Tuesday, March 01, 2016


Everyone's recalling the old saying -- March roars in like a lion. Maybe it does. But looking outside, I'm grateful that the overnight big snow was not so big after all. I've missed a plentiful snow cover all winter long, but come March, I'm done with winter dreams. My foot is firmly into Spring.

But it is below freezing, and there is a wind, and there is some snow on the ground. I wonder about the cheepers. The young girls seem completely baffled by the manners and foibles of nature. We chalk it up to a lifetime of barn-living, but who knows -- perhaps they are still adjusting to the newness of their environment, coping, as it were, by taking on a watchful stance.

I am up very early. I don't want warfare behind closed doors, where Java and Henny are trapped and have to endure the pecks and squawks of their "superiors." But as I approach the coop, all is quiet. Ed had thrown some old sleeping bags to keep the winds and snow out and honestly, it looked peaceful and snug in the newly winter-pretty landscape.

I open the coop door and dust off snow that has blown in and covered their feeding tray. Butter and Scotch hear me and they come down readily enough. I had shoveled a path to the barn for them and they step out tentatively, testing the gravity of the situation.

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Good enough! They're off!

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Good bye, top hens! Enjoy your barn romp! (I throw them some treats there to keep them happy. It is, after all, not their fault that nature programmed them to establish order and hegemony in a brood of hens.)

Back in the coop, I raise the roost flap. Java and Henny are snuggled inside.

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They do get up when I poke my hand in to clean the place up for the day, but one look at the snow-dusted gangplank and they turn back. Suit yourselves, girls. Some day you'll understand (if not appreciate) the beauty of the seasons.

I walk back to the farmhouse, taking in perhaps for the last time, the snow, the stillness of the land...

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It's not still for long. We get a call from a local several tree service. They have a truck heaped with wood chips that they're looking to offload. Yes, of course! We'll take them! (We never pass on a free load of chips and indeed, we throw down several dozen truck loads in the course of a season. We use them for weed suppression and soil enrichment and path maintenance and for aesthetic reasons too. We think that the beauty of the farmette depends on a steady supply of (preferably free) chips.)

The tree service company dumps the load underneath the big willow. From there, we'll distribute the chips as needed. The tree guy is anxious to unload and get it all out before the entire lot heats up to dangerous levels.

I tell Ed that even though I spent the first years of life and nearly every childhood summer in the deep Polish countryside, I never learned this truth about a heap of damp organic matter: it can turn into smoldering fire that will burn down your barn if you let it be.
Every farmer knows this about storing silage, Ed tells me shaking his physical science-inclined head in that "what kind of a country woman are you anyway?" manner.
I'm not a farmer. And by the way, how hot does it get when we leave the chips alone for a longer spell? (We take our time in spreading them.)
I've checked them in the past -- not really more than 100F, but give them the right environment and boom! Combustion.

Nature has so many surprises for the planet's uneducated inhabitants.

Finally, breakfast. Warm oatmeal in our warm kitchen. Heaven on a morning like this one.

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The roads are icy, but I'm used to it. Everyone here, in Wisconsin is used to it. You take the turns slowly. You concentrate. You watch for the mistakes of others.

I arrive at Snowdrop's home only one minute late.

And now it's time for her breakfast. Hey little one, you must stop expressing sheer joy at seeing penguin. It's hard to feed you mush with blueberries when your mouth is all over that guy.

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After, she runs to the kitchen and finds that I have set out her jacket and cap for a later excursion. 
And excursion? Can we go now? 

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I'll put on my cap! Run, run run...

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Not so fast, little one. Bath time, play time -- we have lots to do here.

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Snowdrop is flexible. And so happy with whatever game she invents for herself. Today, Snowdrop is at her most creative: she plays all day long with these three items: jacket, cap and penguin, arranging them, carrying them, placing them in interesting setups, all the while keeping a lively patter going, as if telling a story.

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(She shares her story here with the family queen, who, for once, listens.)

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... until tiredness overtakes the little girl.

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Nothing that a nap and a meal can't fix. The afternoon -- well, I suppose you'd call it adventuring on a small scale. All morning, the snow continued to gently fall and now, things are looking rather pretty outside. What if we venture out to a store? Time to restock on peanuts and daffodils from Trader Joe's no?

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...followed by a visit to a cafe. You can see her sense of comfort now, as if she were thinking -- I can get into this coffee culture.

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She remains perfectly satisified with a few crumbs of a gingersnap cookie.

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Outside, I let her manage just a little on her own. Okay grandma, if penguins can walk through snow, so can I!

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I feel like the girl grew in leaps and bounds these past few days.

And at the end of the day, I drive home to that treasured place, the farmette, that humbly stands beneath our great Midwestern sky.

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Home, where the cheepers greet us (the old girls had spent the day in the barn, the new girls -- in the coop... so predictable!), and trees are just waiting until the moment when their buds burst with signs of life again.

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I make a pizza for dinner. Did you ever wonder which topping is placed first -- the mushrooms or the cheese? I've been making pizza for a while now and only today have I come to a satisfactory resolution to this great dilemma. Can you guess?

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(Answer: in my opinion, do the sauce first, then the mushrooms, then the cheese, then a few more mushrooms and garlic. There! Ocean has placed itself in the thick of great controversy!)

March came in like a lion, but only weather-wise. All other ways: a lamb. A total lamb.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing that Snowdrop can run... it's going to be an adventurous Spring all right! Just wait until she starts chasing the cheepers.


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