Letter from Birdland: Anticipatory moments; more to come

Letter from Birdland: Anticipatory moments; more to come

It's starting to green up; almost time to hatch some chicks

Last night Sheeva stayed out all night. Again.

But my cat was glad enough to come in when she heard me go to the basement to pour food into her dish.

I saw her at the window and opened it. The damp air spilled down into the basement, but wasn't too cold.

Sheeva did a little back and forth dance at the windowsill, trying to decide which way to step, but finally she did come in and bounded lightly onto the top of the garbage can, to the floor, to the top of the wood stove and then up to the warming shelf above, where I keep her dish. All this in about a second, so that she looked like she was flying, not stepping one quick paw at a time.

Ursula waits patiently for me to dump kibble in her dish.

Well, not so patiently: a little anxiously, in fact, her eyes twitching back and forth from the dish to my hand holding the cup of food. But my dog does wait for the signal I give her, patiently or not.

She waits when I say, "wait," then, after a few beats I say, "OK!" and she springs to her dish. This is a trick we taught her as a puppy, trying, I guess, to teach her some self control. She performs it faithfully every time she gets dinner or breakfast.

Birdland is thawing again — and greening up. The yard goes back and forth between spongy and crusty. Yesterday the mud was squishy enough to make deep paw prints, but this morning, those are hard with just a sprinkling of ice crystals, like sugar on a pastry.

The grass is crunchy when I walk out to the chicken coop. The green tips of daffodils and some other bulbs are showing in clumps. Last summer we cut down a row of poplars that had started to die, so the south bed will have a lot more sun this spring. It will be fun to see what the sun encourages there this year.

The chickens are getting broody. Each morning when I open the coop to spill pellets into their feed tray, at least one hen is setting a clutch of eggs. Usually it is one of the Rhode Island reds, but today it was one of the auracanas.

She had stolen the eggs. They were not her blue ones, but she was faithfully warming them just the same.

Maybe soon I will bring one hen into the basement to a nest box in the dog crate to hatch out a dozen or so chicks.

It's almost that time. I will put the dog crate in the corner and pile up some hay for a nest.

Sometimes I buy eggs, but sometimes I just let them hatch their own eggs.

One quiet hen sits softly in the basement for 21 days, getting up only occasionally to stretch her legs and sip water or nibble at a little food.

A broody hen goes into a meditational state and we don't hear her much.

Sometimes I forget she's there, and then get surprised and pleased when I go down to do laundry and have her quiet company.

The dog crate keeps curious feline and canine friends at a safe distance.

Once in a while I can tell when Ursula had wandered too close to the hen's corner when I hear the warning "bwu...bwu...bu bu bububub!" starting low and slowly with a gravelly sound like an engine warning up, then chugging faster and faster.

If Ursula doesn't take heed, the hen will accelerate into a shriek and I'll go downstairs to set everyone at peace again. Yes, I think it's about time to set a hen on some eggs.

Wait in beauty; hatch in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in the cycles of the year and green growing things. You can see pictures of Birdland and read more of her writings at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. She can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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