Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spring Fever

Be careful with your thoughts,
for they become words.
Be careful with your words,
for they become actions.
Be careful with your actions,
for they become habits.
Be careful with your habits,
for they become your character.
And be careful with your character,
for that becomes your destiny.

Wise words, spoken at precisely the right moment. As I took my last Downward Dog pose in yoga this morning, the teacher recited this famous quote... reminding me of how our intentions affect not only our life but the lives of those closest to us.

This morning, I announced to Brie that today was the now infamous Coop Cleaning Day. It's been two weeks since the girls have had their abode refreshed, and they are suffering for it. The winter snow storms have prohibited much of the girls free range time, so our hens are literally "cooped up," and as I observed their run area yesterday, I felt sorry for them, stepping in their own mess. Poor things.

Admittedly, both Brie and I bemoan the coop chore, for obvious reasons. Scooping poop is not our favorite weekend activity, falling somewhere below bathroom cleaning and dish duty. However, I realized that my attitude toward this task is contagious, and I would be well advised to present this as less of a chore and more of an opportunity to bond with our hens. After all, the chickens give us a generous gift of eggs every day, and all they can hope for in return is food, water, and a clean house in which to live.

So, onward and forward.... I will approach Brie with this task with renewed gusto, especially in light of what is ahead of us: Spring! I keep telling myself it's just around the corner. (Actually, it's 49 days away, exactly, but who's counting?!) Brie and I have big plans for this warmer, sunnier season: a new coop for our girls, a vegetable garden, eight baby chicks, and a way to make all of this work in our back yard. The challenges: To keep the chickens from killing the new arrivals while they settle in, aka, separate housing for the baby chicks, to keep the adult hens from eating our veggies, and to keep all of the wooden structures required to do so from mucking up our pretty back yard.

This will require some careful planning on my part. Thankfully, I have help. Yesterday, I attended another gardening workshop with the Fairfield Organic Teaching Farm, led by Sal Gilbertie, owner of Gilbertie Herb Gardens. A brilliant, knowledgeable speaker, Gilbertie advised the group of us on how to plan out a workable, efficient garden, using a formula of size to time for tending: plan on 15 minutes a day for every 300 square feet of garden. OK, so my garden will not be anywhere near that size, since I am planning on a simple 4X8 design (or perhaps two 3X12's -- depends on what/how much I decide to plant).

The problem is the chickens, with their lust for fresh veggies and herbs, will ravage the garden in under an hour, Gilbertie promises, so a protective fence built around my tender plants is a must. In thinking ahead to Spring, I need to figure out how to make these new structures, a large coop with run and a fenced garden, fit into the landscape, and look aesthetically pleasing, so that my better half doesn't think I have sabotaged his view of the back yard.

Enter the Green Chicken Coop company. Dan Cohen, a former high end cabinet maker, designed a 4X7 coop with an A-frame run that not only looks good, I can cover the run with a tarp in the winter during snow and rain and protect the hens from the onslaught of mother nature. (Snow will slide off the sides of the A-Frame, versus a flat top which has proved disastrous for us this year.) It's a dream come true, and worth saving our pennies for. Hiring a handyman to construct a fence around our raised bed garden and match the style of the coop shouldn't be too difficult. At least, I keep telling myself this.
Our Future Coop... Isn't it Pretty?!

Spring Fever is definitely alive and well in my busy brain. Going to gardening workshops, drooling over pictures of spacious chicken coops, ordering baby chicks from MyPetChicken... it's all I can do to contain myself. We're knee, no, waist deep in snow, and here I am dreaming of April showers and May flowers.

I guess it's my nature to plan for the next "big" project, and it seems that I perpetually live in the future. Thank goodness for children and pets. They ground me, reminding me to appreciate the here and now, to enjoy each day for what it has to offer. Now, to clean the chicken coop... and smile about it.