The hens got special attention, since my geriatric flock is now down to six. One disappeared mysteriously before we left for my mother's funeral, and another, who'd been looking poorly for over a year, perished when the weather turned frigid while we were gone. (In case you're wondering, when one of our chickens dies we take the corpse out to the woods to provide some wild critter's dinner. It's always gone by morning.)
I gave the hens some extra wood shavings for bedding, and a "poultry hot-cake"--a cylinder of high-protein food that I hang from a string so they can peck at it and be both nourished and entertained. And, for the biggest treat of all, I defrosted some "drone brood" for them.
Drone brood, given to me by a bee-keeping friend, consists of bits of honeycomb filled with drone (hence, undesirable) larvae. The hens had never seen it before, and they exclaimed appreciatively at this sudden appearance of insects in the middle of winter. I'm saving the rest of the brood for Christmas morning.
The four apple trees and the espaliered apricot got their winter "socks"--spirals of white plastic that I wrap around the trunk to keep the rabbits from girdling the bark. And I wrapped the potted fig tree in a double thickness of burlap. The tree is supposed to withstand temperatures of -10F, but I'm not taking any chances.
Then I went to work on Wolfie and Bisou, whose needs were purely cosmetic. I was clipping their nails, as I do every couple of weeks and, for the first time ever, I nicked the quick on one of Wolfie's. But instead of having hysterics, splattering the room with blood, and never letting me near him with the clippers again, this most tolerant of dogs merely muttered something that sounded like "wow" and let me finish the job.
When the clipping and brushing were done I rewarded the dogs with a walk in the field to eat frozen deer poop. Speaking of deer, I really should wrap the Leyland cypresses in the backyard in burlap, to keep the deer from eating them. But they don't actually kill them, and I know the deer have to be terribly hungry to come that close to the house, so I may just leave the Leylands to tough it out.
The wood is stacked on the porch. The chickens are cozy. The dogs are groomed. My only worry now is the black cat that hunts far from the house, at the bottom of the field. I don't think he has a home. How is he going to make it through the winter? There's no way I can lure him to the house, with the dogs around. I'd leave some food out for him, but I don't know where to put it so he'll know it's there.
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