ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY:   Celebrating, warm and cozy

© Another Day in the Country

There’s a flicker at my bird feeder this morning. So beautiful. I wonder if his feathers have that golden shaft which made the Indians believe this bird was sacred? But then, aren’t all birds sacred? Who could doubt that cardinals, resplendent in red, a sacred color for some, are special! I’m so glad that I can afford a $25 bag of seeds every now and then to help the birds through winter and coax them into my domain for viewing.

Blessings on all the people who feed birds. I’m sure you’ve helped increase the bird population in Kansas, although I do wonder sometimes about the merit of feeding grape jelly to orioles. “Sugar is sugar,” the advocates tell me, but I’m not convinced since I firmly believe there’s a difference in MY body between refined stuff and the sugar in a fresh piece of fruit. Nonetheless, the orioles love the jelly and since they have no teeth to ruin, enjoy!

The chickens literally have been cooped up through all this snow. The little hens take turns sitting at the tiny chicken door and peer out at the white landscape. Unlike the birds whose footprints are everywhere, these feathered friends are not getting their feet into the snow if they can help it.

They stay inside playing scratching games in the bedding straw, waiting for goodies from my very own splendid table or veggies past their prime. The minute I arrive, you can tell they are bored with one another’s company and rush to meet me, excited that I’m offering something new and different. I can relate.

When I fill the feeder with their mash, the rooster calls excitedly, but the girls ignore him. “Right,” they seem to say. “We know it’s there, but she’s just thrown down something interesting. Is it worms? Is it tomatoes? Forget mash.”

The snow is still so deep that I’ve taken to walking with a hoe, to and from my back door to the chicken’s front door, then around back to collect their daily offering of one blue egg, two brown. This is a small flock, five hens, two freeloaders.

Lucky for us, Jess hired a friend with a skid steer to plow a path between her back door and my front door so she wouldn’t have to face the gauntlet of drifts between us when she came to watch the Winter Olympics. When the warming trend hit, that path was the one stretch of brown in our environment and then other things began to appear — a patch of road, the fence, a flower bed on the south side of the house. Officially, spring is only 30 days away.

The cats love the path. They wish there were more. When the snow first hit a couple of weeks ago, our little cat, Skeeter, ran out in it and dashed across the street to her favorite place — the porch at the Ramona House. That porch is Adventure Land for Skeeter — whether she is on it or under it. The Staatz cats from across the road love that porch, too, and whether Skeeter goes to play or express dominance, I do not know. But in that first snow, she got stuck.

Night came and no Skeeter. My sister, always concerned for these outdoor cats’ well-being, was worried. We called and called. Finally, Jess announced, “I’m going over to the Ramona House and see if she is there.” By this time, we almost had a foot of fresh snow, dry and flakey, unable to bear any weight.

Sure enough, there was Skeeter under the porch, wide-eyed, frightened, and freezing. She’d tried to walk on the snow that was higher than her head and got scared to death when she couldn’t and just retreated. Jess is sure that she would have frozen if not rescued.

Meanwhile, Skeeter hasn’t ventured out in the snow since. She sticks to the narrow walkway I scooped, back porch, front porch, then inside the house where it is warm and cozy.

Isn’t it wonderful to have warm and cozy? There’s something about a cat curled up on her blanket in a corner of the easy chair that makes “cozy” even more delightful. My dad, who played at farming in his retirement, would tell me how he loved bedding down his cows in the winter. Knowing the livestock was cared for brought a warm glow to his heart. My livestock consists of 20 chickens and two cats, but I feel the same.

We make a pot of vegetable basil soup, marveling at the miracle of fresh basil in Kansas in the winter, and then snuggle in a recliner to watch young dare devils navigate the snow in Sochi. Vicariously I share in their daring exploits and cheer them on, my legs jerking with their exertion, my arms raised in their victory. The cat raises up her head at all the ruckus and then settles back down to snooze away another day in the country.

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