A temperature drop was on the way. I had spent the predawn hours preparing for work and then taking a thirty minute nap in my car amidst a backdrop of lightening and pitter patter rain on the metal roof and windshield. For me, i’ve always had trouble getting to sleep in a house but i’ve never had this problem in the car. I close my eyes and it is the best, most restful sleep i’ve ever had. I recline the seat, ball up my jacket as a pillow, loop the arms of another jacket in the handles on the ceiling and tuck it behind the seat belt stretched around the headrest to make a curtain against the street lamp and have a beautiful 30 minute nap every morning. It is a rare treat that i also get lulled to sleep by the sound of rain.
The storms rolled through all morning and midday. By the afternoon the wind had picked up and the temperature had begun to drop. The storms had gone and were replaced with clear blue sky. The cold wind was bitter and piercing. I hurried to unload the groceries. I took another nap in the afternoon. It was a restless sleep. I could hear the house and trees outside creaking and the wind moaning and rattling the windows. I dreamt of many things, none of them settling. When i woke i did the evening chores as the wind whipped the hair round my face. I made sure the trees and plants were covered and the spigots had their frost protectors on. The dogs were grounded for spilling a whole vat of drinking water and watching it soak into the thirsty dirt instead of making use of what took a $50 filter and an hour to de-sulphur a half gallon of, because they’re brats that dont understand what goes into making well water potable. I watched Cashew emphatically lift and launch the basin sideways, water stretching out sideways in a national geographic type shot, sunlight hitting the beads just right as they flew through the air and then all that precious water was gone in a second as it hit the dusty ground dried by the wind after the storm. Both dogs celebrated the excitement by prancing and bouncing while Cashew tossed the bowl about the dog run. I watched it all happen from afar, a slew of ill advised words leaving my mouth as it flew through the air. Once in the house I opened the doors and into the crates they trotted amidst a harshly worded lecture about resources, survival, and their abhorrent conduct during the afternoon shenanigans. I went to the well with the pitcher and filtered one more half gallon for the next hour so that the dogs and i would have something to drink in the evening.
When i woke from my second nap i went to the shed and filled the orange pitcher with chicken feed. I had to use our container of laundry detergent as a weight to hold the shed door open so that the wind did not whip it into the railing with force and take a chunk out of the wooden board as the door handle made contact. I brought the pitcher to the chicken pen and called the chickens. I used food time as a way to socialize the chickens and cement our bond so i placed the pitcher on the ground and grabbed a handful of feed. Some chickens ate from my hand. Others dipped their heads into the pitcher. Most of them gathered around me and i got an opportunity to pet them and inspect their feathers, legs, and skin. I checked for sores, poop plugs, and any glaring problems per the usual routine. Ellis and Rosie are fat on chicken feed. Lily, Oakley, and Petunia are average. Daisy is alarmingly thin. I’ve always had trouble keeping weight on her, but i suspect she needs to be dewormed again. I asked my relative in the city to pick up a couple organic squash and i’ll go up to get them around Christmas and give Daisy the seeds. She’s the only chicken that is trusted in the house periodically because she follows me so i won’t be trying to get her down off the stacked washer and dryer unit with a broom handle in a flurry of squawking and feathers as she dive bomb poops the furniture. I will cut the first squash in half, scoop out the seeds, place them on the floor boards next to my rocking chair, and then have her into the house to eat them away from the other rowdy chickens to ensure she gets them all. Then i will likely let her pick at the squash halves for a bit before returning her to the pen where i will place the remaining squash halved in front of the flock and let them all collectively eat the thing. Rosie and Ellis will probably get most of it. They are the dominant eaters. They’re both huge as a result. As i fed the chickens by hand before dumping the feed in their dispenser i tried to get Daisy to eat by offering her little pieces of millet, her favorite part of the scratch. She cocked her head and stared at it and then snuggled into my neck instead. It was cold and windy and her frozen comb was like ice against my skin. I hugged her to me and shielded her against the wind. I wrapped my arm around her and clutched her like a football while i used my free hand to hold the pitcher upright for the other chickens. She wouldn’t eat until i had dumped the feed in the dispenser and left the pen. Then she would go in and pick all the millet out of the feed. My picky chicken. For now she was just interested in cuddles as the other chickens stuffed themselves. She buried her head in my sweatshirt and leaned into me. I tucked her in against me, squatting with my back to the wind, pressing my cheek against her feathers and exhaling into the feathers around her head and neck. She seemed to like the warm air from my breath. I pressed her comb against my cheek until it was no longer ice cold. With Daisy thawed she made her happy cooing noises to tell me thank you, i decided if i waited any longer the other chickens would eat all the feed, i dumped it in the dispenser and left the pen. Without me to shield her from the wind my lean little Daisy headed for the shelter of the hen house and to pick at the millet in the feed dispenser.
As i headed for the house i noticed something bright peeking through the trees. I stood on the wooden porch railing and held onto the post for balance. I could see the beginnings of a bright moon rising just above the horizon through the trees.
As night fell i realized i had been looking at a full moon. It was so bright you could see the whole yard and make out every tree and blade of grass. It didn’t even look like night time. This was a good thing because soon i would realize the porch light was out and i would use the light of the moon to make my way to the mouse infested tool shed by the orchard to get a light bulb. There were two left in the box of 8. I grabbed one and placed the box back on the shelf. Then i careful picked my way through the cardboard and styrofoam nests the mice had constructed from packing materials in the shed and made the trek back to the house.
Once at the house i used the moonlight to see what i was doing as i placed a chair underneath the porch light and unscrewed the screws that held the jar in place over the light bulb. I unscrewed the old light bulb, screwed in the new light bulb, and placed the jar back over it. I put the screws in place and tightened them up against the sides of the top of the jar. I got down off the chair and put it back where it had been on the porch. I flipped the switch in the house and the porch was immediately overwhelmed with fluorescent light.
They dont sell regular light bulbs anymore. The grocery only carries those energy saver, good for the environment kind now. Instead of the gentle orange glow i was used to, these bulbs emitted an incredible amount of bright white light that reminded me of the fluorescents in a government or public school building. Though i wasn’t fond of the color, i did note that i could see all the way to the chicken pen from the porch since switching the bulb out. I headed into the house with the dogs to hide from the impending freeze. The chickens were already in their coop, huddled together on their roosting bars. The door was pulled to but not latched. The temperature change and precipitation had made the wood swell and it no longer lined up. But, that’s why the pen was fenced with heavy metal panels and buried wire fencing. I had given them scraps of pear cores and asparagus stalks upon returning to the property. Hopefully the table scraps would act as fuel to keep them warm through the night. So, with the chickens and dogs fed, the plants covered, and the porch light changed i made a pot of miso soup with purple sweet potato noodles, tofu, and seaweed and prepared to take another nap before waking at half past midnight to go open the store again. I figured i’d be seeing more of that brilliant moon.