Monday, April 07, 2014


My days at the farmette are deliberately calm. Quiet. Without fuss, usually without much contact with the outside world. This was the goal for at least the early stages of retirement and it hasn't been difficult to stay true to this pattern. Each hour poses the simplest questions: to read? to write? to let the chickens out? In the evening, the content changes, but the questions remain equally small: to cook? to write? to watch a movie? when to put the chickens back in the pen?

The ground is still too cool for planting and besides, there'll be the unexpected cold dip (or two) yet and so garden work proceeds slowly. A pruning, a raking but mostly I wait for the days to grow warmer.

And I enjoy the slow (at this point very slow!) transformations. The multiplying crocuses.


The swelling buds on the lilac bushes. Not extravagant yet, but to a person starved for the growing season, it is enough.

For the chickens, each day brings with it reassurance that the routines are here to stay. And with that reassurance, comes an incredible desire to explore and expand the range of new places in which to scratch, sniff and tumble.

So that when I go out on this cloudy but not too cold morning and I clean the coop, let them roam within the pen, change their water and then say -- so long!, they seem disappointed. Many chickens would be thrilled with a pen of 12 x18, theirs from sunrise to sunset, but not our foursome. They've smelled better and they want it.

And so just before our breakfast (which is increasingly only in the kitchen, where we can keep an eye on them)...


...we let them out. (Here's Oreo doing his threatening dance to ward off enemies.)


And they revisit all their favorite spots around the farmhouse and now they want more. My flower beds are always on the short list and I sweat as I watch them start a scratching project right in the thick of the daffodils and daylilies.

I'm relieved when they pause for a break. Right at the farmhouse doorstep. As usual.


And then they want even more. At first, they explore the area where Ed is working -- right by the garage. He watches, mezmerized by their movements.


Lexie, as always spirited and the most adventurous, gets on the picnic table to see what he's up to. She tries a few pecks to get him to acknowledge her superiority. I shout at her. She gives me a look and gets back down.


When Ed goes away to run errands, Lexie continues to explore. The garage this time. What's this? A moped? What's a moped?


I chase her out.

The whole flock ventures out toward the willow and Lexie discovers the big mound of branches we have there, undisturbed, unshredded, unburnt because Ed swears there's plenty of wildlife that depends on it for shelter, especially come winter. She pokes her nose into one of the openings and now I have to run out to rescue her in case some hibernating animal emerges and goes after the poor innocent girl.


But, no animal emerges and they continue round the mound, like in a folow the leader game and it is our spirited Lexie who leads this adventuring expedition.

And now I can see that she has the urge to lay an egg. She runs back to the coop and so she's out of the exploration for a while. The two hens take charge. I'm still right behind them because I have this fear that they'll go straight for our tomatoes. But they don't do that! They remember the barn and that wonderful pile of mulch and they make their way there and it is so clear to me that their range at the farmette is turning out to be very wide indeed. Now that these chickens have experienced Paris (in the form of dirt baths, limb piles and God knows what else), we're not going to be able to keep them down on the farm -- which in their case is their pen. At least not without a protest and restlessness that I fully recognize because, after all, am I not one who loves to interrupt periods of tranquility with a trip to another corner of the world on a fairly regular basis?

Eventually Lexie runs down again to join us, but by then the hens are deeply covered by dirt, as if in a trance, loving the freedom, the warm air, the dirt, yes, the dirt!


Lexie finds a high perch and seems to shout down at them -- you guys are nuts! -- but there seems to be a smile to her countenance.


She understands adventuring.

Me too. I understand it. Even as I know that the spirited natures of these chickens will give me plenty of headaches in the weeks to come.