Just last week, warm spring weather coaxed us outside in short sleeves and high spirits for several days, hinting at what’s to come. Honey bees were flying, busily collecting water, pollen and early nectar. My queen was laying lots of eggs in anticipation of the spring nectar flow and I even spotted two drones wandering inside the hive along with many fuzzy new baby girls. Bulbs pushed up through the earth, many even blooming. Buds on trees high in the sky were prominently showing off color as their buds threatened to burst forth despite the earliness of the season. Spring buildup was in full force here in Maryland.
The earth is waking up after a winter’s nap and my soul is quickening at the thought of all that is to come with a new season. I’ve pulled out seed packets and begun a few inside. I’m planning the vegetable garden and pondering more plant purchases, eager to sink spade into soil and watch nature work her magic yet again. I even brought blooming lemon plants outside for honey bee pollination services!
The chickens were frolicking in the balmy 60, even 70 degree weather, anxious to get out and free range for newly emerged bugs and greens, fussing at my delays and then cranking with me upon their return to the run. Alas, it all came to a screeching halt as days of cold weather returned and a Nor’Easter threatened, in March.
At first, I ignored the early talk of snow, thinking the ground too warm for anything to properly stick after so many days of warm temperatures, but as each day remained cold and the storm projections climbed, I decided to pay attention. Our winter produced plenty of cold and blustery days but my hens had little experience with snow in their first year of life. Our area was slated to get a foot of snow, more or less depending on the model, but certainly enough to take heed. So I decided to tack up some plastic sheeting to keep out as much snow as I could to allow them coveted outdoor time.
The plastic sheeting sent them into a tizzy as my husband rolled it out and stapled it along the roofline. They huddled in the rear open area of the run while I calmly told them it would be okay. I had to coax them up the ramp into the coop at dusk as they were leery of the plastic being something altogether different. I closed them up tightly for the night and with each wakening of wind and frozen precipitation that assaulted the house, I was able to return to sleep knowing that they were well protected from the elements.
Several inches of snow fell during the night before hours of frozen precipitation topped off the snow, making for a crunchy walk down to the coop this morning. As usual, chickens poured out, pushing and shoving, squawking and racing down their ramp when I opened the run door. Then they just stopped and looked up to me for an explanation.
I was delighted that the plastic wrap held out so much snow that the girls could be outside today to hunt and peck on the dirt under the roof of the run. The girls completely shunned the open area of the run where snow accumulated and when I did offer free range time outside, I laughed as they took in the frozen tundra before them and one by one, snubbed me, turning away and finding interest in the bare earth of the run.
While the snow totals didn’t reach expectations, we still enjoyed a snow day, all of us home together, cozy in a warm home, slowing down to talk and listen, no extracurricular activities to navigate, no plans to uphold, just time to be. I used a dozen eggs to make coffee cake and scrambled eggs with sausage crumbles for breakfast. After working outside, we warmed up with hearty beef stew and now we wait on beer to brew, a slow process perfect for a day like this. The house is full of love, warmth and the smell of hops!
Spring is still just around the corner. The girls know this as they are all laying regularly again after slowing down for the winter: eight eggs yesterday and six so far today. I’m now flush with eggs and after having given so many away the past six months, I’ve decided to sell some. It’s been a delight to hear the reports from friends who try our eggs and find them to be delicious, noting the higher quality from their organic diet and free ranging. The shells are hard and thick, the yolks are vibrant and the colors of the eggs themselves, just plain fun. And that’s just on the surface, digging deeper, I know that the nutritional profile of our eggs is far superior than any eggs from the grocery store.
So Old Man Winter may think he’s got one on us with this late blast of wintery cold, but I say Mother Nature has a way of reminding us that we’re not in charge and when it’s time to slow down and regroup, she provides. As I look out at the fat snowflakes continuing to fall towards evening, I know that the snow will melt soon enough with the return of bright sunshine and warm temperatures and we’ll get on with the business of spring. For now, I’m content with this offering, seeing beauty in falling white flakes and a snow blanketed landscape, knowing that there is more just below the surface.
What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.
- John Steinbeck