Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jumping for Bread, Day by Day

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Winter

The glum of winter still hangs over the Ozarks like a moldy, tattered quilt, but quick glimpses of spring are beginning to break through in sudden shafts of sunlight.  The Roost endured a couple of weeks of bitter cold  this winter, followed by a couple more weeks of mists and cold rain.  The mud froze and thawed and spread about the place on the soles of the farmer's worn work shoes, leaving brown, crusty trails from chore to chore to chore.

The farmer is up before daylight every day, arising by instinct and without the aid of an alarm clock.  The dogs are ready to venture out for their morning ablutions while the farmer bundles up in his old warm clothes and prepares to trudge into the dark morning and get The Roost ready for another day.

Fiona the cat is the first to greet the farmer as he makes his way toward the chicken coop.  Most nights Fiona willingly goes into the coop where she is locked in with the poultry, but she somehow manages to make her way to freedom during the night and is often up close to the house waiting for the farmer to make his appearance in the darkness of morning.  Feeding Fiona a can of cat food is the first priority of the morning.  She enjoys her breakfast in the chicken pen while the farmer goes about spreading grain for the rest of the poultry.  He follows a set routine that ensures that all of the birds have access to a good breakfast.

Hector, the duck, now sleeps in the coop with the chickens.  He is always up when the farmer arrives in the mornings, the first of the fowl to greet the farmer and welcome the new day.   But as the farmer putters in and out of the coop collecting and scattering grain, poor Hector stays inside, stumbling about in the dark and quacking in frustration as he waits for his brother and sister chickens to fly down and go outside with him.  Hector won't leave the coop by himself.

The farmer takes about fifteen minutes to finish his morning chores.  Daylight is making its presence known as he makes his way back to the house where he tends to indoor business until brunch.  The farmer serves bread for brunch.  The dogs get a bit, and then he tromps back outside to share bread bits with all of the other farm residents.  Fiona demands more than her share, probably feeling that if she doesn't get it, the chickens will.  And the chickens get their share even so - as do the peacocks.  But it is the three guineas who truly enjoy brunch.  They rush squawking toward the house the moment the farmer steps outside onto the back porch, and Ol' Speck, the leader of the guineas, is stationed at the farmer's feet throughout the entire brunch process, begging on a par with Fiona.  Ol' Speck, the same guinea who spent ten minutes one afternoon last summer eating a mouse, has now taken to jumping up and taking bread from the farmer's hands.

"Tea" is served in the late afternoon - an offering of sunflower seeds and dry dog food.   The poultry all like sunflower seeds, with the exception of poor Hector who has trouble scooping them up in his rounded bill.  Hector also presents as quite awkward when it comes to gathering up the bread bits at brunch - but, he is focused and aggressive when it comes to the dry dog food.   When the dog food is scattered on the ground, Hector becomes an eating machine.  He is voracious!

Fiona gets the final meal of the day.  Each evening, just before dark, the farmer gives her a small amount of dry cat food before closing her and all of the fowl up for the evening.  Fiona sleeps one of the hen's laying boxes until sometime in the middle of the night, and then her cat nature takes over and she breaks out of her confinement and goes on the prowl.    When the farmer comes outside into the morning dark, she will be there waiting for him

And then it all begins again.

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