Saturday, October 3, 2009



That's what we have been doing the last two night, moonlighting. Kirk came home late Friday with 4.6 tons of hay from South Dakota and by the time we were ready to unload it into our hay loafer turned hay shed, the moon was shining bright and the sun had gone to bed. Which is where I would rather have been than lugging around eighty pound hay bales in the dark. In the process, I explored most of the crevices between the bales of hay with one leg or the other as they fell in. Kirk didn't seem to be having any trouble maneuvering around them but we've always said my mother should have named me Grace.

It would have been nice to have had at least the headlights of the truck shining on the tasks but the pickup was attached to the gooseneck trailer that was backed into the hay shed. When I teased Kirk accusing him of leaving the cracks so he could see me tottering like a drunken sailor, he told me he had left them there for the cats and their kittens. Which isn't true since you space your bales to make as even as possible a rectangular shape so that the hay stack doesn't fall down. But invariably, the cats will nestle in the spaces to wait out the blistery winter winds and cold weather until spring arrives. Then the crevices become a nursery for their kittens.

The flash on the camera made this picture appear as if it were daylight and snowing. I'm not sure what all the white dots are.

The night before hay hauling, Kirk had gotten home from work at his customary eight o'clock and had brought a small load of coal for our free standing coal and wood stove. The weatherman says snow and cold are on their way. So by the light of the moon and the head lamp perched on his head, he groped for the black chunks to toss them into the outside coal bin. Meanwhile in preparation for some chicken snatching, I was wiring metal cages whose doors have a tendency to fall off. The two foot enclosures are a hand me down from the next door neighbor who once had rabbits.

These cages would provide carrying cases for the hens journey to the chicken coop at the corrals. If the weather man is right, this week is to be a chilly one and they had best be inside something warmer than an open ended shed. We'll bring home another set of pullets next spring since these girls helped immensely with the infestation of grasshoppers in the garden.

Though you understand why the hens needed moved, unless your a long time chicken raiser, your still probably questioning why I was trying to catch them in the dark? In the daylight they can see me coming and the yard is a wide open space with few places in which to corner them. I'd also be on my own since my husband would be at work until dark. My plan was to wait until the hens were roosting drowsily with their eyes closed on the tomato cages in the garden. Then I'd sneak up on them, wrap my hands around their wings pinning them to their sides, and slip quietly out of the garden. The draw back to my little plan was if the chickens woke up and discovered me - I'd be chasing six black hens in the dark.

An old photo of the hens from summer.

When I formulated my little plan, I'd forgotten about Jack Frost who'd been visiting the garden the last few nights leaving it a maze of wilted crunchy vegetable skeletons. So as I peered at black lumps that I guessed were the hens, I was desperately searching for a clear dirt patch in which to place my feet. There weren't any. The garden didn't have any paths for I'd used every square inch to grow vegetables. Particularly dense was the area around the two tomato cages where the chickens usually perched for pumpkin vines had seized the area. Each step I took closer to the hens brought a loud crunching sound announcing my approach. But though they stirred a little, the girls held still.

With out a hitch, I managed three trips through the wilted pumpkin patch nabbing a hen each time. But then I took a hold of Mildred, the Cochin. She let out a loud indignant squawk and bit me twice. Somehow I knew my luck had come to an end. I continued to stroke her soothingly talking in hushed reassuring tones. I figured we could work through this. She had calmed down by the time I'd reached the pickup's tailgate and I placed her in the empty second cage. Then I turned my attention back to the two remaining black hens. There were no more clotted shadows on the tomato cages. I guess catching all six easily was too much to ask for.

Kirk came out to help and we flashed our headlamps across the garden. One black Australorp was making its way through the corn stalks and the other headed off toward the empty potato patch. But like escapees from a prison camp, they rushed to avoid the spot lights as our headlamps caught their movements. So we used the lights to locate them, then quickly flash the beam in another direction and peer closely into the darkness straining to see any movement while listening for the rustling their feet made on the dead foliage in order to discern which direction they'd dashed off to. Slowly herding one hen at a time toward the tomato cages in order to slow their progress as they moved to maneuver beneath them, we managed to catch the two black hens after a few tries. In the process of chasing them, we stumbled (literally) over some more buttercup squash that was hiding under the dense vines and scooped them up to add to our stores. And I added a few bruises to my hay scratched legs as they located the metal rods I'd pounded into the ground to guide the winding garden hose around the plants.

Bard at point on Saturday on the prairie behind our house.

It wouldn't have been a big deal that we caught the two hens that night, for I could have waited until the next. Trying again when they'd fallen asleep but Bard, our son's puppy, was scheduled to arrive the next morning. We were babysitting him while our son, Kalob, went scuba diving in the Bahamas.

And although he is a Bird dog, Bard wouldn't of been much help. All summer he has been coming to visit and has ignored the hens but two weeks ago the bird dog part of his brain clicked on. He killed one of Kalob's girlfriend's mother's chickens. Not a popular way to start his career and a repeat performance wasn't what our son or I had in mind. So it was imperative for their safety that the hens be removed before morning.

Bard is now three months old.

But how is he going to handle the misfit crew of chickens running around the chicken coop? I think a leash is in order when we do chores. I'll tell you how it goes and I promise to do the rewrite I lost on the chicken recipes so don't give up hope on me. My daughter insisted on hearing more details about our chasing black hens in the dark and so here they are.

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