Wednesday, May 2, 2012


And I alone survived to tell thee.
SPRING IN BIRDLAND MEANS CYCLING THROUGH LIFE IN RAPID SUCCESSION. On any given day in the spring we have flowers in bud, in bloom, and already gone to seed. Some, having lived out their cycles are already dying, or sinking back into the earth to wait for next year. Some species, like Dandelions, are doing it all at once—tight buds; sunshiny blooms; starry seed puffs; and the sad, empty stalks, like pencil erasers, already forgetting their previous splendor. We've already said goodbye to the early spring blossoms—Lilac, Redbud, Tulips, Daffodils, the bush in the front yard that I mistakenly call Weigela every time it blooms, but it is really a coral pink Rose of some type, no spines, but the Rose family's flowers of five regular petals. Now that the Weigela bush is really blooming, I remember that it's a different flower altogether, and looks nothing like the lush, spherical bush in the front yard.

Now comes the bluish-pink Sweet Rocket and its albino cousin, Horseradish. Yes! Horseradish is one of my favorite flowers, all decked out in bright white lace, like a wedding party, the leaves below in thin green tendrils now, like festive party streamers. In a few weeks those will grow into massive leaves with a sinuous curvature—just in time to fill out a tall bouquet of Day Lilies and Cat Tails. The Iris surrounding the house are just about to break into bloom, already a few early blossoms are sending out their delicate, powdery scent.

But flowers don't offer the only visitation to our yard. We've been hosting an unwelcome guest, too. A hungry varmint, probably a raccoon, has been breaking into my little chick creeper. Each time I would fortify it more strongly, but to no avail. One night we came home late to find one little Rhode Island Red pullet wandering around the yard. Did she know what was about to happen? I opened the top of the chick creeper and felt in the dark to see if the other chicks were already in bed. They were, and I popped the last little chick in the box, and closed up the both lids, laying heavy rocks and bricks on top. In the morning I woke to a mostly empty coop, just a pile of black and white feathers from the Barred Rocks. The brute had dug underneath and dined in the privacy of the chick creeper. All my fortifications were wasted. A few hours later, however, I heard a little peep-peep-peep-peep-peep. Out from the bushes came running my little Rhode Island Red. I named her Ishmael, and put her in with the big chickens. That was a week ago, and she's still traumatized. She spends her days in the dark coop, only coming out when I visit. Then she will run out and circle my feet like a cat until I pick her up and put her on my shoulder. I tell her she needs to get some sun, scratch in the yard and grow big and strong. I take her to various places where the grass is succulent and the bugs are abundant, but the next time I go to check for eggs, there she will be in the dark.

Meanwhile, I will fortify the chick creeper with stronger chicken wire, and maybe let one of the hens set some eggs in there as a last ditch effort to increase the flock a little against predation this summer. I find that the best kind of incubator is a hen, who will also be the brooder. No need to keep the hatchlings warm with lights—she will warm them with her generous, feathery insulation.

They will grow fat on bugs and grubs.
  She'll also teach them the ropes of scratching and other chicken behavior. She'll protect them from the bullying of the big chickens, and they will grow fat on bugs and grubs and the varied diet of a free range chicken.
Bloom in Beauty; Scratch in Peace;
Blessed Be.

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