Saturday, February 4, 2012

Evening Chores

It was drizzling this evening as I headed down to the barnyard. The sky was grey and dusk was early and most of the chickens had decided that staying indoors and dry was preferable to being outdoors and wet and they didn’t seem to mind being closed in a tad earlier than usual. Our laying flock includes several breeds - Red Stars, Black Stars, White Rocks and Barred Rocks laying brown eggs of various shades, Leghorns laying white eggs and, Americanas laying lovely eggs of blues and greens. We also have a flock of young Red Star pullets that will begin laying in three months, perhaps around Easter…New eggs for Easter…makes me smile to think about it. The chickens are housed in four coops built long ago, having sheltered literally dozens of generations of laying hens who have roamed the chicken yards, shaded by sycamores and sweet gum trees. Now our flocks roost on the old roosts and lay their eggs in the old nest boxes and who is to say how many future generations will do the same.

As is often the case on weekends, the farm was quiet and this evening I was alone with the animals- a rich, sweet, peaceful aloneness in which everything felt exactly right, exactly as it ought to be. As I made my way into the barnyard, the animals were waiting for me. The watch-geese, I call them, have the loudest voices on the farm and sounded a raucous alarm that the evening routine was about to begin…someone has to do it, I suppose, and they have taken the important responsibility to heart. I gave the donkey his hay in the pasture, allowing the geese and I to scoot into their pen at the back of his stall. I closed them in for the night as they greedily gobbled up their corn and then called to the turkey who was already on his way to his own quarters. Eager for his ration of wheat, corn and chicken feed, he unhesitatingly marched right in and I latched the latch and left him happily pecking his way through dinner.

It was time for milking and I gathered the washing solution and washcloth and the milk pail and headed in to the cows, already in place and munching blissfully on fragrant alfalfa hay. I breathed in deeply and smiled. Though the world is filled with many wonderful scents, I don’t think there are any finer than that of warm cows and good hay and here were both together, just as it should be. I looked around the small old milking barn, wondering how many cows had previously stood in the stalls that are now occupied by our cows, how many gallons of milk had how many hands milked into shiny metal pails just as I was doing and others will do after me.

There is a rhythm to life that I was unable to recognize or appreciate when I was younger. I have come to realize that each stage of our lives has its own joys and sorrows, its own challenges and fulfillment and at any given time we are unlikely to know in advance what the next stage will bring. As it turns out, this stage is offering a life that I used to dream about living, though never seriously imagined I would. I am deeply grateful for the time and the role I have been granted here, for as long as it is mine to live it and pray that my presence will bless and encourage others as much as I am blessed by what I have been given.

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