Saturday, March 3, 2012


The New Egg Rack
IN BIRDLAND IT IS THE SEASON OF MUD. The grass that was green all winter for lack of a frost has now browned, and last week's snow has sunk down into the earth making mud along the footpaths and the edges of the lane. A few days ago the sun warmed the damp earth and a cold shroud crept up on us, so that in the morning, a misty fog rose in swirling pockets all across the field. It was like the earth was breathing, exhaling, and you could see her breath in the chill. And the next morning that same fog crystallized on the trees and the goldenrod stems and the grasses and weeds, so that everything was frosted in white. I thought of how, when you breathe on a frozen window, your breath sometimes creates a spreading pattern of ice crystals. The fog made the distant rows of trees come forth in layers, like plywood scenery in a play, each layer painted a different color to show the distance. If the sun had come out, the sugar-coating on the trees would no doubt have sparkled briefly and then melted away, but the sky was leaden and the trees just kept their frosting for a few days. 

It is the season of Mud.

 The mud thaws and then freezes back again, holding Ursa's paw prints in a hard crust of ice mud. The chickens are still laying well, but now beginning to go broody. When I go out to collect the eggs I find first one, then another hen camped out in the nest box, warming a clutch of eggs of various shades. I reach under her and feel her feathery warmth and steal her precious eggs. She will screech and sometimes peck before flying off in indignation. Sometime in the next few weeks I'll let one of them hatch out a brood, either mixi-chicks from their own eggs, or maybe I'll buy a dozen serama eggs. I miss those tiny chickens I used to have in the aviary. Until then, I bring the stolen eggs into the kitchen and put them into my new Orville and Wilbur egg rack. We were looking at a biography of the Wright brothers, and it had a photograph of their camp kitchen at Kitty Hawk. It was neat and organized, with a long, high shelf lined with cans—all the same kind, lined up with the labels facing front. Below the worktable was a long rack with onions lined up, cheek by jowl. I thought they might keep longer like that, than just thrown together in a bin. Above the table, at eye level was a smaller rack, made of wooden slats, with eggs lined up the same way, like oblong pearls on a string. We had to look closely to see that they were eggs, like mine, of various shades of brown. We talked about making a rack for our kitchen, when I remembered the wooden racks I use for spices. The eggs fit perfectly. Thank you, Orville and Wilbur. I'll name my next roosters after you.

 Kali, my basement kitty, has slipped outside again. She's been gone for a few days. I haven't seen her, but I don't think she's gone far. Probably just to the barn. At night I call her and set a dish of food right outside the basement window, and it always disappears. I have to wait until I've brought Ursula in for the night. My dog would surely get the food before Kali got anywhere near. As it is, Ursa hears the cat coming for her dinner, and starts barking. Kali is so shy that I'm afraid she won't come back in if Ursula is around, but one of these days, I'll leave that window open and set the food just inside. She'll come back in and take her place on the top of the wood burning stove in the basement.

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