Every winter, we brush off the artificial pine needles and emerge from the holiday season with renewed interest in spring. We begin tidying the closets, sowing seeds under fluorescent lights, and counting the days until the first spring bulbs emerge from the ground…only to be caught off guard by late cold snaps that remind us that we are still in winter’s grip. This year is no different, though we usually do not face temperatures quite so cold.
For over a week now, we have been stuck under a polar vortex that has shrouded us in days upon days of frigid snowfall and bitter cold, plunging below zero for several days in a row and setting new record lows in the negative teens. Consequently, February finds me huddled under an average of three blankets and one-and-a-half cats while anxiously refreshing the weather app on my phone for updates. Our average low is usually only in the 20s in February, but the last couple of days have boasted wind chills in the negative 20s. While we have tried to support our chickens in the winter with additional insulation, plenty of straw, and warming treats thus far, this is just far too cold for our peace of mind (and for our single-combed girl, Dolly, who began to show slight signs of frostbite Saturday morning). They are enjoying a 36-degree tropical vacation in our garage, thanks to some old cardboard, a bale of straw, and a large roll of cattle panel.
In just a couple of weeks, our nine Wyandottes will turn one year old, and what a year we’ve had so far! We didn’t know they would be our pandemic project when we picked up a box of a dozen chicks last winter, but they’ve been a delight to raise. We did not expect them to go through an adult molt until 16-18 months (next fall), but they surprised us with a molt in November & December that knocked out their egg laying for four weeks. Their production dropped significantly from November, but I’m relieved to say I finally collected TWO – count ’em, TWO – eggs today. Naturally, they would start laying the coldest week of the year (or of the past three decades, at this rate).
Every season thus far with the chickens has made me increasingly aware of the variances in temperature, the exact time and position of the sun rising and setting, the amount of moisture in the air, and even how the seasons feel. It’s an odd sensation to describe, and one I thought I only read about in books – how spring feels full of energy and excitement; summer, heavy and still. Winter is a unique sensation – the sun is far below our horizon, and its impact on our energy levels (if we slow down enough to pay attention to ourselves) is astounding. The key here, of course, is to allow time and presence to pay attention to the shifts, which is easier said than done in our world which thrives on efficiency and accomplishment.
This winter, I am trying to lean in to the heavy-lidded sensation and settle in, to slow down and use this time to rest. For me, resting is about staying grounded and staying centered, usually accomplished by staying at home and staying in the familiar lanes of routines and daily habits. I know I am motivated by to do lists and fulfilled by finishing projects, so I have shifted my focus to different types of projects that are repeatable or simple in energy. Some of my favorites are reading, cross stitch patterns, new baking recipes, or video games. These keep me active, but do not drain my energy (and can often be done from the comfort of the couch and beneath my rotating tour of felines).
As we approach warmer temperatures on the horizon and the warmer promise of March, the chickens, cats, and humans here at home are all craving some much-needed sunshine and the corresponding energy from being amongst growing things again. Hopefully, there will still be enough time to try out a new baking recipe or two before the spring gardening launches into full swing.