Another Day in the Country
The promises of spring
© Another Day in the Country
It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The sun was shining with promises of getting up past 65 degrees — spring juices rising.
I got up and put on shorts and a T-shirt in anticipation. Warm days were just what I was hankering for — especially on a weekend.
Then I walked out to get the mail and discovered that it would be hours and hours until the hoped-for 65 degrees of warmth was attained. So I came back in, put on my long pants and a sweat shirt, and scolded myself for my impetuousness.
By late in the afternoon, that hoped for warmth had materialized. It was time for a celebration, which for me means letting out the hens.
They were excited. How many times had they watched the neighbors’ chickens over here in their very yard, exploring while they themselves, the true inhabitants of this land, could only pace back and forth behind the fence?
“It’s about time,” said my favorite black hen, Frida Kahlo. “What did you bring us to eat?”
“You’re on your own,” I said to her, laughing at her impertinence. “It’s your chance to be creative.”
It was like a chicken treasure hunt with hens running here and there. Even my cat, Skeeter, came outside to join in the fun as I pulled up my yellow chair and settled in to do some serious chicken-watching.
The hens love scratching in the mulched areas of the yard. This time of year, they can’t do too much damage. The tulips that are peeking through the leaf mold are pretty sturdy, holding their own turf as the chickens make the mulch fly.
They seem to rejoice in aerating the ground with its perfect consistency, still moist from the rain we received but definitely not muddy.
I’m baking a carrot cake from a tempting recipe I found in this month’s “Living” magazine. It looks yummy with two cups of grated carrots and spices including cardamom.
As I read the recipe, then went hunting through the spice drawer, I discovered that I don’t have the called for poppy seed.
“Ah, well,” I say to myself, “let’s add raisins and walnuts instead of poppy seed. That should work.”
And it did! Baked in a loaf pan, this cake sports a lemon and powdered sugar frosting. Is your mouth watering?
I trekked back and forth between yards, checking on my baking masterpiece. My neighbor was out in his yard, enjoying the weather and doing what we call “broadcasting” as he played his country music. I think they were probably chicken-watching, too.
When I’d taken my cake out of the oven and returned to my yellow chair with a news magazine to read in the sunlight with a warm slice of carrot cake for nibbling, my hens came running across the yard at the Ramona house to welcome me.
“Now did you bring us something to eat?” Frida called out, leading the battalion of black hens heading toward me.
“Nope,” I said, “Sorry girls. This is mine.”
But I relented and brought out some scratch grain, tossing it in the brown grass for them to play their hunt-and-peck game.
Finished with their molt, all newly fine feathered, these hens look so pretty — especially the black australorps with such beautiful plumage.
As the sun shines down on their iridescent backs, it turns their feathers peacock blue and green; I just watch them and smile.
As they do their scratching, two-step dance, I admire the fluffy down on their bottoms — all newly grown, extending like fancy bustles or pretty pantaloons under their full feathers.
Frida, the tamest of the lot, has moved over by the fence and digs herself an indentation in the soft soil to take a dirt bath. I love to watch them stretch out their wings to absorb more of the sunshine’s heat, turning and sifting the soil through their feathers like a starlet preening in a bubble bath.
I know that dirt-bathing is good for them but I almost hate to see them do it with their brand-new feathers on. I’m protective of their new duds like my mother used to watch over my church clothes.
“Don’t get them dirty!” I think.
The sun is getting lower. There’s a tiny breeze kicking up with a knife edge of chill air in it. Frida and I sit still soaking up the warmth. She closes her eyes in contentment, relaxing into the sun’s rays on this prematurely warm day in the country.