Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Memories of Young Jack

We've been living here for just about two years. Slowly we are becoming country folk. In keeping with that theme we decided to raise a few chickens. First we bought six chicks of varying breeds that were to grow into laying hens. The laying hens will mature in September and start laying eggs of their own accord. I understand one chicken is capable of producing an egg, without the aid of a rooster, every twenty six hours on average.

Then, getting into the spirit of things we bought twenty meat chickens. Unlike the laying hens the meat chickens are white. They grow incredibly fast and are ready for their destiny in the freezer in less than two months.

When Jean came home with the twenty little yellow fluff balls there was an extra, chicken number twenty one. She was almost black, an "Americanna", and would be our seventh laying hen. She would lay blue eggs eventually.

We didn't name the meat birds because of the temporary nature of their stay with us, but each hen has a name. The dark colored number twenty one we named "Jack".

From day one I have been nervous about predators. We have coons and coyotes and many other wild things creeping about here in the dark. I built a "chicken tractor" for the hens which is a small moveable coop. The chickens run free on some days, when dusk approaches they find their way back to the safety of the tractor and we close them in for the night.
Each chicken has it's own nature, a personality. Jack had the colors of a hawk, she was the first one out of the coop when it was opened, she was fast and would run circles around the others. As she approached maturity she grew fluffy black feathers around her face that looked like a beard. We joked that she looked like she should have signed the decleration of independance.
We had grown to really like Jack.

It was a little late last night when I closed up the chicken tractor. Since it was dark I didn't see that Jack had decided to stay out for the night. It wasn't until the middle of the night when we woke to hear the sound, under our open bedroom window, of Jack being killed that I realized she wasn't in the coop.

We both got up and ran outside to look for the source of the noise. I saw movement in the long grass under our bedroom window and pointed my flashlight there. I was suprised to see a small cat, the size of a big kitten, trying to drag Jack's body, which was larger than the cat, through the grass. The cat let go and ran away into the night. It is likely this feral cat will become the prey of coyotes by fall. And we will have only brown and white eggs.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Magic Light

I took a walk this evening in the fields. It's been cloudy and cool for the first of July, but this evening the clouds retreated before the sun set. I have said many times before that I think there is magic in the late afternoon sun. I say it to myself when I walk some evenings.

I can thank the dogs, they lured me away from the pile of dinner dishes in the sink with good natured barking tail chasing and imploring looks. I saw a study once that people who own dogs are healthier. We also have sinks full of dirty dishes.

On my path I came upon the broken up pieces of the jaw bone of a fawn. The coyotes must be living high this time of year. It's interesting, I've hardly heard them call for months.

There are places out here that are like food for my eyes. Just by the look of them they invite me to stop and sit and become part of the scene. Fragments of verse about long grass occupy the fringes of my mind.

A trail that crosses my path shows that deer regularly pass through here. In this place I am surrounded by soft maples and soft looking grass. The leaves on one tree look healthy, but the bark is flaking off. Pulling off dead bark shows a nest of ants. Several of the trees are like this. I notice many of the milkweeds in this area have ants in them as well. There are also ant hills three feet across.

Maybe it's better that I don't sit down in the grass.It is quiet now, I don't hear truck engines or sirens or trains. Only the birds and bugs continue their sounds. Everyone has stopped to take a breath and enjoy the evening. As the sun sets it's light is on the face of everything, the leaves, the trunks of trees, the clouds and even the moon.

Then I hear "thop, thop thop" far away growing louder. It is a helicopter heading towards the hospital. They are high above our field, in the middle of everything just like me. I wonder if they see what the evening light is doing. The people in the helicopter hover above green fields and forest, the clouds rolling away to the east and the sun setting in the west. For some reason as they pass I take a picture of them. There are people up there looking out. I am here, but I'm sure they don't see me.

The blazing sun sinks into the horizon without making any sound. As this happens I raise my camera as if I might capture this moment. After snapping the picture I look at the dogs. They continue to sniff and run. I realize it's just another night.