© Another Day in the Country
Last week we painted the chicken house again. When I say, “again” I mean that’s twice now in 20 years. Twenty years ago, during a wildly expansive summer visit, we decided to fix up that chicken house, turning it into a “play house” for the cousin’s kids. We cleaned it out, pulled up all the old bricks in the floor, and laid them down again on a sand base. We asked at the lumberyard how to fix the rotten beam in the ceiling and bought shingles for the roof.
There was a young kid transitioning through town that summer and we hired him to help us lift stuff. After a couple of afternoons, suffering through his unhelpful know-it-all comments, (while standing idle as we did the heavy work) I heard my sister say with a smile on her face, “If I hear any more suggestions from you while you watch us work, I’m going to drop kick you into next week.”
She was still smiling at him, but my long-suffering sister was serious. After the lad had long outstayed his usefulness, we paid him and sent him on his way. He wasn’t the first nor the last encounter that we had over the years with boys who thought they knew what they were doing and didn’t.
“What is it with male prerogative,” I muttered.
While two middle-aged women were constantly asking questions, we had saplings in the yard seemingly born with the notion that they knew all the answers.
When we got the roof done, we painted the chicken house yellow, added a window on the west side, a narrow brick path, and a sign proclaiming it “The Hen House.” We also planted flowers and declared this the cutest chicken house ever. Oh, and I built, from scratch, a double Dutch door — all by myself. I’m still proud of that door because it’s the first and last door I ever built.
The kids never did really use that playhouse, which then disintegrated into a storage area. Then, we moved back to Ramona and I got chickens. Through the years the paint faded, chipped, and shattered in the weather until you could hardly tell it was supposed to be yellow. This spring, we decided it was time to repaint that house.
I’d been reading a gardening magazine, full of all kinds of outlandish yard adornments including a little shed painted three or four pastel colors and we got inspired. After much consideration, we decided, once again, on yellow with white trim, leaving the shutters blue.
“What about adding polka dots?” I wondered.
My daughter thought that was a singularly bad idea and my sister suggested we get “two coats of paint on first” and then consider embellishments “if you have any extra energy.”
Yellow looks great!
The chickens are pleased with the paint job. It gave them an excuse to get out of the house under our watchful eye. It’s nerve-wracking to keep one eye on your paint job and the other looking for errant dogs. Earl Grey, who is such a fine rooster, has recovered from his last dog encounter but I think he’s doomed to never again having tail feathers. I call him our bob-tailed boy, managing to look competent, even elegant, without his crowning glory.
A couple of the hens are molting. They came out of the house last week, bare-chested, looking half dressed, blinking at us while we painted. “Do you think they have mites?” my sister worried, “maybe we should spray them again.” My prerogative is that of the “oldest” so I used it pronouncing the condition “molt” not “mites” and we kept painting.
The paint job inspired a planting frenzy. A friend had brought a whole flat of marigolds to us for Easter and they look absolutely wonderful against that little yellow house! We added a yellow forsythia bush to the area. I think we’ve started a trend.
I was reading an interview of Pete Seeger the other day where a reporter asked him for advice about changing the world. Pete in his wonderful unassuming, homespun way, said, “Work from your home base,” he said. “I see it happening all over America, people are getting interested in their own communities and realizing they’re part of a long chain and you can’t go out to some idyllic place and form the kind of community you think is ideal. You’ve got to start with where you are!”
So that’s what I’m doing on another day in the country. We started out our annual spring beautification by painting the chicken house yellow!