Friday, January 19, 2018

not an ordinary day...

Finally: we jumped over the freezing point! It wasn't a huge leap -- just a few degrees, but we appreciate the gesture. Thank you, winter!

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Breakfast, lovely again...

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But it isn't an altogether cheerful breakfast. Apple, our oddly clipped and speckled cheeper, did not magically appear this morning. She is officially missing.

I can hear some of you thinking -- Nina, it's a chicken, for Pete's sake! The same one that you like young and tender on the grill!

I know I know I know. But still.

Fact is, we have no idea what happened to her! In the four years with the cheepers, we've lost chickens to predators twice before: once, the girl was just so old that she moved at a snail's pace, making herself vulnerable to any watchful animal. The second time it was our fault. The two very young hens were chattering away in the coop and we locked them up too late. We learned our lesson: you can't close the coop before dusk because you can't hustle the girls inside that early. But you cannot wait much beyond dusk.

Yesterday, we were fairly on schedule. Oh, it was getting dark, so you could say a few minutes earlier would have been optimal, but still, was she really snatched? There are no signs of struggle. (In the past, we'd always come across the gory mess.) There are no predator paw prints in the snow. No feathers. Nothing.

In all honesty, Apple was not my favorite of the four: she was a newcomer, yet she bullied the older girls. She was brazen and would jump up to snatch anything that looked like bread from your hand. At the same time, her bully nature shielded a timid girl. She hated snow and reluctantly trailed the others when they ventured out in winter. She was molting now and looked scrawny and terribly unattractive, but she was the best layer that we had ever had. As I sit at the kitchen table, I look up constantly now, as if she were like the cats who come and go. Back, are you? Did you have a fine adventure?

But of course, her adventure, whatever it may have been, wasn't fine at all. She is just plain gone.

Ed and I talk about creating enclosures going forward. The cheepers love their freedom, their digging and scratching, the hunt for ticks and worms. They are happy as can be playing in the dirt by the cars on a sunny day and happier still to follow us around the farmette on a summer day. If you pen them up, you can secure them only if you put in strong wire mesh on all sides, and on the ground, and overhead. That seems such a terrible alternative to happy roaming.

Java and Henny have been with us two years. Butter lived a long chicken life -- several years before she came here, and three years with us. We're not ready to lock up the three that are with us now. Though of course, if it was a predator, it is likely that he'll be back. We have to be on high alert in the weeks ahead.

(And now there are three, as viewed through the kitchen window...)

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Okay: have a cappuccino and a cookie with me and let's switch focus.

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Because really, the bulk of the day is spent on happier thoughts. There are two important reasons for this: first of all, there is my afternoon with Snowdrop.

I pick her up at school. Despite the relatively mild temperatures, I know it's not going to be an outdoor play kind of day. It's Friday. It's never a good idea to plan on robust activity at the tail end of the week. Snowdrop, it's time to go! 

(Silliness? Tiredness? A combination of the two!)

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It takes us fifteen minutes to leave the school.

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Farmhouse at last, where she plays with her gift from one of you! A penguin/polar bear bag for her "grocery shopping."

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I sit in the kitchen with my tea cup, she spins tales in the play room. Sometimes I want to ask for a clarification.
Can I come in?
Noooo.... (with a shake of the head for emphasis)

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You can stay in the other room, grandma.

And for a long long while I do. There is something so enchanting in being in a warm kitchen, while your granddaughter's voice trickles in, escalating, receding. A melodic stream of sentences.

Eventually, her energies restored, she tugs me back into her play space. Can we dance?
Ah, now it's back to "we." And suddenly, her spunk, her giggles, her delightful tease are restored. Dance with me, Gaga, dance on the red squares!

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And I do.

Dusk. Ed heads out to close the coop. I want to go with him! -- Snowdrop is insistent. I'll come too.

She turns on the flashlight and gives it to him. That had been the routine in the past, but they're heading out earlier now.

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The cheepers are hardly settled. Java is hiding in the hay bales, Henny is up in a tree. Peach is in the coop. We chase the other two inside and lock the door. They'll be safe tonight.

There is a second reason for having terrifically happy thoughts today -- it is the birthday of my younger daughter. She is, of course, in Chicago. Our celebrations were last week. But never will a January 19th go by without my heart being turned toward her -- my little girl who now has her own little girl growing inside. To wish her love and happiness will forever now be to wish them both love and happiness. It is an obvious truth that motherhood is a forever deal. So, happiest years ahead to all these beloved kids in my life and today, with added strength and zeal -- to my adored and admired sweet Chicago girl!