Friday, March 19, 2010

Last one out's a rotten...

ooops, I didn't mean that. Sorry Swallow.

The last few days when I visit the coop, Taylor and Gabby are quick to take advantage of the open door, leap on the bottom of the door frame and head out to find worms, dig up my garden (no rototiller necessary), and explore. Both of them have easily figured out that the door I use is the opening for them, too.

It is often said that chickens aren't smart, but I'm laying it on the line, so to speak: some chickens are less smart than others. Now I'm not saying this is an IQ test or anything, but Selena and Swallow do not get this door thing. Sometimes I take pity on them and help them out. Sometimes Swallow, in the process of trying to fly out the top of the covered coop, lands in the doorway and gets out. But so far, neither of them has figured it out, and both of them will pace around, against the side of the coop closer to their adventurous sisters, and act like they have no idea how to get to them. I'll give them credit - the doorway does require hopping or stepping over about a foot-high frame. But still - they can see over it, if they stand up straight.

So anyway, it's time to go let out the chickens again, because it is so fun to watch them. And I'm going on record with this statement: no matter how many degrees I have or what fancy schools I attended, no matter that I'm a professor and an author, I am perfectly capable of loving a creature who is really not too bright. At least if that creature is as cute as a chicken.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Little alligators

This past week we were in Florida, doing a sweeping ecological tour of Keys and Atlantic Beaches, the Everglades, and our ever favorite, Ocala National Forest. Despite my newfound affection for mud season, I was terribly happy to be in sand and sun.

One of our favorite tasks, as parents, seems to be scaring the children. Despite our best efforts and several panther crossing signs, we did not get to see a Florida panther in the Everglades. Nor did we get to see any bears in Ocala National Forest, despite bear crossing signs there.

But we did see alligators. In fact, a lot of alligators, including some really hopelessly cute baby alligators. At Anhinga Trail, I couldn't tell if the buzzards were waiting for an alligator to die or the alligators were waiting for a buzzard to get careless, but they were certainly wary of each other. At Ocala, we saw a stingray in a spring pond, and all of us snorkeled above it, treating it with much more deference than all the other fish who swam away from us.

Wood storks, egrets, tricolor herons, swallowtail kites, anhingas, cormorants, white pelicans, a purple gallinule. A really wonderful tern signal at Coot Pond. Birds are all common enough in south Florida, but completely exotic to us. Crabs and man-o-wars. All respectable critters in their own ways. But still, the scary animals are the most fascinating ones.

So I spent a lot of time this week remembering Quickfoot and Lightfoot, Maurice Sendak's little alligators, the quarreling siblings who were fascinated and repelled by the big hungry alligator. And often, I felt like their Mama Alligator, fruitlessly trying to keep them out of trouble with her warnings.

But at least I got to learn that baby alligators really are every bit as cute as the ones Maurice Sendak drew.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mud season - woohooo!

I generally enjoy snow, and of course I love flowers, summer, even a good rainstorm in its time. But usually, my least favorite season is mud season.

Mud season follows snow season, though in a mild winter sometimes the mud season doesn't even have snow as an excuse. It is often drab, feels dirty, and it generally isn't all that warm. It is tough on good shoes and makes even routine yard tasks seem, well, icky.

But this year, I am unspeakably happy to see mud. Mud means the snow is over, if only for a now, and mud means soon I can start planting kale and peas. It doesn't hurt that this year, mud season is beginning with sunshine, and that I'm particularly excited to have a whole new spring with our chickens.

Ask me in a month, and I'll be tired of it, tired of sweeping it and vacuuming it and squelching through it. But for now, mud represents snow melting, the change of colors from all-white to anything else, even if it is just brown for now. But there's hope yet. Maybe after spring break I can start enjoying crocuses, and anticipate the daffodils, if only while wearing boots.