~ Proverbs 6: 6-8.
I am not an ant.
I tend to be only marginally prepared for bad things to happen. I don’t have a lot of contingency plans. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants when things go wonky. Not until my daughter was born did I make sure I had a set of jumper cables in both our cars.
I am more like the grasshopper from the old fable, enjoying things as they come rather than the industrious ant who works, works and works and reaps the reward later when winter comes.
But Winter is Coming – to use the motto of our friends the Starks from Game of Thrones.
Last year we had a rough winter, with deep snow and bitter cold. It was also the first year we kept a small flock of chickens in our urban backyard.
Last year when the leaves began to fall, my daughter and I winterized the coop, adding insulation and looking for and plugging holes to avoid drafts. We were total rookies. We did what we could and hoped for the best.
Some nights, when the snow fell and the wind howled and the thermometer plunged, I would lay awake and worried about the birds. On those icy mornings, I’d trudge out to the coop and open their little door and expect to see them frozen stiff – like chicken versions of Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
Instead I was greeted by happy poultry who piled down their ramp and plowed into the freezing day, eager to find a nice spot out of the wind behind a bush or to huddle in some holly or ivy. They were ready wade through snow and to do, as I discovered all chickens do, kick and scratch about, looking for a tidbit or a treat to gobble down.
We did have some minor disasters where snow and ice made it through gaps or past sprung hinges but quick attention soon had the coop secure and dry once more.
We lost two of those three birds to illness and accident later in the year during the warmth and plenty of the summer. It seemed a little unfair after they made it though the winter without a hiccup and so much as a sneeze.
On Saturday, I winterized the coop on my own. My daughter was sick with a stuffy nose but she did help me by finding tools and handing them out to me and providing the occasional drink of water or apple juice.
This year we had found a little thicker insulation and it came in easier-to-handle, pre-cut pieces. I had better tape and used a hot glue gun rather than staples. Some of the old insulation had survived, so I patched what needed patching and reinforced trouble spots from last year. I added heavier hinges to the egg box lid which was so heavy at times last year because of coatings of ice and snow.
Tessa, our big red chicken who has been with us from the first and Esther, our young white bird, watched me with interest. They would approach now and again making questioning sounds, curious bockings, as if asking “What’s up?”
I had to shoo them away time and again as they tried to eat a section of insulation or dart away with a hunk of paper they mistook for a cracker. Nobody said they’re geniuses but they were good company.
It took me the better part of the day but I got the job finished. The coop was secure and arguably snug and ready for what winter had to offer. I gathered all my tools, cleaned up my mess and headed inside where I showered and then hung out with my daughter as I waited for night to fall.
Last year, the chickens had been totally freaked out by the change in their coop. They wandered around and refused to go up to sleep until we actually placed them inside.
When it was nearly dark, I went out to the coop. Tessa was up in her usual spot, snuggled into the fresh, thick layer of pine shavings I had put in. Esther, always the last one to go to bed, was still hanging around, munching some seeds, and getting a final drink of water before turning in.
I gave her a few minutes and when I returned both birds were in their coop, snuggled up. They muttered happily to me when I looked in on them before locking them down for the night.
I crunched through leaves as I headed back to the house and looked at the shadowed blobs that were bushes in need of trimming. I noticed my grill that needed a final cleaning and to be bundled up for the winter.
Yes, I had a good day’s worth of work to do come Sunday. If I was smart, I’d get on it after church.
But I knew that was unlikely.
My wife would be home all day and she’d been gone because of work since Friday. My daughter was feeling better and was her old chipper self again. Maybe we’d go to the library, or to the mall or hit a movie.
No, the work would wait. I was going to play on Sunday.
As I said, I’m no ant.
And, as Dirty Harry said in Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”