I hope everyone survived the winter freeze that seemed to run rampant across the country last week. I saw a film from a swamp in North Carolina that showed alligators, and maybe crocodiles, with their snouts frozen and sticking up out of the water. Several, including myself, have had frozen water pipes and some even went without electricity for a bit. And, of course, there were many jokes about climate change and the earth melting. So, I guess winter is off to a good start!
We did try to entice the dog into the house one evening. He lasted about twenty minutes and then shot out the front door and back into his man cave. We had some old carpet and put carpet on the floor of his little house and then we bought an extra blanket and swirled it around in his little bed. And the whole contraption sits on the covered porch. The cats spare it a glance now and then, but generally walk by as if it does not exist.
The chickens don’t mind the cold and do their best to pester both the dog and the cats. They hop on anything and everything, poop, and then sing about it. We have a diverse backyard with an evolving pecking order. We got the dog before the cats were born so he was king of the yard for a bit. The cats got bigger and tended to ignore him. He can bark and run in circles all he wants but when tired of him, they jump over the fence – which makes him even crazier because he knows they are on the other side!
Last summer we added some dark red hens. At first, they were tucked away in their little house, but as they grew we added fenced-in areas for them to forage. The dog would sniff his way around their pen multiple times a day, strutting and charging them. He felt so safe. Finally, the day came when I thought the hens were big enough to be set free. I opened the pen and let them out into the yard. The dog was brave until a hen looked at him and ruffled her feathers. He took off for his man cave on the porch.
The fall went well because the hens stayed pretty much around their pen. The cats come and go, and the little dog can jump onto the top of his house and pretend that he is ruler of all he sees. And for a while, all was at peace. Early on, the little dog would eat out of the cat food bowl and ignore his own bowl. The vet told us that is because dogs prefer cat food. So, we had a bowl of cat food for him on the ground and a bowl of cat food on the outdoor table for the cats. All were happy.
When we have scraps or bones I divide it between the bowls. But alas, we have a shift in the order of things. The chickens, not content with their scratch, all the bugs in the yard, or their laying pellets, have ventured to the porch!!! All manner of barking with not dissuade them from hopping up onto his sacred terrain. They squawk and cackle and he barks and acts like he is going to run them off the porch. The chickens have circled his bowl and are eating his cat food and there is nothing he can do about it.
So, now I feed the chickens first on their side of the yard. I feed the dog second, so he can eat while they scratch and hop through their corn, and I feed the cats last because they can do what ever they want. This morning I had several bowls of leftovers and I decided to divvy them up. I tossed the green stuff to the chickens and went around to take some old spaghetti to the dog. He sniffed and licked and OK’ed my selection. No sooner did the first drop hit the bottom of the bowl than there was a hen tilting her head, waiting for a taste. I shooed her away and moved the bowl to the back fence. He gulped down a few bites and then there were six others. I was surprised that the hens would eat spaghetti. One grabbed an old noodle and it was hanging out of her beak. She ran in spurts around the yard while the others chased her. I suppose they thought she had a juicy worm.
As I watched the animals in our mixed up back-yard world, I thought about how mixed up and crazy our human world is, because there ARE days I run around like a chicken with a noodle in my beak. I go here and there, and I feel as if I am not getting anywhere. There are days I feel like the dog. I bark and bark and no one listens. There are days I am like the cats. I saunter by with a haughty attitude, fill the tub, lock the door, and ignore the world.
On the days I wake up and find myself living in a crazy mixed-up world that I don’t understand, I am thankful for friends my age who understand my confusion. I am thankful for my kids who will listen and try to steer me down new paths of understanding. And on the days I wake up to find that the water is frozen solid in the pipes, I am thankful that at least the electricity is still on.
Happy Winter! Bundle up and stay warm!