Saturday, 21 January 2006
7 am. 37 degrees, clear.
In early November, I always begin to hope that we’ll have a mild winter. Hoping anything about the weather is ridiculous, of course. The farmers I know do plenty of complaining about the weather—it seems to be part of the job description. In any case, we are having a mild winter—alarmingly mild. Today it will reach nearly 50 degrees. It’s not unusual to have a January warm-spell. But what that usually means is a week with highs in the mid-30s. The snow is gone, except on the north-facing slopes and where the plow has piled it high. The chickens are having what we call a poultry holiday—turned out of their yard to go wherever they like. The veterans head for the spots where the horse ha been over the past few months. The new roosters—part of a late-summer brood—stand inside the yard looking out, a little dazed, unable to find the gate. A young rooster, just at 20 weeks, has no brain to speak of. It has only urges. It is drugged by desire.
These roosters are part of a batch of day-old chicks we bought last spring.. Some poultry breeders will sex the chicks for you, but this batch was, as they say, straight-run. In other words, we ordered 2 dozen chicks in whatever sex-distribution nature happened to provide. In our experience, that means 80 percent roosters. A rooster with his own small clutch of hens acquires a certain majesty, a clarity of purpose, even a kind of chivalry. But these birds are just at that awkward age—oversexed but understanding nothing about courtship. They loiter in gangs at the corner of the chicken house. They would be smoking and wearing iPod earbuds under their stocking caps if they could. A real farm family would eat them, of course. We have done so in the past. The problem wasn’t the murder so much as the feathered corpse. Now we order females when we can and place our excess roosters in foster homes. We’re hoping to do so again this year. Everyone needs an alarm clock.
Where the snow has withdrawn, the grass is green and brittle. In the woods, there is a felt of matted leaves, pressed down by the weight of the snow. The horse revels in the good footing, and so do I. They stand broadside to the sun in their heavy coats. Here is what weather means now. A day like this comes as a gift—a respite, a precursor of spring. And it comes as a warning, as a sobering question. Is this just an anomalous day in an ordinary winter or is it part of a season whose anomalous warmth is now to be expected? I do not doubt for a moment doubt the overwhelming evidence of global warming. I’m old enough to have grown up when a warm day in January did not carry any foreboding with it, even though we were already busy building it in.
I regretfully did not write this but I could really relate. I think it is beautifully wriitten.
I did take the accompanying photo though.