Ok, so I must admit that I feel just a tad proud: I got up before Jason this morning, donned his work boots and did the chicken chores all by myself. There were a few times that I looked towards the house hoping no one was watching me at it (I'm hardly a graceful or experienced chicken tender, but I did it!). So I think I'm officially ready for him to go to an overnight conference in two weeks, but hoping for no major snow storm to complicate matters. And I'll need to stay practiced (maybe my goal of doing it weekly?) so I'm ready for his 10 day birthday trip in late March/early April.
I was gifted with the most spectacular sunrise this morning as I was moving the coops and letting chickens out onto fresh pasture. Not a bad way to start the day! Of course I did not bring along my phone or camera so the photos included here were more from the other day when we did chores all together and Jason's got me in action.
The moving and opening coops part was largely uneventful, other than me noting once again how I need to work on my upper body strength. I feel like such a popular figure when opening the door and letting the birds out for their first stretch and run around of the day. Though that doesn't compare with me coming around with food bucket in hand. I soar in popularity then.
I was doing great prepping my scoop of feed so I could get it into the feeders before the excited birds came out of the pen to help themselves. When I got to the rooster condo I followed Jason's instructions to open the four compartments a few inches - more efficient than opening/closing them one at a time I guess (though I might employ a different tactic till I'm not such a novice). I thought I was clear on which rooster was likely to try to jump, but while on the one end I noted a head pop up on the other end. Once again being the beginner I am, I did not move fast enough. While I got my hand on Checkers, that was as far as I got. He was free and my heart sank as I thought of having to go in and admit defeat on solo-chore-day #1.
Anytime I approached him, he moved farther away, so I decided to give him some time to explore around (and miss his hens) and I finished up the chores on that coop while I stewed over my predicament (this was one of the times I was looking towards the house, hoping not to see faces in the windows!). I didn't see Checkers on either side so I made my way slowly to the front. Ah, what luck! He and another rooster had discovered each other and Checkers was up at the wire trying to start a fight. He didn't even notice me as I got in position behind him and, this time, boldly went for both legs. I held on tight and hung him upside down (which calmed him enough for me to carry him around and return him home). PHEW! I had a little spring in my step as I continued my rounds.
That boosted my confidence enough that I even got over my squeamishness and emptied the mouse trap and reset it in the composting coop (we pretty much catch a mouse a day in there). No more mishaps or escapees and when I got in Terah and Jason were happily enjoying eggs and polenta for breakfast!
It may seem like a small thing in many ways, but it feels rather monumental for me in other ways. It is crazy to admit that in the 11 plus years that we have been at Tangly Woods, I've never done the chores before. I've collected eggs and shut in chickens and I think I may have helped a time or two, but our roles have been so delineated out by what we are best at or have the most interest in or sometimes just how we can keep this ship afloat. So in some ways it feels like a luxury (or a good sign) if we venture into each other's domains. For me doing the chores alone today demystified it. And, while I'm still impressed Jason does this every morning rain or shine, it helped me to confirm that I can do it (either if I need to due to Jason being gone or sick or in some other way unavailable or just if I want to get more involved in that part of our homestead). This might sound rather drastic but I will admit that when I think of something tragic happening to Jason, I often think about how I'd have to give up our home place and chickens, since there'd be no way I could do it. There was some glimmer for me this morning as I stepped into the composting chicken coop, that maybe I've underestimated how much of a farm girl I can be. I don't think I'll ever be a chicken breeder, but I think I could keep some chickens alive and happy!
One of the things both Jason and I look forward to doing as our kids get older is crossing over into the areas that right now we each tend to do solo. We got married because we really, really liked being together and enjoyed working and playing together. While we keep trying to soak up all the wonderful things about this stage in our family life, we also do pine for the time that it feels like the demands of our household lower just enough that we don't always have to choose the most efficient means of accomplishing the daily tasks. It will come, and then while we garden together we'll share about the good old days when the kids were young and underfoot!