Monday, April 18, 2011

Sudden Storm in the Frog Night

Birdland is suddenly muggy, and I can hear the frogs sing in the pond through the open window. Opening the windows for the first time in the season is always a cause for celebration. These frogs have a deep, satisfying chirp, and I like to think they are bullfrogs, but I don't really know what kind they are. The grass is patchy, mostly green but dappled with large brown spots of winter's thatch. A few nights ago I mowed two sections of the yard, just up by the house. I was racing sunset and the onset of dew, and the setting sun won. I like breaking tasks into manageable parts. Maybe I'll find for a few more sections tonight.

Spring seems to be flirting with summer already. In my yard the daffodils are in their glory, and narcissus is following closely. The redbuds have joined in and the weigela is covered with tight little buds, like pink capers, now beginning to open in the warmth of the afternoon. The peonies I dug last fall to line my path with have sent up scarlet shoots, and the leaves of the ghost lilies are knee high.

Ellis' friend, Mackenzie, has hatched us some chicks, which we brought home two days ago. Yesterday I spent the bulk of the day setting them up with a brooder in the aviary. Ellis and I raked out last year's composted litter and added a fresh mulch of hay. My youngest can be pretty motivated to do chores when they're for the chickens. We put some fencing in to keep the old rooster from stealing their food, and provide them some protection from his spurs, but he seems to have accepted the chicks without incident. They're small enough to venture through the bars of their fence into the larger part of the aviary, but our old rooster is more interested in baiting Ursula. My dog is very interested in these events, and kept sniffing around the outskirts of the aviary.

The rooster would puff up his chest and jump at the chickenwire, whenever Ursula got too close. Meanwhile, we put up a light, to warm them, and a plastic wall to keep out the worst of the wind, and a little wooden nest box I made years ago when we had quail. By evening they had settled into a comical routine of scratching in their new yard, and by the time I fell asleep thinking about the song of the frogs, the safety of the chicks had settled in my mind like a comforting blanket.

Around 2 A.M. I half woke to dampness coming in through the open window, but wasn't fully awake until I realized I could hear the wind. Without my hearing aids, I don't even hear thunder, and won't wake up until Isis frantically nudges me awake. My old dog has always been afraid of thunder, but she's getting deaf now, too. Here in the darkness, I could hear...something... and if it really was the wind, maybe it was the freight train noise they say accompanies a tornado. I was contemplating the wisdom of various responses from waking Ellis up to wait out the storm in the basement to rolling over to go back to sleep. By morning the storm will have passed. Sleep was just about to win out when I remembered the chicks. Their protection was minimal; the plastic wall I put up and the wooden nestbox were enough for a breezy night and a light rain, but these gale force winds?

What would you do? Obviously the best plan was to slip on my garden shoes and run out into the rain in my nightgown. I was soaked to the skin before I got to the driveway. I could see the light shining bravely in the aviary, but was sure I'd find a pile of wet, dead chicks. Flashes of lightening lit my path as I ran into the wind. When I got there, the chicks' little yard was empty. Maybe after they died, rats had carried them away. I lifted the lid of the nestbox and six pairs of bright eyes looked up at me. They were huddled close together, and seemed to be warm and dry, but wondering why I was disturbing their rest. I adjusted the plastic wall to block the worst of the wind and water until the storm passed, and then went back into the house to change into a dry nightgown.

Walk in Beauty; Work in Peace; Blessed Be.

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