It’s dusk — 6:30 this week — I’m walking Ruby to the end of our 3/4 mile-long dead-end dirt road, and we see the young coyote at the same time. It’s alone, small, grayish brown with big pointy ears and a beautiful long bushy tail. We stop. Ruby bristles. I’m breathless as it trots a few more steps toward us, 50 yards away. They rarely get this close. It sees us, pauses to consider, and turns into the woods.
The next day on our walk, the Bearded One and I meet the neighbor who lives where I saw the coyote. She has alpacas and a night-time “Critter Cam” which she tells us has recorded lots of coyote pups recently — an ultrasound in the dark belly of the forest. The pups were born last spring, so they are 6 months old now and in training to hunt for their own food and make their own dens. “I heard about your bear sighting,” the Bearded One says, referring to a conversation at the men’s table last weekend at the neighborhood barbecue. He wants a Critter Cam now. Something bit off one of our blueberry bushes and hauled it away. “Yep,” says our neighbor, “it’s that time of year.”
We get back home and are both seized with winter preparations. The Bearded One insulates the pipes on the water faucets up at the barn and the poultry palace.
The Seven Chicks, who are now 4 weeks old and gigantic, fluff their feathers out on cold rainy days as they peck away at any unprotected styrofoam insulation. One book said that they wouldn’t peck at it, but the neighbor who gave us the chickens, aka Mother Goose, rolled her eyes and assured us they’d peck it to smithereens. She was right. The Bearded One covers up all the low-lying insulation with pieces of old siding.
Kimber, the den mother, puts the chicks to bed in the nest boxes now. Each night she chooses a different one, they all fly up to the perch or walk up the plank, and then all eight of them cram in. I wonder how long they’ll be able to fit into just one.
To help keep the flock warm, we’ve decided to use a red heat bulb. The ceramic ones, according to the guy at Ace Hardware, could catch fire because of the coils. The red light won’t, he said, throw off the chicken’s day-night cycle. We will check with Mother Goose on that, but she’s already told us they use a red-lense heat bulb.
The chicks, specifically Dusty and Tux, have begun to butt chests and flap wildly at each other. Pretty obvious they are roosters.
Chicken people call young roosters cockerels, and young hens pullets, so I suppose I should, too, now that I’m a chicken-person-in-training. I still haven’t picked one up — any gesture toward them makes them run like I’m coming at them with a steak knife — but I have gotten them to come around my feet as I give them my homemade bread and, most especially, corn.
A rain storm this weekend knocked the corn over, so we decide it must be harvest time in the Companion-Planted garden (corn, pole beans and pumpkins), at least for the intertwined corn and beans.
We pick a heaping five-gallon bucket of corn and a pile of pole beans, which I’ve put in the barn to dry. I’ll add the bush beans to them in the next week or so — the leaves are starting to turn yellow — and then let them all dry for a few weeks before I shell them. Even then, I’ll have to put them in the dehydrator for a few hours, to completely dry them in this wet climate. I’m going to try drying some of the corn, too.
But first, I’m painting our bedroom and bathroom, fortifying my own winter place with color. “It’ll look like a cave, woman,” the Bearded One says when I show him the dark brown paint color I chose for our bathroom. He is skeptical.
I look out the window. Change is in the air. It’s the Equinox and the New Moon, too. Dark and cold are coming and are here. I hear the coyotes howling. I see the distinctive little handprints of raccoons in the dew on the deck in the morning after their thumping around in the cat condo last night.
Yes, Townsend Harbor Brown, that’s what I want. White paint is so overrated, so 1980s. Forget all this “light and bright” real estate talk. Give me a warm, dark brown place. “It’s not just a bathroom,” I say, making my sales pitch to the Bearded One, “it’s a cave.”