It took me two afternoons’ work, the last of my leaf hoard and a bale of shavings to get the upper hand over the barnyard mud, but it’s done. Victory is mine for now. My chickens will be cozy for Christmas.
Is it silly to fuss about the barnyard creatures at this time of year, with everything else needing doing? Maybe, but a humble barnyard plays a pretty high profile role in the Christmas story, so it seems apt to me.
So far, it’s been a warm fall / winter with zero snow, rain storm after rain storm and a huge windstorm the other day, “the worst in twenty years!” No trees down and no power outages here in our muddy valley, lucky us, although we lost internet for a couple days. And we’re experiencing peak mud; a treacherous thin coat of the slippery stuff engulfing every pathway, soggy corners in every coop and spongy, squishy fields. The creek is roaring with delight, but the disconsolate equines don’t even ask to go out on grass. They know that without a hard freeze, they are stuck in their hog fuel paddocks until things dry up.
In our wet coast climate, keeping the critters somewhat mud-free will continue to pose challenges until springtime. Even after all this weekend’s work, I know that a few days after Christmas, I will be heaving sopping shovel-loads out of the most popular barnyard hang-outs and as a last resort, laying pallets across the worst bits to keep the birds up out of the mud. Once the pallets are down, they are there till spring, when I will pull them up, hose them off and stack them away for next year.
But we’re not there yet. In the dirt-floored Hen Hotel, my American gothic pitchfork does a wonderful job of lifting the top muddy, poopy inch to reveal dry soil below. The birds are thrilled at the dusty fresh dirt, and commence bathing instantly. Purpose-built peat moss and wood ash dust baths are within easy reach, but they much prefer the summer-dry soil, as long as it lasts anyway. I think they know it has an expiry date. The mud is coming.
Old man winter likely has a few more surprises up his sleeve, but I have a few tricks up mine too. Keeping the barnyard functional is lots of physical labour, and just what I need to keep my body moving, so I don’t mind a bit. Getting exercise while accomplishing something ticks all my boxes and always has. And keeping the barnyard creatures comfortable is pretty darned satisfying too.
As we all soldier on through this darkest time of year, stringing our thin lines of coloured lights against the darkness, shovelling away the mud that threatens to engulf us and seeking out warmth and good company, I wish a Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a happy 2019 to come. May you find what you seek, and take joy in the seeking.
Thanks for listening.