Letter from Birdland: We seem locked in for another dry spell

In Birdland the long days of lovely cool weather seem to be gone. We needed rain even before the temperature went up — but even more so now. It's been more than a month, and still no rain is in the forecast.

The grass is still green, the katydids keep up their chorus and the bats still swoop and scatter in the evenings, but we need rain.

Are you tired of hearing about my foot? I get a little better every day and now have graduated to wearing my regular shoes, but still have to take it easy for a few more weeks. I got the OK to ride my bike the 2 miles from my car to my office, so I won't have to walk.

I can almost feel like I will someday be able to get around normally again and tend the garden and the yard.

The ghost lilies have come and gone. The stems are still there, but the delicate pink bells are now just memories: shreds of tea-colored crepe hanging. Some of the pistils are swollen with the developing seeds.

The Jerusalem artichokes are just beginning to pop out their sunny flowers. They escaped from the old grain wagon where Michael planted them years ago, and now shade my garden coop, slowing down the growth of my cucumbers and tomatoes. Well, the tomatoes are growing, but not ripening. I'm not sure if it's the lack of sun or the lack of rain.

The cucumbers grow — but much more slowly than in years past. No more keeping a bowl full on the counter. Instead I just pick enough for dinner to peel and slice into a brine of vinegar, salt, pepper and herbs from the garden.

Today I go back to school, and though I'm ready for the new rhythms, this morning was a portentous beginning. I went out to feed the chickens and let them out for the day. The big ones are always happy to be let out: I see them eagerly looking toward my window when I look out every morning first thing.

The little Seramas (tiny little teacup chickens) are less eager to wander the world. They stay in the aviary and most days I coax them out to graze and peck around their little orchard. This morning, though, coaxing them out turned into an experience.

Now, you need to know first that Ursula had been opening the aviary door and helping herself to the chicken feed. My dog gets plenty of kibble, but that doesn't stop her from begging, stealing, scavenging, or anything else to get one more mouthful. We had a latch on it, but by hooking her claw in the chicken wire on the door, she found she could pull the door open right through the latch.

Michael took action. My husband installed a hook and eye, and indeed, Ursula hasn't opened the door since. But the hook and eye has its own problems. The placement is a little off, and sometimes I have trouble getting the hook out of the eye to open the door, and sometimes I have trouble putting it back again.

This morning I had a whole 'nother set of difficulties. I went in with a scoop of pellets, and the door snapped shut after me. I put the pellets in the dish and then turned back to prop open the door and shoo the Serama chickens out, but the little hook had somehow swung itself into the eyelet. I was locked in.

Now, our aviary is at the back of the yard, and nobody was up yet. I tried for a bit to rattle the hook out of the eye, but that didn't work. The wood mulch on the aviary floor has sticks in it, so next I tried poking various sticks through the chicken wire, but they were either too big, too short or too straight to reach around and flick open that hook.

I tried yelling and yelling (and yelling), but nobody answered. Eventually I found a bent stick and tried again. I flicked that hook out once, twice, three times — but each time it fell back into the eyelet. So close to freedom! I did another series of yells, but still nothing.

I was almost ready to give up. I poked that stick through one more time and BAM! The door opened suddenly and I was free. Now I hope I have time to get ready for the first day of classes!

Lock in beauty; open in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is hoping for rain. You can read more of her writings and see photos at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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