and have already received one of the packages. I think the other is due to arrive tomorrow. Looking out at the bones of the garden, I also start wondering what additional perennials might I have room for? Should I finally cave in and get the Chicago Hardy Fig? Am I willing to go to great lengths to protect it in winter so I can have fresh figs? The Juneberry by the northwest corner of the garden is so happy it is suckering all over the place. Should I transplant some of the suckers? And if so, where? I do love Juneberries. Or maybe I should leave it be and move the honeyberry next to it that will be getting crowded if I don’t do something? And dear Walter the crabapple needs to be pruned in March. Must remember. And the hazelnut, someone told me I should coppice ki and it would make ki more productive. But I don’t know how to coppice a tree, and I never get to eat the nuts because squirrels. So do I just prune out the dead branches and some of the crowded ones?
This is what happens when I winter; my body is more constrained, which frees my mind to wander wildly.
We’ve had a couple mild days lately and the chickens have gotten to wander in the frozen garden. The Nuggets are six months old now. They are not quite full size yet, more like 3/4 size. Lucy, the australorp, delighted us with her vocal stylings. She is learning to laugh like our dear Margaret did! When we heard her first attempts we giggled.
It seems I spoke too soon about the Nuggets following along with everything the Dashwoods do. The Dahswoods keep them in line, yes, and have taught them about being chickens and what to expect from the humans, but the Nuggets are now finding some independence. So when James opened the coop door to let all of them out into the run one morning, he was only mildly surprised to see Sia sitting on the lowest roosting bar. Every morning since then, she is sitting on the bar. We are pretty sure she is not roosting there alone. When we close the coop door at night she is in the chicken pile with everyone else. We suspect that she hops up there to be out of the way in the early hours just before the sun comes up, when the chicken pile rumbles awake before we open the coop door.
I have developed a soft spot in my heart for Ethel. She is such a pretty, sweet bird, and on the bottom of the pecking order. She sometimes wanders off alone, I assume to escape the hierarchy for a little while at least. The other day I looked out and she was on the deck, all the other chickens were in the run. I went out and squatted down and talked with her. She walked around, talking back. Then she began eyeing the deck rail, stretching her head and looking at it, measuring, judging the distance. And then she squatted, gathering herself to leap, but was too unsure so stood back up.
She walked around more, talking, and looking up at the deck rail. I told her she could jump up there is she wanted to. She gathered herself again and I gave her encouragement, you can do it Ethel! And with one smooth leap, up she went. She was simultaneously surprised and proud of herself. Good job Ethel! I told her, that was really well done.
She started looking into the branches of the witch hazel next to the deck rail, and I told her it was a very bad idea to consider jumping into them, they all pointed up, there was no horizontal perch. She questioned me briefly, and then agreed, and carefully turned around so she faced me and the deck instead of the witch hazel. She chattered away, taking tentative steps along the rail, getting her footing, building confidence. Then she fluffed her feathers and sat down, tucking everything in.
She was done talking. She wanted some quiet resting time. So I left her to herself on the deck rail, going to peek at her through the window now and then to make sure she was ok. She stayed there for about an hour before jump/flapping onto the deck and going back to join everyone else in the run.
And then on Friday James was home and we were having a movie matinee. I looked up and saw three chickens reflected in the glass of some prints on our dining table wall. For me to see their reflections meant all three of the Nuggets were on the deck rail. We paused the movie and slowly walked to the window so we wouldn’t scare them. Ethel must have jumped up onto the rail, showing Sia and Lucy how to do it. So of course they jumped up too. They were all so very proud of themselves. Though I think Ethel regretted it a little bit because she wanted to move along the rail but couldn’t because there was no room to get around Lucy.
The Dashwoods came up onto the deck and saw the three of them on the rail, then turned around and left. There must have been sighs, especially from Elinor, who, since her feathers have grow back from her molt last month, now has “gray hair.” She is a Rhode Island red, a rich red-brown except for some black in her tail. But now she has silver feathers among the red ones on her head. For weeks I thought they were pin feathers, and I kept expecting them to unfurl. But no, they are little silver feathers. She is almost six. I didn’t know chickens could go gray. I am not used to it because they are so different, and I keep thinking she has something on her head. Elinor carries on as usual. No reason to change just because of a few gray feathers.
- Reading: Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. A quiet, lovely book. It is the second book in a week that includes the bodhisattva Kannon. I had not heard of before and now I want to know more about her!
- The Glassy Burning Floor of Hell by Brian Evenson. Some very strange stories.
- Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays by Paul Kingsnorth. Some very good essays.
- Craftsmanship Quarterly: The Norwegian Sweater Detective Knitting! History! Culture!
- So Hot Right Now: The Christmas Monks. The podcast hosts talk with Brother Spirit and Brother Embrace, two Zen monks from Plum Village (founded by Thich Nhat Hahn). Their names suit them.
- For the Wild: Bathsheba Demuth on a More-Than-Human History. History from a non-human perspective.
- Matrix Resurrections. Very violent. Completely unnecessary continuation of the story. It had some moments but overall, not so great.
- Doctor Who. I am not sure what to make of this season. There is generally not much death or violence in Doctor Who but this season there was a lot of both. And I get the feeling it might be the last season…no more Doctor.