• Last modified 176 days ago (Jan. 18, 2024)


Another Day in the Country

It’s freezing out there

© Another Day in the Country

I’d been watching the weather predictions with trepidation! What were we going to do to keep the “livestock” safe in extremely cold weather?

My grandson got his first phone, and this was his first call.

“We’re snowbound,” I reported. “Jess hasn’t been able to get to work, and there’s no school.”

“Baba, do you know I’ve never had a snow day in my entire life,” the high schooler in his junior year replied.

“That’s what you get for living in California,” I quipped.

In his whole childhood, he’d missed the thrill of a snow day.

I do remember being snowbound in California more than 20 years ago.

Ten inches of snow was dumped overnight on the mountainside where we lived, and there was not enough expert equipment to clear the roads.

Add that to all the mishaps occurring because Californians didn’t know how to drive in snow and you were better off staying home.

As this current spell of cold weather was approaching, I was worried. How were we going to take care of our “livestock” when the thermometer went below zero and stayed there? Were our preparations going to be enough?

Chickens are relatively easy to take care of in a storm because they have no need to skate around on ice. Ducks are a different story. It’s always the ducks that present a learning curve.

I did everything I knew to do as the storm approached. We bought extra food for the animals, made sure our pantry was stocked, and filled a gas tank. I had electric heaters that went under water containers. They worked like a charm until the temperature went below zero.

A heat lamp, already installed in the house for the ducks, was my back up; it just had to be plugged in.

The ducks viewed my planning with concern. Ducks don’t like changes of any kind.

If lawn chairs out by the pond get tipped over in the wind, the ducks steer clear of that part of the yard.

If I come out in a long down coat instead of my usual vest, they steer clear of me!

When the color of the food dish is blue rather than metallic, they won’t come near.

When I brought fresh water in a purple bucket, they wouldn’t drink.

So, when the water outside froze and water had to go inside the house, the ducks were baffled.

It didn’t look safe to them, even though I’d found a similar black container. Furthermore, just going in the chicken house with the door closed and no chickens around bothered them.

“Danger, danger,” Daffy decided with her abnormally loud voice.

As the wind picked up and the thermometer plunged, I became more worried. Was the heat lamp working?

I went out to check, opened the chicken house door, and saw a little bird trapped inside.

And then I heard this rustling and twittering and looked up into the roof. The rafters were covered with birds.

There were sparrows, titmice, cardinals, and juncos in the peak of the roof where the hens used to roost — 30, 40, or more. A flock of birds had sought refuge in the chicken house.

Smart birds. But would the ducks come into the house to get food and water if it was full of birds?

I opened the big front door and invited the birds to leave. Most of them flew out, but a dozen or so chose to stay.

And then I watched the ducks.

Daisy — the smaller of two white ducks, petite and sweet natured — led the parade over to the chicken door to check things out.

She looked inside and reported back that most of the birds had gone.

Daffy, who has this big voice to go along with her hefty build, took her turn at the opening and said, “A dozen is still too many, and those others will probably return when the sun goes down.”

All five ducks sat on a ramp leading up to the chicken door and discussed the problem at great length.

“Quack, quack, quack-quack-quack, mutter, mutter.”

That’s the male ducks, who are decidedly soft spoken.

Then Duke and Duchess, formally dressed for dinner, took their turn looking inside and led the parade back into the frozen pen.

All hunkered down on the ice, they pulled up their feet and tucked their beaks under their wings.

The chicken house was definitely too crowded for them.

It’s another day in the country — a very, very, very cold day — and I’m giving thanks for electricity and a warm toasty home, Mom’s pantry filled to the brim, and a good book to read while snuggled in bed when the day is over.

Last modified Jan. 18, 2024